The Waveform Audio File Format, better known as WAV due to its filename extension (.wav), is an audio format standard for storing raw digital audio on PCs. It was developed by IBM and Microsoft and released in 1991. Since then, it has been the primary audio format for uncompressed audio files in Microsoft Windows devices. The WAV format is extended from the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFFF). As a result, it uses the same method for storing data.
Despite general belief, the WAV format can contain both uncompressed and compressed data, but it's mainly used for the former.
Advantages and Disadvantages of WAV format
The most significant appeal of the WAV format is its status as an uncompressed format. In other words, audio data in this format is raw, and it sounds practically the same as when it was recorded. Such good quality makes it a valuable format for professional music editing. But as with everything, this format has other benefits, as well as its drawbacks. Below, you will find them in detail.
- High-quality format. Since the WAV format stores uncompressed, raw audio data, its files sound as close replicas of the original sound. This allows WAV files to achieve higher frequency responses (22KHz) than lossy formats.
- Suitable for master recordings. The quality of the WAV files makes the format perfect for master recordings since it's an excellent way to preserve audio in high resolution.
- Easy to edit. The WAV format is also suitable for music editing because it is effortless to modify. It can also be converted to other formats with no issue.
- High support of codecs. WAV format supports various audio codecs like LPCM, ADPCM, and even MP3.
- Large file sizes. Although the WAV format support compressed data, it's famous for being an uncompressed format. That means the file sizes are huge in comparison to lossy formats and even lossless formats. For example, a one- minute-long WAV file can be from 10 to almost 17 MB.
- Not suitable for streaming over the Internet. Due to the immense size of the files, the WAV format is not ideal for streaming and general distribution over the Internet.
- Limited sizes. WAV files can't be over 4 GB. Although that limit is not a problem in most scenarios, sometimes it is required to exceed such a limit. That means you must use another audio format in those cases.
Frequently Answered Questions
Are WAV Files Better Than MP3?
In terms of audio quality, yes, they are.
WAV format has the same quality as an official CD. Therefore, its bitrate is 1,411Kbps, whereas MP3 can be from around 96 to 320Kbps. That means that WAV sounds from 15 to 4 times better than MP3.
WAV format also shows higher audio fidelity than MP3 because it is raw data. MP3 is a lossy format, which means some data is lost in order to achieve small file sizes. And that affects the fidelity of the data. And such a thing doesn't happen with the WAV format. Nonetheless, MP3 is better than WAV if you aim to save storage space in your device.
Is Wav Format Better Than Flac?
WAV may be better than FLAC format, or not, depending on the use you're going to give to the audio files.
In terms of quality, both formats are the same. Since FLAC is a lossless format, files in this format achieve an audio quality similar to CDs, which is the same quality as WAV files. However, FLAC is a compressed format and is 50% to 60% smaller than WAV files. Therefore, we could say that FLAC is better than WAV because it has the same quality in smaller sizes.
Despite that, WAV format is better than FLAC if your main interest is music editing. That is because WAV is more straightforward to edit than the latter.
How to Open WAV Files
To open WAV files is not a problem for Windows users since this format is the main one for uncompressed audio data in said system. So you can easily play WAV using Windows Media Player. And since this format became a standard, Mac computers also support this format natively. So you can open WAV files using iTunes with no issue. Problems appear when you try to open WAV files on phones and Linux computers. This is because they don't support it natively, which means you must install a new media player on your device to open these kinds of files.
The best choice for listening to WAV files is VLC Media Player. A free and open source media player available for Linux, Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS.
Is WAV Better Than AAC?
Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is an audio coding format for lossy compression. In that sense, it is similar to MP3, although with some improvements, as Apple developed AAC as the successor to MP3. For example, it counts with better compression technology. For that reason, it can reach higher audio quality in smaller files than MP3.
Despite all that, AAC is still a lossy format, whereas WAV is not. So when it comes to quality, WAV sounds considerably better than AAC files. However, if you want to save space, AAC is better than WAV.
What Is the WAV Format Used For?
Due to its large sizes, the WAV format does not have, say, everyday use. Files in this format can't even be adequately used in online music streaming and distribution.
However, WAV files are beneficial in professional settings. For example, TV, radio, movies, and the music industry use WAV files a lot to store and edit audio data thanks to the properties of the format. After all, it's a format standard, keeps audio quality to the maximum, and it's easy to modify and convert to other formats.
In conclusion, this format is mainly used for the professional editing of audio files.