MP3, AAC, WAV, FLAC: all the audio file formats explained

MP3, AAC, WAV, FLAC: all the audio file formats explained

Organising your digital music collection, you might be struck by the number of different audio file formats in your library. If the list leaves you wondering whether all those songs studied at different universities to get such official-looking letters after their names, don’t worry. We’re here to break down the meaning of the most common music file formats, the differences between them, and why you should care.

Whether you’re listening to low-quality MP3 files, probably slightly better AAC tracks, or hi-res audio in FLAC or WAV, it’s time to understand exactly what you’re getting – and which is the best file format for you.

File formats and codecs at-a-glance

Want to cut straight to the chase? Here’s a handy guide to all the file formats and the differences between them. If you want to know more, read on below for a more in-depth look at the differences in size, sound quality and compatibility.

AAC (not hi-res): Apple’s alternative to MP3. Lossy and compressed, but sounds better. Used for iTunes downloads and Apple Music streaming.

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