The most popular audio type that both professionals and non-professionals frequently deal with is MP3, and most of us are accustomed to using the terms “audio” and “MP3” as synonyms.
However, if you’ve started your podcasting career and are planning to publish your episodes on different platforms, it’s time to delve into the other audio formats as well.
Don’t worry if you can’t recall any at the moment. We’re about to explain to you the popular file types and help you choose the best audio format for your shows.
What is an audio file format?
The audio file format is how digital audio is stored on computers, mobile phones, and other devices. There are numerous ways to save audio files, and the main criteria to choose between available formats is whether they are compressed or uncompressed.
Uncompressed file formats
Non-compressed file formats are not changed by compressing algorithms during the transfer. This means when receiving the uncompressed file from the producer, you will have a complete file bit-to-bit identical to the original one.
Uncompressed files allow the exact reproduction of the initial audio on the receiver’s device; therefore, there is no damage to audio quality.
However, you should consider that all the benefits of the uncompressed file format come with a trade-off - your storage memory. Uncompressed tracks don’t allow you to reduce the file size when saving them, which means you should either save files on external memory devices or expect your PC’s memory to run out of space pretty soon.
WAV and AIFF are some of the common uncompressed audio formats.
Compressed file formats
Compressed file formats reduce both the size and the quality of the file when transferring it. They use psychoacoustic analysis to detect inaudible content (the sounds that exist in the audio but are not audible to the human ear) and discard it.
In other words, compressed file formats remove unnecessary elements from the file and optimize its size for better storage.
Probably, your first thought here is whether the audio quality will suffer much in this case.
The answer is: it depends on which compression type you choose.
Compression itself means reducing the file’s size and quality. In most cases, the files become up to 10 times smaller after compression. However, some formats allow you to retrieve the applied file changes later, and others do not.
Let’s break it down.
As the name suggests, lossy compressed audio formats decrease in size and quality during transfer processes, and the receiver won’t be able to recover the initial version of the file after saving it.
Lossy compression is convenient, and therefore one of the most popular audio formats. Usually, all the files we download from public sources use lossy compression, which means we do not save the file in the same condition as it’s placed on the site.
Common lossy audio formats are MP3, AAC, WMA, and OGG.
Lossless compressed files are the golden middle between lossy and uncompressed audio files. In this case, the file is reduced in size; however, after you save the file on your device, you can then recover the original size and quality of the audio.
Common lossless audio formats are ALAC and FLAC.
What are the most popular audio formats?
The most popular audio file formats include the following.
- WAV is one of the most popular formats if you record audio on a professional level. It does not compromise the audio quality, and on many top platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, and similar, WAV is usually the required format for uploading files.
- AIFF is the second popular choice for recording, mastering, and mixing the audios after WAV. Your tracks in AIFF format do not compress or delete audio content; therefore, they'll give you the highest sound quality.
- FLAC is one of the best choices if you need to exchange lossless audio files. While reducing the original file size by around 70%, you can then recover the audio to up to 32 bits and 192 kHz.
- AAC is a good option if you’re exchanging not very large audio files. Otherwise, the quality of your audio will suffer, as AAC is a lossy format and does not allow you to recover the compressed file.
- MP3 is the most popular audio format that is supported on the vast majority of devices and browsers. However, note that MP3 files can sometimes reduce the audio quality too much, using lossy compression.
- ALAC is a lossless audio format that supports files with 32 bits and a 384 kHz sampling rate. Therefore, that’s a great chance to store high-quality files of reasonable size.
- WMA is mostly designed to store and play audio files on Windows. However, it can cause issues with other operating systems. For example, you should avoid sharing files of this format with Apple users.
What is the best audio format for a podcaster?
You can probably guess that there is no cut-and-dried answer to which format you should use for your podcast shows considering the abundance of audio file formats. As long as you are happy with the quality and your file is supported on your potential audience’s devices, you’re good to go.
However, if you feel overwhelmed with choices, here are the file formats that the vast majority of podcasters use.
Record with WAV
The majority of devices will automatically save your audio recording in .wav format. This allows you to have the best possible quality and make further edits easier.
If you’re wondering how to organize your podcast recording in WAV format, here is a great suggestion. Podcastle's voice recording tool automatically saves your audio in uncompressed WAV format.
So, if you have a ready script in your hands, lose no time and record it right away!
Save and share files with MP3
MP3 is the best option to save your audio or upload it to iTunes, Spotify, and other podcast directories. If you initially recorded your podcast in a format other than MP3, you can upload, edit, and save it as MP3 with Podcastle.
Fortunately, most professional audio recording software have in-built features to automatically set all the technical standards for your podcasts. However, if you record and edit your show manually, without special software, hopefully, this guide will help you figure out the main technical aspects of your show.