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Which audio file format is best for storing lots of music with high-quality sound?

Answer: There are several kind of audio formats to choose from when saving music files. While some formats sound better than others, the higher quality formats typically take up more space on your hard disk. If you have a lot of music files, you will benefit from using a compressed audio format that shrinks the size of the files, while maintaining the fidelity of the audio.

The AIFF and WAV formats are equivalent to CD-quality audio. These formats support 16-bit, 44.1 KHz, uncompressed stereo sound. When you "rip" a full-quality audio track from a CD onto your hard drive, it should be one of these formats.

However, if you want to store a lot of music on your hard drive, you should choose a compressed format such as MP3 or AAC. These formats take up roughly one tenth of the space of AIFF and WAV files and sound almost as good. If your goal is to use the most compatible format, choose MP3, since this format is supported by nearly all music players.

Most music jukebox programs such as iTunes and Winamp allow you to choose the bit rate of the audio files you import or convert. For example, you may be able to import songs in MP3 format using a bit rate of 192 kbps. 128 kbps is often the default setting, but selecting 192 kbps may give the music an audible boost in quality. The best way to determine what format and bit rate to use is to convert a couple songs, listen to them, and see how much space they take up. Then you can choose the best balance between quality and size.

Published: November 16, 2005 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center