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How do MP3 and WAV Files Differ

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  • How do MP3 and WAV Files Differ

    It's a question of quality
    Digital audio is everywhere, with two major file standards (MP3 and WAV) - but how do MP3 and WAV files differ, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each? Both MP3 and WAV files are used in all areas of audio, from portable players, and handheld recorders, to audio interfaces and more. The seemingly ubiquitous nature of both formats might suggest that both are interchangeable in all ways. There are massive differences between the two, however, many of which you’ll be aware of. Here, we’ll focus on exactly what the differences between the two are in a bit more detail.

    The WAV file
    The WAV file one of the simplest digital audio file formats. Microsoft and IBM originally developed WAV in 1991 for the use within Windows 3.1. Remember the first time you heard your PC making ‘chime’ noises, and not just beeps? Well, that’s courtesy of the WAV file. Without getting too geeky, the WAV was derived from the RIFF (resource interchange file format), which stored data in indexed chunks (interesting, eh?).


    MP3 Files

    It is fair to say that the MP3 has revolutionised (and some may say terrorised) the music world. MP3 is a shortened name for MPEG-2 audio layer III. The format was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group, hence the (slightly conceited-sounding…!) name. Though it is still perceived as a modern format, MP3 files have their roots in ideas about psychoacoustics first conceived in the 1970s. Unlike WAV files, MP3s are a lossy format. This means that encoding audio to MP3 will reduce its quality, but also reduce its file size. It is the manner in which it achieves this that makes it so clever… Psychoacoustics is the study of how people perceive sound. There are many anomalies in the way we hear. It is these quirks in our hearing that are exploited by MP3 files. Firstly, the way in which an MP3 encodes knows that there will be certain frequencies that ear will not hear, and so it gets rid of this data. Secondly, it knows that if there are sounds that are loud, they will mask certain quieter sounds, so it gets rid of the ‘hidden’ sound. Finally, it exploits the fact that ear will hear some frequencies better than others. It's all tied in with the 'threshold of audibility'. Once the MP3 has decided which data to keep, this is then compressed again with more traditional data compression techniques. This gets the files down to a fraction of the size of WAV files- usually around 1/10th, but at the expense of some quality. The advantages of MP3 files are:
    • Small file format – Because files are so small, they can be easily distributed over the Internet, and huge libraries stored on computers or handheld devices. Because of this, they have become the consumer standard for purchasing music.
    • Compresses files with little perceivable difference to the overall sound quality.
    • Easy to convert a WAV or CD to MP3 with free software
    As you can see, the MP3 lends itself very well to distribution, streaming and promotion, due to its tiny file size.

  • #2
    Thanks for explaining. I never tried to understand the technical details. I just tested in practice that mp3 is great for all my gadgets. I prefer to search for music myself on download lagu. This is a free site for those looking for free popular music. Everything is done here very comfortably, even for those who do not like searching the web.

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