A Guide to Understanding the Different Types of Audio Files

lossy or lossless encoding.

Have you been consuming digital audio for years? If so, your computer is probably filled with audio files in varied formats. Usually, it is not something people think about as long as the media player supports the file. However, if you want to dig deeper into your audiophile hobby or take your music production career ahead, you may start to wonder what’s the best audio file format for your music.

For the uninitiated, audio file formats refer to formats that store digital audio on mobile phones, computers or media players. In the file, the audio information is stored as bits. The bit layout might be compressed or uncompressed using lossy or lossless encoding.

Here, take a look at some popular audio file types and know that you can always convert files to your choice of file format. You can read about how to easily convert media files at https://setapp.com/.


The MP3 format is a MPEG audio layer three file format. The format’s important feature is the compression that maintains the almost flawless quality of the original sound while saving space. MP3 is popular for mobile audio-playing devices, thanks to its compression feature.

In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, MP3 is still relevant because the format is compatible across devices and platforms. The format is best used for sharing audio files owing to its small size. The file type also works amazingly for websites where audio files are hosted.

Although MP3 files are not of the highest quality, they are popular because of their overall sound quality and small file size.


Free Lossless Audio Codec or FLAC is an audio format compressed into a smaller size than its original file. It is a sophisticated format and not very widely used compared to other audio formats. The problem with FLAC is it requires special downloads to function properly. Therefore, using this format is quite inconvenient, especially if your habit is extensively sharing audio files.

However, FLAC is lossless compression, and it can reduce file size without compromising the original sound quality. The small file size makes it easier to upload and download them.


Windows Media Audio or the WMA is a popular Windows-based alternative to MP3. The format works wonderfully if you are a Windows user, and you can double-click on WMA files to open with Windows Media Player or any other player. The format’s lossless compression ensures the retention of high audio quality throughout various restructuring processes. However, the format isn’t universally used because many users cannot access it.


The WAV format stores waveform data, and the stored data presents a picture demonstrating the strength of sound and volume in specific parts of the file. Users can transform a WAV file through compression, and these files are typically used on Windows systems.

M4A audio file

The M4A is an audio-compressed file, and it is utilized in modern settings due to enhanced quality demands thanks to bigger hard drive space and cloud storage. It is a high-quality audio file format where users can hear distinct sounds that are not common in other audio file types.

Apple iTunes and other music download software use M4A in place of MP3 because it is smaller in size and higher in audio quality. The format does have its drawbacks, and one of them is incompatibility. The audio format is ideal for a select user because many software programs don’t recognize the audio format.


The MP4 file is usually mistaken as an upgraded version of MP3 files. But, in reality, the formats are different, and their similarity comes from their similar names instead of their functionalities. Also, MP4 is sometimes called a video file instead of an audio file. It isn’t an error because the format holds both video and audio files.

When looking for a comprehensive media extension, you can opt for MP4. The format holds video, audio and other media. It contains data in the file, and it needs different codecs for the artificial implementation of the codes to be read.


Advanced Audio Coding or AAC is a file format that delivers high-quality sound, augmented using advanced coding. The format is not popular for music files, but Apple has aggressively pushed this format through its Music app. Also, the format works wonderfully on video game units where AAC is the standard audio component.

You can open an AAC file through iTunes (now, Music). If you don’t have iTunes, you need to download third-party software to open AAC files. Or, you can convert the file to a more common audio format type.


So, these are some common audio files types that you must know of to organize your files or optimize your music library.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here