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wav vs. wma vs. mp3

Discussion in 'Audio' started by Kimarra, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. Kimarra

    Kimarra Member

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    I feel stupid for asking this, but what is the difference between wav, wma, and mp3? And which one is better?
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2006
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  3. Digidave

    Digidave Regular member

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    These are from Wikipedia. Hope they help!!

    MP3 is a compression format. It provides a representation of pulse-code modulation-encoded (PCM) audio data in a much smaller size by discarding portions that are considered less important to human hearing (similar to JPEG, a lossy compression for images).

    A number of techniques are employed in MP3 to determine which portions of the audio can be discarded, including psychoacoustics. MP3 audio can be compressed with different bit rates, providing a range of tradeoffs between data size and sound quality.

    WAV (or WAVE), short for WAVE form audio format, is a Microsoft and IBM audio file format standard for storing audio on PCs. It is a variant of the RIFF bitstream format method for storing data in "chunks", and thus also close to the IFF and the AIFF format used on Macintosh computers. It takes into account some differences of the Intel CPU such as little-endian byte order. The RIFF format acts as a "wrapper" for various audio compression codecs. It is the main format used on Windows systems for raw audio.

    Though a WAV file can hold audio compressed with any codec, by far the most common format is pulse-code modulation (PCM) audio data. Since PCM uses an uncompressed, lossless storage method, which keeps all the samples of an audio track, professional users or audio experts may use the WAV format for maximum audio quality. WAV audio can also be edited and manipulated with relative ease using software.

    Windows Media Audio (WMA) is a proprietary compressed audio file format developed by Microsoft. It was initially a competitor to the MP3 format, but with the introduction of Apple's iTunes Music Store, it has positioned itself as a competitor to the Advanced Audio Coding format used by Apple. It is part of the Windows Media framework. An initial reason for the development of WMA may have been that MP3 technology is patented and has to be licensed from Thomson SA for inclusion in the Microsoft Windows operating system.

    A large number of consumer devices, ranging from portable hand-held music players to portable CD player and set-top DVD players support the playback of WMA files. In terms of number of devices supported, WMA is second only to MP3 in popularity.
  4. djscoop

    djscoop Active member

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    they are all different formats of digital audio. WAV are uncompressed files, which retain 100% of their quality when copied from a CD to the computer, but take up the most space.

    mp3 and wma are different compressed formats. They are called lossy formats because when a wave file is compressed to a mp3 or wma file, they lose some quality. There are other compressed formats, such as FLAC which are lossless, and do not lose quality despite being compressed.

    ultimately, wave files are the best, but unless you have gigs and gigs of free storage, they are impractical to store on your computer, especially if you have a lot of albums you want to store on your computer. I prefer mp3 over wma personally. mp3 is much more versatile, and there is much more support for it. wma files can contain DRM (copy protection) which is a pain in the butt to deal with.

    Check out these links for more details on them:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mp3
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wav
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Media_Audio

    If you are interested in transferring music CDs to your computer, I recommend using mp3 format. The best software out there to transfer the CD to the computer (called ripping) is EAC (exact audio copy). The best encoder to convert wave files (which is what EAC initally stores the CD audio as) to mp3 is called LAME. Both are free. We have a guide on how to setup and use EAC and LAME here, check it out if you are interested:
    http://www.afterdawn.com/guides/archive/mydeneaclame.cfm
  5. weazel200

    weazel200 Regular member

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    MPC and OGG are also other lossy formats but not as popular as MP3. THey are both gapless where as MP3 and WMA aren't.
  6. sdswaney

    sdswaney Regular member

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    Hi, Djscoop, you say, and I quote "There are other compressed formats, such as FLAC which are lossless, and do not lose quality despite being compressed." My question is: since this is the case, why don't people reccomend storing songs on the HDD using FLAC instead of Mp3?? I'm in the process of converting over 1500 wave files to Mp3 or (something) to save space on my computer. If FLAC is better quality, I would like to try to use it as my conversion. Is there some kind of drawback to using FLAC? Can you point me in the right direction to find a program that I can use (to use FLAC)?
    Thanks

  7. weazel200

    weazel200 Regular member

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    @ sdswaney
    FLAC is the next best format after WAV quality wise. If you convert an entire CD to WAV files it might be on average 700 MB where as converting a whole CD to FLAC might be around 400 MB. The drawback as you can see is 400 MB is still alot of space on one album where as having an entire album in MP3 format might be around 100 MB.
  8. djscoop

    djscoop Active member

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    one of the drawbacks of newer and not as popular formats such as FLAC is that there is not much support for them, especially as hardware goes. but if they are just for playing on the computer then it would be an ideal option. The other drawback is FLAC files are significantly larger than mp3 files. mp3s could be compressed to 1/8th the size of waves, were as FLAC is about 1/4 the size. both FLAC and mp3 are good options, it all really depends on what you want to use them for.
  9. Kimarra

    Kimarra Member

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    Thanks so much. Your information really helped me out! :)
  10. sdswaney

    sdswaney Regular member

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    djscoop--What if my intentions were to have the 1500+ songs stored on my computer, but make CD's to play from time to time? And can you tell me how or what program/app uses flac, or what do you do and how do you do it. If you could point me in the right direction--I'll research it myself.
    Thanks again,
    Steve
  11. sdswaney

    sdswaney Regular member

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    Thank you weazel200 for the information. I'm learning more everyday, thanks to you guys.
    Thanks
    Steve
  12. weazel200

    weazel200 Regular member

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    No problem sdswaney. Glad I could help.
  13. djscoop

    djscoop Active member

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    if you just want to make CDs from time to time, I'd stick with either FLAC or mp3. you can still use EAC to rip the CDs to wave, then dBPowerAMP to convert them to flac.

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