Music Files

02020-12-05 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

One reason I use Bandcamp for my new music is that they allow the user to download a variety of different files, from mp3 to FLAC. I will describe the differences between music file formats so that you can choose what’s best for you and perhaps you will discover how good the music CAN sound.

There are three groups of audio files: uncompressed files (large), files that use lossless compression (smaller), and files that use lossy compression (smallest).

The first group are uncompressed audio formats that include .AIF (released by Apple in 1988), .WAV (IBM + Microsoft in 1991), and .BWF (European Broadcast Union in 1997). Being uncompressed these formats create the largest files. They are the files musicians work with in the studio.

The second group are lossless compressed audio formats. These file formats store data in less space without losing any information. The original, uncompressed data can be recreated from the compressed version. Nothing is lost. These formats include FLAC and ALAC. FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec and was released in 2001. ALAC is the Apple version of a lossless audio codec and was released in 2004. These two file formats sound as good as uncompressed files but take up much less space.

The third group consists of lossy compressed audio file formats. The most well known of these formats are .MP3 (Fraunhofer Society in Germany in 1993) and its successor AAC (1997). AAC is the default format on iPhones and is also supported by Android phones. These file formats became very popular at the beginning of the 21st century because they take up so little space. Using 128kbps mp3 files Apple was able to claim that the iPod could store 1,000 songs in your pocket!! As we know everything comes at a price and these files don’t sound very good.

As memory became more inexpensive and plentiful most streaming service moved from 128kbps to 256kbps, which doesn’t sound too bad. Sadly only one service, Tidal, allows their customers to download or stream lossless files.

It’s interesting to note that some people grew up with the sound of 128kbps music files and developed a taste for it. The music objectively doesn’t sound good, but neither did 8-Track cassettes and some people loved those…

TBC, with a post on how to listen to higher quality files.

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