Music Formats Explained

There are a few ways that you music can be exported from your chosen music software, but it can be difficult if you don’t know what each of the different music formats mean.

Here’s is a run down of some of the more common music formats:

Music Formats

MP3 – MPEG-2 Audio Layer 3, or MP3 as it is more commonly known, is possibly the most well know music format. It uses a form of lossy data compression to compress the file so that it is as small as possible, while still sounding close to the original recording quality, to allow for playback on digital audio devices, consumer streaming or storage.

AV – A Waveform Audio File Format, or a .wav as is it commonly called, is the main format used on Windows computer systems. It is an uncompressed audio format and therefore is a closer representation of the original recording quality.

AIFF – Audio Interchange File Format, known as AIFF, is the main format used by Apple computer systems. It is an uncompressed audio format and therefore takes up more disc space than lossy audio formats.

PCM – Pulse Code Modulation, or PCM, is an uncompressed audio format that is used in computers, CDs, and other digital audio applications to digitally represent sampled analogue signals.

FLAC – FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec which, as the name suggests, uses lossless compression for digital audio. Files compressed into this format can be reduced to 50-60% of it’s original size and will then decompress this into an identical copy of the original audio file.

AAC – Advanced Audio Coding, or AAC file, uses lossy data compression and was designed to be the successor of the MP3 format. These files tend to achieve better sound quality than MP3s while using similar bit rates.

Bit Depth

bit-depthA bit depth is the number of ‘bits’ of information that is transferred in each sample, this corresponds directly with the resolution of each sample. A real-world example of the differences in bit depth uses would be CDs, which use 16 bits per sample (16-bit) and blu-ray discs which use 24 bits per sample (24-bit).

The larger the bit depth, the more bits are transferred per sample, which thereby increases the quality of the audio along with the size of the file itself.

Sample Rate

The sample rate is the number of samples of audio that are carried over per second, this can be measured in Hertz (Hz) or kilohertz (kHz). There are 1000 Hz in 1 kHz so 44,100 samples per second can be written either as 44,100 Hz or 44.1 kHz. CD quality audio files are sampled at 44.1 kHz, whereas the higher quality equivalent could be written as 96,000 Hz or 96 kHz.

The bandwidth is the difference between the highest and lowest frequencies in an audio file.

Bit Depth and Sample Rate

Bit Depth Sample Rate
16-bit 44,100Hz
16-bit 48,000Hz
24-bit 96,000Hz

What Music Formats do we Accept?

We require all music submissions for digital distribution to be in .wav format with a bit depth of 16-bit and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz.

We do also accept hi-res audio files in .wav format, which should have a bit depth of 24-bit and a sample rate of 96 kHz. For 24-bit files, it is important that these files have not been up-sampled from the 16-bit file as these will not be accepted. Where possible, we advise recording in 24-bit to begin with.