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Audio formats (Part.1)

Écrit par MixCorner le 12 janvier 2016, dans - Audio - Dossier. | 730 visites pour cet article.

There are 2 types of audio formats. Destructive formats (Lossy) and Non-Destructive formats (Lossless). Nowadays lossy formats are widely used because they make audio files a lot smaller but of course it has a impact on the quality. Legal online stores like iTunes use these formats a lot to make their files easier to download.


To make sure, we’re talking « the same language ».

Audio format :
It is the file format for storing digital audio data on a computer.
Audio Codec :
Codec stands for Coding-Decoding. The Codec is the computer program (library) we use to convert digital audio datas to an audio format.
File extension :
A file extension is a suffix used to identify the format of an audio file once converted in your computer.

Example :
Let’s take MP3 as everyone knows this format.
The file extension is .mp3 and the Codec often used to convert a file in MP3 is LAME.
LAME is the computer program implanted audio converting applications like CDex for example. Without LAME, CDex wouldn’t be able to convert files in MP3.


  • MP3 (.mp3)
    Developed by Fraunhofer in the 90s, MP3 is still the main lossy audio format today.
  • AAC (.m4a, .mp4, .aac)
    Also created by Fraunhofer in 1997, this format became very popular because Apple uses it for iTunes. AAC is a lot better than MP3 in terms of quality and compression ratios. It is a DRM free format, Fairplay was added by Apple when the Music Store has been created.
  • AA (.aa)
    This format is used Apple for its audio books.
  • Vorbis (.ogg, .oga)
    Vorbis is an open source format created by Xiph.org. The main purpose of Xiph is to create a set of open source audio and video formats. Vorbis is actually the Codec and the format is called Ogg. This is a bit confusing and people often refer to Ogg as a Codec which is incorrect.
  • WMA (.wma)
    Created by Microsoft it is mainly used in Windows Media Player.
  • ATRAC (.aa3, .oma, .at3)
    Sony created this format for its own products (MiniDisc) in 1992. It was improved over time (ATRAC3, ATRAC3plus, ATRAC Advanced Lossless)and then disappear because of the MP3.
  • TwinVQ VQF (.vqf, .vql, .vqe)
    Developed by NTT with Yamaha, it was supposed to be a competitor for the MP3 format. Once again this was a failure.
  • mp3PRO (.mp3)
    This format is actually the same thing the classic MP3 format with a new algorithm called SBR (Spectral Bandwidth Replication). This new algorithm improved the overall quality of the encoded files. Thomson and Fraunhofer developed it. It is rarely used.
  • AC3 (.ac3)
    This is the only multi channels format of this list. It is used to encode 6 channels at several sample rates (32, 44.1, 48 kHz). AC3 is used for movies on DVD.
  • Musepack ou MPC (.mpc, .mpp, .mp+)
    Musepack uses the MP3 format as a starting point for its development but the MPC files quality is a lot better. It is more transparent and it is optimized for high bitrates (160 kbits/s or more). Despite that, no major music resellers uses this format. That’s a shame because MPC’s decoding needs a lot less energy than MP3 or AAC. We would had portable music players with better autonomies.


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