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What is audio format and the main types of it

BySophia Windsor 2018-06-30 6458

Music is a key part of our life. Sometimes, the music we are listening to has a good sound quality, and sometimes the sound quality is bad. Why? It may be related to the audio format. So what is audio format and how many different types of audio format? Let’s find out.


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Audio format just refers to the music format. It is a file format for storing digital audio data on a computer system. The maximum bandwidth of audio format is 20KHz, with a rate between 40 to 50KHz. By adopting liner PCM (pulse-code modulation), each quantized step length of the audio is the same.

audio format

The bit layout of the audio data (excluding metadata) is called the audio coding format and can be uncompressed, or compressed to reduce the file size, therefore, audio file formats can be divided into lossy compression and lossless compression. But what we often use is lossy compression. Since there is data loss in the audio digital process, we cannot reach the truly lossless.


The 3 major types of audio formats
Uncompressed audio format
Formats with lossless compression
Formats with lossy compression


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Lossless compressed audio formats

A lossless compressed format stores data in less space without losing any information. The original, uncompressed data can be recreated from the compressed version. Lossless compression is a method that reduces file size without any loss in quality between the original source file and the resulting file.

The downside is that lossless compression is not as efficient as lossy compression, meaning equivalent files can be 2x to 5x larger. This is obviously much harder to do well, but there are a few good formats for this.

Lossless compression formats include the common APE, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, etc. In addition, CD generally adopts a WAV file format, since WAV files are uncompressed raw audio file with a large volume, it is often compressed into FLAC or APE with smaller volume.

Note: WAV still belongs to a lossless format.

Lossy Compressed Audio Formats

The common lossy compression includes MP3, AAC, OGG, and more. Lossy compression, just as its name implies, is a form of compression that loses data during the compression process. In the context of audio, that means sacrificing quality and fidelity for file size. It will decrease the audio sampling frequency and bit rate, and the output audio file will be smaller than the original one.


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