What are the most popular audio formats

Tens of audio files can be used to convert a song, but the really useful ones can be counted on the fingers of one hand: here are

When we think of an audio file, most of us immediately think of MP3. Surely this is one of the most popular audio formats, but it's not the only one. Let's see which are the most popular audio formats and their differences in use. And which ones we should choose according to our needs.

There are different categories of audio files. First of all we have the formats defined as uncompressed. The word itself defines this section of files. In this case, in fact, the sound waves that have been captured are converted into digital format without any further processing. What does this translate into? In files that are very heavy to save and take up a lot of space. To create audio files that are easier to save and less heavy, lossy data compression formats were created. They sacrifice a bit of quality in favor of the little storage space required.

To remedy this shortcoming as well, namely the loss of quality in favor of file size, lossless compressed audio formats have been created. Obviously they won't be as small as lossy compression, but they will be smaller than uncompressed ones. It must be said, however, that this type of formats are not widely used except in specific cases.


PCM is the most common audio format used on the CDs and DVDs we have at home. It is the faithful conversion of analog audio into a digital file. It is no coincidence that we are talking about an uncompressed audio format. Remember that analog sounds exist as waveforms, and to convert a sound wave into digital bits the sound must be sampled and recorded at certain intervals.


WAV stands for Waveform Audio File Format (it used to be also labeled as Audio for Windows, but not anymore). It is a standard that was developed by Microsoft and IBM in 1991. WAV files can contain compressed and uncompressed audio formats. But in most cases they are used for uncompressed ones. Although it is designed for Windows, it can also be opened safely on a Mac.


This is definitely the most famous audio format. It was released in 1993 and over the years it has increased its success thanks to its combination with music tracks. Why are they so widely used? Simple, they are lossy compression files and the files generated are small enough that people can create a music library without the need for too much storage space. And the quality? It is much lower than other formats but the human ear can't always perceive the difference significantly. MP3 is also a universal file. It can be found on smartphones, computers, smart TVs, tablets and many other electronic devices.


WMA stands for Windows Media Audio. It was first released in 1999 and has gone through several evolutions since then, always keeping the same name. As you can easily guess it is an audio format created by Microsoft. It was designed to replace MP3. Unfortunately there are very few platforms that support it and therefore it has never been able to challenge the dominance of MP3.


OGG is not a real audio format with compression. We can define it as a multipurpose multimedia container. It can hold all kinds of audio formats, but it is commonly used to hold Vorbis files. It is one of the best performing files in terms of decreasing the size without losing quality.


FLAC stands for Free Codec Lossless Audio. It is a lossless compressed format created in 2001. A FLAC file can be compressed to 60% of its original size without any loss of sound quality. It is also an open-source format. That is why it is supported in most programs and devices. It is the best quality alternative to MP3.