Ever been confused by the difference between wavs and mp3s? Want to be sure you’re sending the right type of file to your engineer? Let us give you a few tips.

So you’re finished recording, and ready to release your musical masterpiece. It’s time to prepare for mastering and release. But which file format should you use?! And what’s the difference?! AND WHY AM I YELLING?!

To break this down, let’s talk about the three most common PCM* audio file types that you’ll encounter in any DAW that you use:

1) .aif
2) .wav
3) Sound Designer II (this format is MOSTLY dead though)

These are all formats of the same PCM recording data that all systems can read.
From there, if you use something like .mp3 or .aac conversion, what’s happening is – you’re using a lossy data compression format. “What’s the difference?” you ask…

In short, “lossless” conversions preserve all of the file’s original data, whereas when you use a “lossy” data compression format, some data is lost. To better understand the difference between lossless and lossy data formats, see this article: https://www.howtogeek.com/142174/what-lossless-file-formats-are-why-you-shouldnt-convert-lossy-to-lossless/

If you’re using any information in your music that’s been taken from the Internet (a download, audio ripped from a YouTube video, etc.), you run the risk of accidentally doubling up on a lossy data compression format. For example, if you take a sample as part of your song that you’ve edited together from a YouTube video, lossy .mp3 data compression may have already happened on that audio file. Then, when you go to mix that file in, and somebody else creates a .mp3 from your song, you’ve just had that same data compression done twice (maybe even more than that).

So, if you have the ability to grab the original source material for a sample that you love, either in the form of a .wav or .aif, do that! Same goes for when you’re sending your files off for mastering. This will give you the best quality output possible for your finished project.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We’re happy to help!

– The Sprout City Crew

*Pulse Code Modulation. For more info, see this excellent article: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/24128/pulse-code-modulation-pcm

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