Why are WAV Files So Much Bigger Than MP3 Files?

Lately, an increasing number of users have been seeking answers to this age-old question that has plagued audio listeners for several years now. What is the difference between WAV and MP3 files? This article seeks to answer this question.

Basic Notions

Audio files can come in many formats, but the main ones are WAV and MP3. WAV stands for Waveform Audio File Format and tends to be much heavier than a file formatted in MP3 (or MPEG-1 Audio Layer III if you went to college).

But if both files are sound-based, why is one heavier than the other? Is sacrificing that heaviness for quality worth it? We’ll dive into the details of both formats to understand their main differences and benefits.

WAV vs. MP3

Many people debate which format is better, but first, you need to understand the terms and characteristics of each to enter the discussion. MP3 files are compressed versions of WAV files, which is why they can be up to ten times smaller. This reduction is made through a process called “lossy compression,” which may be invisible to some, but to audiophiles is unacceptable.

The reality is that this process generates a significant setback in the quality of the file. Enabling “Lossy compression” means that some of the file information is lost when compressed. While some say this lost information is inaudible and obsolete, others argue it is very audible and can be appreciated during listening.

Who is right, and who is wrong? It isn’t easy to say. Listening is very subjective, and while some people may be unable to distinguish between an MP3 file and a WAV file, those with more trained ears are quite capable of distinguishing between them. This is not to say that MP3s are a complete waste. High-quality MP3 files are less compressed and perhaps more attractive to the listener because they are easy to download and valuable.

So, if you can get virtually the same information in a smaller size, why have this debate in the first place?

WAV- Bigger But Better

Although WAV files may seem inordinately significant, there is a reason for their size. Audiophiles like WAV files so much because they are made to the exact specifications of CDs. Providing WAV files with the same features as CDs makes them heavier than MP3 files.

At first glance, the two files may be indistinguishable to most listeners. However, for people who are trained in music and like to have a specific depth of sound, WAV files are necessary.

MP3- Cheaper but also ten times smaller!

Although WAV files may have the upper hand when it comes to supreme audio quality, the truth is that such a thing is obsolete in today’s times. Most people don’t care if the sound is perfect or not. They want to be able to listen to the music semi-clearly. That’s one of the many reasons why MP3 is the most popular audio format in the world.

Giant music sellers like Amazon and Napster sell files exclusively in MP3 format. This is because they’re compatible with pretty much every device in the world. Also, no matter their size, these formats have a very high compression ratio, which means you can store many of them on a single hard drive or disk.

However, that doesn’t mean corporations have forgotten about WAV files. Most portable audio players are WAV-friendly, but their large size does make them incompatible with some devices, which can be frustrating for people.

WAV-Perfect For Audiophiles

Who doesn’t like good sound? That’s the reason why Walkmans and record players have become fashionable in recent years. It’s not just because of the retro feel vibe provided, but also because they make music sound better than when you play it through your phone’s tiny speakers.

Plus, they have the advantage of not needing access to Wi-Fi to work as intended, which attracts many people. Having to wait for a song to load entirely and correctly before you can play it ruins the moment and the whole experience. This is why older formats of sound reproduction are, today, reaching their peak of popularity, as they provide a more aesthetically pleasing and sometimes even more efficient listening experience.

There has also been a rise in audiophiles in recent years. These are people who appreciate the purity and quality of sound that a piece can produce. This is what keeps the WAV format alive today. Audiophiles worldwide are willing to put up with its larger size to get that extra sound quality in the music they listen to.

These are people that are genuinely dedicated to their music, to their passion. Artists make a great effort to professionally record tracks and get them mixed up properly. Audiophiles understand that and take great appreciation for them. This is one of the main reasons they want to hear the audio file in its full glory.

Let’s Look At Some Numbers

Alright, to make this debate as far as possible, let’s try to compare both file formats based on only one thing: numbers.

Now, WAV files are so large because they’re the same as listening to an original CD. They’re perfect copies of their original format. MP3s, on the other hand, are merely compressed versions of music, which makes people shy away from them. One MP3 song that lasts a maximum of 3 minutes takes up 5MB of data. On the other hand, a WAV file of the same song Cahn takes up to 45MB! That is quite a number.

It’s Your Choice

In conclusion, which is better? As with most things, it depends entirely on the listener. Art is subjective, and as it turns out, so is audio quality. Of course, whether you prefer the practicality of MP3 files or prefer to go further with a WAV is a personal decision. The important thing is that you can enjoy your favorite music, especially if it’s solo or with people you like and share your interests with.

Audiophile Haven

AudiophileHaven is a site dedicated to Hi-Fi audio, and helping others learn more about premium quality sound equipment.

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