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Compare Digital Audio Formats!


By Jens Adrian

WMA, MP3, OGG, VQF, WAV - not all of these terms are part of the basic vocabulary of a PC-user, but all of them describe specific audio-formats that have settled down as standards in the last months and years.
But which one is actually best?

To set it straight: all formats depicted here (except WAV) describe a lossy compression. Data is filtered out of the original files, whereby new files are created that are significantly different from the original. And that means the sound as well. However with the up-to-date formats this difference is hardly audible. Audiophiles should take a closer look at a lossless compression such as Monkey’s Audio.

On the pages following you will find several audio-formats listed, with brief descriptions what they are, how common and how popular they are. The scientific background of the individual compression-algorithms is resigned, the focus lies upon compression-duration, file size and, of course, quality of the converted files, because the average user generally is not interested in how the formats work, but in how they sound.

For this you can look at tests that have been performed to examine the formats’ performance regarding two categories of music:

  1. classic music with a big orchestra and high frequency tones
  2. a pop-CD that has gained numerous awards for it’s outstanding sound-quality

Of course, you can go and see for yourself: there are sound-samples of all tested bitrates and songs. They can be found either in the tests themselves or in the comparison-tables. Just click on the bitrate in each case.
On the other hand conversion-speeds are not to be neglected. This and which format does have the smallest file-size can also be found in the comparison-tables. However these values are not significant for the final “judgement”, that’s solely based on the actual sound-quality of each codec.

You will also find a little summary which audio-codec might have a future and which one might not have.
However most important: which codec actually sounds best - completely independent from the manufacturers’ promises.

Finally, you will find homepage-links to all manufacturers so you can test or use the audio-codecs yourself.


  • Main
  • Audio Formats Explained
  • Audio Format Tests
  • Audio Format Comparison
  • Audio Format Test Result
  • Links
  • All opinions in the article are based on the author's personal judgment.  These opinions do not represent that of the Staff.


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