Types of audio formats that exist: which one is best?

List of audio format types

At present, there is a wide variety of types of audio formats.AAC, MP3, FLAC, WAV, PCM, among others. There are so many that it is quite difficult to determine which one may be best for each kind of user.

There are two types of audio formats: uncompressed and compressed. In turn, compressed formats can be lossy or lossless.

However, the types of audio formats are divided into three categories that, by understanding them, it is possible to know which format best suits your needs. Whether you prefer Hi-Res music, lossless audio, smaller files so that you can save more tracks, better support and compatibility, etc.

Uncompressed audio

Refers to sound that is captured and brought into a digital format without being subjected to any compression process. These kinds of files are usually more precise, which results in better sound quality. However, uncompressed audio takes up much more space. Some popular formats are:

– WAV: developed by Microsoft and IBM in the early 1990s. It is actually a Windows container for various music files. Thanks to this, audio in this type of format can be played on Windows and MacOS computers.

– PCM: is common on CD and DVD. There is also a subtype of this standard, known as LPCM, in which audio samples are taken in linear intervals. However, both terms are the same.

Lossy compressed audio

It is characterized as a standard in which files lose some data during the compression process. In other words, this type of format sacrifices sound quality to obtain much smaller audio files. Some lossy compression audio formats:

– MP3: launched in 1993, it is the most popular lossy compressed format of all. MP3 compression is extremely efficient, but in exchange a lot of sound quality is lost. Because it is so global, virtually any device or program can play audio in this format.

– AAC: was created in 1997 to be the successor to MP3. In fact, although it is not more popular than MP3, AAC is more technically advanced, so it offers better quality. It should be noted that AAC is the standard compression method used by Android, iOS, YouTube Music, among others.

Lossless compression formats

This is the complete opposite of lossless compression. Consequently, lossless compressed audio files are heavier than lossy compressed audio, but take up less memory than uncompressed files.

– FLAC: is the acronym for Free Lossless Audio Codec. It has been around since 2001 and is currently the most popular lossless compression format. One of its most outstanding features is the possibility of achieving 60% compression of the original file without losing any quality.

– ALAC: also known as Apple Lossless, is the audio codec developed by Apple in 2004. It is somewhat less efficient than FLAC in terms of compression.

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