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Which Audio Format Is Best For Recording?

If you are a musician, there are many challenges that you likely face. One of them is the format in which you should record audio. For anyone who needs clarification, an audio format is basically the file format that you would use to store music on your computer. Examples of formats are wma, mp3, wav, and aiff, among others.

There are two major categories of audio formats. These would be uncompressed and compressed formats. Uncompressed formats take up a good amount of space on your storage drive or hard disk. However, they come with an advantage in that the quality of the digital audio that has been recorded is uncompromised and has not been altered. The quality will stay the same no matter how many times you re-encode or process the music. In contrast, compressed audio formats come in smaller files, due to the fact that the formats compress the digital audio data. You can save a lot of space on your storage drive by using these formats.

There are two types of compressed audio formats. Lossless compressed audio formats compress the data, but without any degradation of the audio quality and without any loss of data during the process of compression. Lossy compressed audio formats compress the data and also commonly eliminate frequencies and information in order to minimize the size of the file. This does lead to decrease in audio quality. In addition, each subsequent processing will degrade the quality further and further.

In order to figure out which format is the best fit for you, you will need to have a good grasp of sampling rate and bit rate. The sampling rate is the number of samples that the recording technology receives per second; during the recording process, the recording device receives the audio signal by dividing it into samples. The higher the sampling rate, the higher the audio quality, as a high rate will mean that the playback is relatively free of interruptions. The notes of the music on the recording will be more precise as well. Sampling rates can range from 8000 hertz (very low quality) to 196,000 hertz (very high quality). The bit rate is the number of bits that are used for every unit of playback time; the higher the bit rate, the better the audio quality will be.

There are many choices for someone who is looking to record audio. The choice that one makes will have to depend on the quality they desire and what they are willing to compromise.

1. MP3 Format

This is a lossy audio format that eliminates redundant data and compresses audio files so that they take up less space. You can alter the bit rate to choose how much information ends up getting lost during encoding and compression. A lower bit rate means more lost information, which could compromise the audio quality. It is commonly used, as it does keep the quality as close to the quality of the original recording as possible; many people use MP3 to store a large quantity of files on their computers, as these do not take up a lot of space. However, the quality is merely acceptable, not great; as such, you should not record in MP3 for your own audio recordings unless you are forced to do so. What you should do if you can is record in uncompressed formats first, and then convert the recording to an MP3 file.

2. AAC Format

The AAC, or Advanced Audio Coding, format is another lossy compression audio format and provides higher audio quality when the files are of lower sizes.

3. WMA Format

The WMA, or Windows Media Audio, format, is also a lossy compression audio format. It is commonly used but not quite as popular as MP3. There is a lossless compressed version of this known as WMA lossless, which replicates original audio quality and does not eliminate data.

4. WAV Format

This is an uncompressed format that retains 100% of the quality of the original recording and is very popular. It is a good format to choose for recording and can easily be edited with software.

5. AIFF Format

Also known as the Audio Interchange File Format, the AIFF format is typically used for the storage of audio data on Apple systems (it was developed by Apple). It is also commonly professionally used, due to the fact that it is an uncompressed format.

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