Best Audio Format for Different Types of Content
Choosing the best audio file format is a pivotal decision that can significantly impact the quality and compatibility of the content you create and publish. It also directly affects the performance of your media, with one study showing good audio quality as the most common element of 75% of the videos viewers graded highly and would continue watching1. Whether you're an audiophile seeking the utmost fidelity or a content creator aiming for optimal distribution across various platforms, selecting the right audio format can shape the way your music, podcasts, or other forms of media are consumed and shared.
In this article, we’re discussing the best audio format for different types of content to ensure you’re producing high-quality content through the end stages of production and publication. Learn about different common audio formats, factors to consider when choosing, and which type is the best audio format for your content.
Choosing the Best Audio File Format for Your Content
The best audio format for different types of content will depend on various factors ranging from your production process to how you want to distribute your media on various platforms.
For example, music production professionals creating content should choose the best audio format for lossless quality throughout the production process. The finished product can be converted to other audio file formats later to fit the best file type by distribution channel. Social media content creators looking at the best audio file type for how to make a sound on TikTok should look at which supported type will upload easiest and play on the platform (for TikTok, that’s going to be MP3).
When choosing the best audio file format for your content, it’s important to think about uncompressed, lossless compression, and lossy compression file types:
- Uncompressed audio files: These are audio files without any form of compression applied to them. They are the largest audio file sizes but are also pure, so there is no reduction in audio quality.
- Lossless compression: This kind of audio compression compresses the file without losing any information or degrading the quality at all. All the data remains intact.
- Lossy compression: This is the smallest type of audio file. Data that is considered “irrelevant” (typically defined as sound not able to be heard by the human ear) is deleted from lossy compression formats. The result is an audio file with affected quality but much smaller in size. The deleted data cannot be recovered from lossy compression.
Types of Audio File Formats
There is a wide array of options to choose from when determining the best audio format for your media. Each of them has different pros and cons depending on what kind of audio content you’re creating, what stage of the production process you’re in, and where you want to share this media for consumption.
Some of the most common and best audio file formats include:
- MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer III): Arguably the most prevalent audio format, MP3 is a lossy compression audio file format that strikes a balance between quality and file size. This makes it ideal for streaming and portable devices where storage space is a concern.
- MP4: Primarily known as a video format, MP4 can also contain audio data. It supports various audio codecs, including AAC and MP3, making it a versatile option for multimedia content.
- WAV (Waveform Audio File Format): Known for its uncompressed and lossless nature, WAV files retain the full audio quality of the original recording. This is one of the best audio format types for music production but results in larger file sizes.
- FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec): FLAC offers lossless compression, maintaining audio quality while reducing file size. It's a favorite of musicophiles and archivists working to preserve high-quality audio without the larger storage requirements of uncompressed formats.
- AAC (Advanced Audio Coding): Often associated with Apple devices, AAC is another lossy format that offers improved sound quality compared to MP3 at similar bit rates. It's a popular choice as one of the best audio file format types for online streaming and music downloads.
- OGG Vorbis: This open-source format provides a good compromise between quality and file size. It's commonly used for streaming and online distribution, particularly for games and interactive media.
- Opus: As the sort of successor to Vorbis and known for its flexibility and efficiency, Opus is designed for real-time interactive audio streaming over the internet. It adapts to changing network conditions, making it ideal for online communication and gaming. There has been a push by users for Twitch to adopt support for Opus2.
- AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format): Developed by Apple, AIFF is an uncompressed format like WAV. It's preferred by Mac users and is popular in professional audio applications.
- WMA (Windows Media Audio): Developed by Microsoft, WMA offers a range of compression options, from lossless to highly compressed formats. It's commonly used for Windows-based media and devices.
Creator Info: Great content audio can be recorded right from your smartphone. Learn how to record audio on iPhone that’s high quality after you finish this article.
Best Audio Format by Content Type
You’ve learned about various types of audio files and the differences between uncompressed, lossless, and lossy compression — now what is the best audio format for the type of content you’re producing?
Best Audio Format for Social Media
Whether you’re recording audio directly for the social media platform or using a third-party voice over tool, most platforms use the MP3 audio file format for sharing sounds. It’s the most common audio format available and its lossy compression can still produce high-quality audio for listeners. This is particularly useful for content creators making sounds on TikTok or YouTube Shorts.
In addition to MP3 for sounds, the best audio file format for social media videos is MP4. Often thought of for its video component, MP4 is able to host sound at the same time, making it versatile and easy to upload video where you’ll be using the original recorded audio.
Best Audio File Format for Podcast Episodes
The best audio file format for podcast episodes has been debated depending on the available budget and the overall goal for the creator’s audio.
For maintaining sound integrity, the best audio file format for podcast episodes will be an uncompressed format like PCM, WAV, and AIFF. This gives you the easiest way to edit your podcast without worrying about losing audio quality along the way. The downside is that the audio file will be much larger, meaning it may require a larger budget dedicated to podcast audio file storage or hosting.
Conversely, MP3 files may be the best audio file format for podcast episodes if you’re not doing much editing or are unconcerned about a loss of audio quality. Many podcast platforms support MP3 files, making it a gold standard for audio file sharing and hosting.
A potential solution is to use uncompressed audio file types during the recording and editing process, converting the final product into an MP3 file for sharing without audio quality loss during post-production.
Best Audio File Format for YouTube
Still technically a social media platform, YouTube falls into its own category as a video-sharing site. For strictly audio files, YouTube supports the submission of MP3, WAV, AAC, and FLAC files3. For the best listening experience, creators should consider FLAC and WAV audio formats. Each of these will serve as the best audio file format for YouTube when audio is the highest priority.
To circumvent potential compatibility hurdles while editing and publishing, MP3 may be the best audio file format for YouTube content.
Creator Tip: Finding the balance between audio and video for YouTube is essential to the performance of your media. Learn about the best microphones for YouTube videos and how to choose the best video format for YouTube next.
Best Audio File Format for Music Production
Music professionals should be concerned with maintaining the highest-quality audio at all stages of the creation and editing process. Any reduction in audio quality will negatively impact the recording and produce a subpar sound.
What this means for music content producers is the best audio format is an uncompressed file type like WAV or AIFF.
Best Audio File Format for Live Streams
For live streamers, coming up with the best audio file format may also include considerations for video. This means the MP4 audio file type is most often ideal, as it supports various audio codecs, including AAC and MP3. Audio file types like AAC, OGG Vorbis, and Opus are popular for streamers looking to share multimedia experiences with viewers.
The best audio file format for different types of content depends on the balance between quality, compatibility, and purpose. From creators producing music destined for popular streaming platforms to podcast hosts or social media influencers, choosing the best audio file format has a direct and noticeable impact on your media performance. Create your content with this in mind and streamline high-quality production from beginning to end.