There are different audio file formats, container formats, and coding standards out there. Those who are planning to venture into music production and even audio-video editing should take note of them to ensure that they choose the best one for their respective projects.
Nevertheless, in considering these formats and standards, note that not all of them are created equal. Each has its advantages and disadvantages or applications and limitations. This article provides a quick quid to the best audio formats for editing and production.
A Definitive Guide to the Best Audio Formats for Editing Audio and Video and Music and Video Production
It is important to highlight the fact that the best formats and standards for editing and production projects are those that are uncompressed or are lossless compression standards. The more popular examples of these are WAV, AIFF, M4A, and FLAC. They have better sound quality than formats such as MP3 and OGG or coding standards such as AAC because they preserve the original audio data of source files.
1. WAV or Waveform Audio File Format
The Waveform Audio File Format or WAV audio file format was developed by IBM and Microsoft as a standard for personal computers. It was released in 1991 and has been one of the popular file formats because of the popularity of the Windows operating system.
It is a lossless audio format based on the more specific Resource Interchange File Format or RIFF standard. Data are stored in “chunks” to enable more efficient storage of large amounts of audio data. This mechanism produces an audio file with high bit depths, various sample rates, and noticeable high sound quality.
WAV has been used in numerous applications. It is one of the go-to standards for digitizing analog audio or archiving digital audio.
2. AIFF or Audio Interchange File Format
Apple developed the Audio Interchange File Format or AIFF based on the Interchange File Format of Electronic Arts. It was released in 1988 and was intended to become a standard for personal computers and other electronic devices.
It is similar to WAV. Both are lossless formats that preserve the original audio data of the source audio. They also produce audio files with large file sizes. However, as far as difference is concerned, AIFF files can either be uncompressed or compressed. Compressed AIFF files use other compression codecs to reduce their file sizes.
AIFF is supported in Windows and macOS. It is also part of the Apple product ecosystem. This file format might be ideal for audio or video editors who use Apple products such as Mac computers, iPad devices, GarageBand, and Final Cut Pro.
3. FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec
Free Lossless Audio Codec or FLAC is not a specific audio file format but a particular audio coding format for producing or coding lossless audio files. It was developed by Xiph.Org Foundation and released in 2001. Note that Xiph.Org Foundation is also behind the development and introduction of the OGG multimedia file container.
One of its advantages is that it is a free and open-source coding standard. Individuals and organizations can use it without needing to secure licenses. The files that it produces also have smaller file sizes compared to WAV and AIFF files.
This codec might not be as popular as WAV or AIFF but it has native support in Windows since Windows 10 and Android mobile operating system. It is still arguable as popular as the Apple Lossless Audio Codec or ALAC because of its wide support and adoption.
4. M4A or Audio-Only MPEG-14
Audio-Only MPEG-14 or M4A is a file format for containing audio files based on the MPEG-14 Part 14 digital multimedia container format. It is similar to the MP4 file format but it only contains audio encoded using AAC, ALAC, or other codecs.
The biggest selling point of this audio format is that it is a lossless format that produces audio files with high sound quality and small file sizes. It is similar to the MP3 audio file format in terms of size but it differs in terms of quality because it uses a more advanced audio compression technique to produce superior-sounding audio.
Its small file size and high sound quality make it ideal for music production such as sound recording, audio editing, and sound mixing. It is also an ideal file format when used or imported as a sound track in audio-video or multimedia projects.