Is WAV the best audio format? When to Use WAV And When Not

Is WAV the best audio format? When to Use WAV And When Not

It’s not a coincidence that lots of audio producers and sound engineers are still captured by the magnificence of WAV files and rarely stick to using something else. Let’s see why.

The best audio format: WAV

WAV is a superior file format and a golden standard for many music producers and sound engineers around the globe. While this is an absolute truth, before composing, you ought to check a few boxes before you start recording. Do you know what makes your listeners tick, and are there any limits that would make them look for something else?

Knowing that your listeners are in favor of top-quality audio and mostly listen to everything from their studio or home tells you that you can record and distribute music material in WAV. However, you have a totally different perspective if your average listener tends to carry an MP3 player around or is so busy that they have time to enjoy listening to music only when they are driving or in the subway. 

Superiority of WAV

If you are reading this article, then you are already aware of the superiority of WAV files, and little of the disadvantages that this format has, do not really bother you. Still, we’d like to take you down memory lane and drop a few words about how WAV was brought to life and what is so special about it.

A while back, IBM and Microsoft had a good idea to create a file format that would store the audio bitstream on personal computers all over the world. The result was so cool that it became the golden standard in the audio industry for quite some time. WAV files store audio data in an uncompressed way and in the form of chunks with the help of linear pulse-code modulation. This modulation format is another gold standard when you need to get the audio data stored on the CD, which, by the way, is of the maximum audio quality. WAV file format is still favored by audio engineers all over the world because it lets the audio data be manipulated and edited quite easily with the help of dedicated software.

If you are a sound engineer or a music producer, then the little disadvantages cannot make WAV files unattractive to you. One big disadvantage that everyone is talking about is the size of WAV files, which makes it really hard to be streamed and presents an issue for those who operate from a little free space on the hard drive. Another disadvantage is that WAV files cannot be manipulated as FLAC files can.

On the bright side, by choosing the WAV file format over all others, you get superior sound quality because nothing from your record is getting lost or compressed. So your audio sounds exactly as you recorded it. Also, you get to choose almost unlimited bit-depth and sample rate, which depends on the idea of your current project. The next advantage is that WAV files are top in terms of compatibility, and it is highly unlikely that you will find a device that has issues with reading it. And as we already stated, any music producer or sound engineer can work with audio stored in WAV and enjoy the ease of the process.

When to use WAV and when to not

If you value the best quality of music above anything else and want to hear all the nuances of the track, you should stick to choosing WAV files above anything else. But you need to be aware that all people have different possibilities, and some may not be able to enjoy your music material because of the huge file size. Another option would be choosing another file format, such as AAC or MP3, and a platform that supports it if you want the music to be available for much bigger audiences. So, in order to distribute your music online,  you need to be aware of a few options.

Firstly, if you own a website, you are in charge of the format that your music material is stored in, and you can run with WAV. But, for the majority of other options, such as streaming platforms or other services, you have to convert to the format listed in the guidelines.

You might think about using FLAC instead of WAV when you know who your audience is and what needs it possesses. If music lovers from your audience own Hi-Fi systems, are mostly audiophiles, but want to store the music on their PCs or laptops, saving your music material in WAV would be a waste of time. Instead, you have to choose FLAC, which is characterized by the same level of superior sound quality but needs less space to store it.

If you know that your audience does not care much about the audio quality and are casual listeners by their nature, you should choose a lossy format, such as MP3.

Not caring for the audio quality is not always a bad thing, especially if we talk about listeners. Not all people are audiophiles and are able to hear the tiny nuances of the instruments and enjoy it. So, for those people, you might want to choose MP3 audio format above WAV, so they would not bother about having an extra hard drive to carry around just to enjoy an episode of their favorite podcast or freshly released album. In addition, a lot of streaming platforms support this format.