Guide to Audio Formats

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When purchasing royalty free music at, you have the option for several different types of media files. The three types we have available for download are MP3, WAV, and AIFF. Which file type should you download? And what's the difference between them? We've got all the information you need right here.

The most important information to understand before deciding what format to download is how the sizes and qualities differ.  There are two types of audio formats that determine quality: lossless and lossy. Lossless audio is uncompressed, meaning all of the audio is kept in tact from the original source. Lossy audio is compressed, losing some data to make the file smaller, and therefore losing some quality. WAV and AIFF are both uncompressed and loseless. MP3 is compressed and lossy. Let's go more in depth into each file type available to download on StockMusic.


Extension Name: .mp3

Format Type: compressed

MP3 is the most popular lossy audio format. It's how all the songs on your iPod are formatted. It is the most common form of audio for easy listening because the file is small and well supported. However, if the file is at a high bit-rate (all the mp3 tracks purchased on are at 320kbps) the quality difference is almost indecipherable. MP3 is the most common type of download for casual use. Recommended for: easy listening, retail and restaurant use, or on-hold systems.


Extension Name: .wav

Format Type: uncompressed

WAV format is lossless and therefore an exact copy of the original audio. But because of that, it requires a lot of data space. WAV is essential though, if you are editing, copying, or changing the file format of a track. You need to have all the data in a file to successfully edit it. WAV files are the most universal lossless file type and is easy to use between different operating systems and applications. Recommended for: Film scoring, large media productions, public performance or any project that requires manipulation to the file.


Extension Name: .aif or .aiff

Format Type: uncompressed

AIFF is just about identical to the WAV format. Again, it is a lossless and large file, but with size comes flexibility. AIFF  is made by Apple and will show up a lot more with Apple products. However, most applications recognize the file and can be used with PC and Apple computers. Recommended for: Film scoring, large media productions, public performance, or any project that requires manipulation to the file.

Editing Programs vs. File Formats

So now you know what each file format is and what is does. But what editing programs can they be used in? And how do you know if the audio format is compatible with what you are trying to do? It's safe to say that most modern software and applications will be compatible with any of these formats. But here's an easy way to make sure nothing goes wrong.

High Quality or Small File Size?

  • High Quality = WAV or AIFF
  • Small file = MP3

Editing on Windows PC or Apple OS X?

  • PC = WAV or MP3
  • MAC =AIFF or MP3

Program won't support file type?

  • Download WAV or AIFF file and convert to appropriate file format

Editing Programs compatible with any audio formats from

  • Adobe Premier Pro
  • Final Cut (Pro and X)
  • Sony Sound Forge
  • Avid Media Composer
  • iMovie
  • Window's Movie Maker
  • and many more!
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