ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Are you confused by different digital audio file extensions?

Updated on July 5, 2016

The Monkey's Audio and other confusions

You have downloaded some music from the Internet, started your favourite media player and sit back to enjoy the soothing sounds. Nothing happens. You have just crossed the threshold where the only digital music you knew about was Mp3. Do not despair. You will be able to play your music - eventually.

In the last decade, many different audio formats and codecs have seen the light. Some of these have become very popular and any music lover should become familiar with the terminology. With the different formats, different media players were also created, as were ways to convert files and ways to adapt current media players to play some of these file formats.

Basic terms and formats

Basic terms

  • digital audio format: the format of the digital audio data
  • codec: a computer algorithm used to compress and decompress digital audio data in a particular audio format

The different formats can be divided in three categories:

  • uncompressed audio file formats
  • lossless compression audio formats
  • lossy compression audio file formats

Different file formats permit diverse file sizes and qualities.

Uncompressed audio file formats

The original sound recording is usually stored as a WAV file (or AIFF in MAC) from PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) format. These are usually quite large (about 10MB for every minute) . Other formats are BWF (Broadcast Wave Format) which allows metadata to be stored in the file.

Uncompressed audio formats encode both sound and silence with the same number of bits per unit of time.

Lossless compressed audio formats

A lossless compressed format eliminates unnecessary data and thus stores data in less space. It requires a lot of processing power both to compress the data and then to uncompress to play the sound.. In a lossless compressed format the music itself would occupy a small space than in uncompressed formats, and silence will take up almost no space at all. The original uncompressed data can be recreated exactly.

These include, Flac (.flac), WavPack (wv), Monkey's Audio (.ape) , ALAC/Apple Lossless (m4a).

Development in lossless compression formats aims to reduce processing time while maintaining a good compression ratio.

Lossy compressed audio formats

Lossy compression reduces file size even more by removing some of the data with as little as possible reduction in the quality of the sound. These files can be from 25% to 3% of the original data size (the smaller the percentage kept the lower the quality of the data).

The most well-known of these formats is the MP3 with .mp3 extension. Others are Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) with extensions such as aac, mp4, and m4a (Apple).

Proprietary formats include Windows Media Audio (extensions .wma and .asf); RealAudio (extensions .ram and .ra) and QuickTime (extension .mov). There are both lossy and lossless codecs available for WMA.

Open formats include Ogg Vorbis (.ogg) and AIFC (extension .aifc)

So what to choose?

What you select as your music format depends on your lifestyle.

At home on your sophisticated music system, you can show off your original CDs or play lossless music in FLAC format. In your car or while jogging you will probably play your m4a’s on your IPod or Mp3 on your car radio. With some research on the internet, you will be able to convert different formats or download players to play your favourite music.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)