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Summary of common music file formats, from lossy to lossless, Hi-Res things

Ok now I write a few lines about some music formats, summarize their definitions. Which is a low quality MP3 file (ranging from 128kbps ~ 320kbps), then AAC, or to Hi-Res formats like WAV, FLAC, each file will have its own characteristics, understanding their properties. Give you an overview of your music collection.

Let's first take a look at the most popular music file formats today and what they can offer you:

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AAC: This is not Hi-Res format, developed by Apple and replacing MP3. AAC is still lossy and lossy music but possesses slightly better quality than MP3, which can be downloaded from iTunes or streamed via Apple Music.

AIFF: This is Apple's Hi-Res format to replace WAV with the advantage of having more detailed metadata. It is not very common, mostly because of the large file size.

DSD: This is a 1-bit Hi-Res format used in Super Audio-CD, which has 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz and 11.2MHz quality. Because the quality is so high, it is currently not used for streaming needs.

FLAC: This is Hi-Res format but has a file size that is only half that of WAV, and can store metadata. It is provided free of charge and very popular in audiophile circles to download and store rare music albums. Apple however does not support FLAC.

MP3: Lossy compressed music format is extremely popular with extremely small file size, but also offers the lowest sound quality. It is still very effective for storing music on mobile devices or music players with low internal memory.

MQA: This is Hi-Res format which is lossless compression for the needs of streaming through the network. The Tidal Masters is currently using this format for its service.

OGG: OGG (or Ogg Vorbis) is also a lossy format and also free, is a good substitute for MP3 or AAC. It is currently used to stream 320kbps on Spotify.

WAV: Common Hi-Res format for Audio-CD. It has very good sound quality but also very large size. Minus points are bad metadata support (not saving and displaying song, album or cover information).

WMA Lossless: Hi-Res format was introduced by Microsoft, short for Windows Media Audio. No one is using it anymore and new smartphones or tablets are starting to stop supporting it.

Compressed and uncompressed music: What's different?

Compressed music is generally reduced audio quality, however, depending on music compression codec and how to adjust parameters when compressing. If no compression algorithm is used, the sound quality of the song will be lost, but it will take up more storage space, and vice versa.


WAV and AIFF are still the popular uncompressed formats, developed based on PCM technology used to store music information directly without changing. WAV and AIFF are different only in the structure of information storage, but technology is almost the same. They can be used to store music with CD quality and higher.

As mentioned above, the advantage of AIFF is that it has metadata information and WAV does not. Both of these formats have large file sizes and a lot of storage space.


FLAC, or Free Lossless Audio Codec, as its name suggests is a free and good quality music format, owning about half the size of WAV or AIFF. FLAC can provide up to 96kHz / 32-bit quality, more than CD.

ALAC is also a lossless format but compatible with iOS and iTunes devices, and is slightly larger than FLAC. WMA is no longer popular.

AAC and MP3

One thing is for sure, everyone knows MP3. It is extremely popular and available anywhere, and often when you want to download music people will think of it first. MP3s have low to medium sound quality, though not too important for mid-range users, but will make the audiophile uncomfortable. MP3 has a storage size of only one tenth of that of CD quality lossless files, because some audio information will be removed when compressing the file into MP3.

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The Bitrate of MP3 files will directly affect the sound quality when you listen to music. 128kbps MP3s will be of low quality, losing more detail than MP3 320kbps. Overall MP3 is only suitable for the past because the storage capacity of the device is not high and expensive. Currently the hard drive or memory card is much cheaper, comes with new mobile devices with higher internal memory, making the concept of "saving storage" no longer a matter of great concern. .

AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is also a lossy format like MP3 but gives a slightly higher sound quality. This format is used for iTunes download files, Apple Music streams (256kbps) and YouTube.

If you still want to continue to use lossy formats, understand that the higher the bitrate, the better the sound quality, but this depends on the audio compression codec. For example, at a bitrate level, MP3 will give a bit lower sound quality than AAC or OGG, because the MP3 codec has not as good compression performance as the other codecs.

Hi-Res Audio?

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Unlike HD Video image format with the same standard, Hi-Res Audio is like a lot of things. To simplify this problem, Hi-Res Audio can be interpreted as file formats with higher bitrate and bit-depth than CDs, which stop at 44.1kHz / 16-bit. Hi-Res Audio format can be up to 96kHz / 16-bit or 192kHz / 24-bit. The higher the parameter, the more detailed and honest the music quality you hear, in return for increased storage capacity.

Currently hardware companies are increasingly supporting playing Hi-Res formats more, most notably in new smartphones or music players.

So which format will best suit your needs?

The music format you choose will need to match your needs and quality requirements. Take MP3 for example, it can be copied and played with any device. You just need to be aware that MP3 is limited in sound quality to compensate for storage capacity, so if you prefer to listen to more music, the phone's internal memory is limited because you have to save the movie, the image should be down mp3 is the strongest.

Getting started and using lossless formats like FLAC will be a good start to enhance your listening experience. The FLAC file compression algorithm has a good balance between compression level and sound quality, helping you listen to music better without spending too much storage, at least compared to WAV or IAFF.


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