Which type of audio file do you need to convert?
The process of changing one type of audio file to another is known as audio conversion. It’s a necessary part of making sure audio is playable and useful in different contexts because different audio file formats have different uses. The audio files a producer or engineer works with aren’t the same as the files you download to your hard-drive. The audio files used by music streaming services like Spotify are a different format, as well.
Types of audio files.
There are three major types of audio files. Each type is useful in different circumstances.
Uncompressed audio formats are generally the audio tracks you get when recording. These files are very large and contain all of the information picked up by studio equipment. These formats are good for archival and editing purposes, but their large file size makes them impractical for other uses. Uncompressed audio files include WAV, AIFF, DSD, RAW and PCM.
Compressed lossless files.
To make audio files smaller to save space for archival, distribution or playback purposes, you should compress them. Compressed lossless files eliminate some redundant information within the file structure, making the file smaller but still ensuring that it retains all of the information. These files are often used in sound mixing and engineering. Compressed lossless files include FLAC, ALAC, APE and VOC.
Compressed lossy files.
Compressed lossy files eliminate some digital information that is not entirely necessary to deliver sound. They have the vast majority of the original data, but not all of it, which is where the lossy name comes from. These files are useful for downloading and streaming because they are relatively small. Most music files are some kind of compressed lossy format. Compressed lossy formats include AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis and MP3 files.
If you’re creating a file to be used on a Mac or Windows desktop, you can get away with a lossless file. However, if you’re working on a project that’s going to be streamed onto an iPhone, a lossy file is going to offer a better user experience.