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Chapter 4. Working with Digital Media > A Review of Digital Audio File Formats

A Review of Digital Audio File Formats

Audio files come in many different formats, but only a few are of interest to most Windows XP users:

MP3 (.mp3)MP3 (Motion Picture Experts Groups Audio Level 3) is one of the most popular audio file formats. It compresses digital audio by removing extraneous sounds not normally detected by the human ear. This results in high-quality audio files that are one-tenth the size of uncompressed audio, making MP3s ideal for downloading and storing on digital audio players (which are frequently called MP3 players, even when they support other audio formats).
WMA (.wma)WMA (Windows Media Audio) is the standard Windows Media Player format. It produces audio files with the same quality as MP3, but compressed to about half the size. WMA is often used for digital audio player storage because it can fit twice the number of songs as MP3.
WAV (.wav)WAV (waveform audio) was once the standard Windows digital audio format. WAV files are created via the PCM technique. All Windows-based sound applications can play WAV files, and each WAV file will sound the same no matter which sound application you use to play it.
MIDI (.mid or .rmi)MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a nonwaveform file that stores musical instructions instead of waveform amplitudes. Sound cards that support MIDI have various synthesized instruments built into their chips. A MIDI file’s instructions specify which instrument to play, which note to play, how long the note should be held, and so on.
AIFF (.aif, .aifc, and .aiff)AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) is a format that began life on the Apple Macintosh. It supports 16-bit 44.1KHz stereo sound files.
AU (.au)AU (Sun Audio Format) is the standard UNIX audio format, so it’s still one of the standard audio formats on the Internet. A similar UNIX format is SND (Sound; .snd), developed by NeXT.


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