Know your audio formats

Get to know some of the common digital-audio formats on your computer and learn how to identify them.


I know our MP3 Insider audience could probably spot the difference between FLAC and MP3 just by using their finely-tuned ears, but for mere mortals, making sense of audio formats isn't easy. There was a time when all you had to worry about was music coming on CD, cassette, or vinyl, and telling them apart was obvious. Telling the difference between MP3, WMA, and WAV files isn't quite as clear and determining each format's advantages and limitations takes some homework, too.

If you or someone you know could use a little Audio Formats 101, I've made and overview video and slideshow that covers most of the basic formats that people encounter on their computers. I don't go so far as to say which formats work best (that's a judgment call everyone needs to make for themselves), but you'll get a sense of which formats work on the iPod, and some clues for how those WMA files got in your music collection.

About the author

Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.


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