A Guide to Digital Audio Formats

Date: 10th January 2024 Posted in: Company News and Events

The many 3- and 4-character digital audio formats can be very confusing. In this article, we’ll clear up some of the most popular digital audio formats, explaining the key differences between them.



Before we discuss some of the more popular audio formats, we’ll clear up some of the main concepts and terms.

‘Bit rate’ is the standard measurement for digital audio quality. It refers to the amount of data transferred into audio, and is usually measured per second. A higher bit rate per second usually corresponds to greater audio fidelity.

All digital audio files can be categorised as either ’compressed’ and ‘uncompressed’. These refer to the amount of data they contain, reflecting on the file size and typically the audio quality.

‘Uncompressed’ files contain all the audio data from the original recording, meaning no loss of data and the best available quality. The only real downside to uncompressed audio files is their size, due to the high bit rate. This can be an issue for users with limited device storage or bandwidth.

‘Compressed’ files on the other hand have been shrunk down via a computer program to a smaller size. In turn, compressed files can be further divided into lossy and lossless. Lossy compression removes the more inaudible parts of a file, making it significantly smaller though sacrificing audio quality. Lossless on the other hand attempts to shrink the audio data, whilst maintaining audio quality.

Another term mentioned below is ‘metadata’. This is simple information about audio files, including track name, album name, artist, and cover art.


File Types


MP3 is perhaps the most well-known digital audio format, and is often associated with the portable music players of the 1990s and 2000s. MP3s are only around 1/12th the size of the original file, which made the format perfect for portable devices with limited storage.

AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is another popular lossy format. The format was designed to succeed the MP3, improving on audio quality whilst at the same bit rate. AAC is the ‘standard’ format for many mobile/portable devices.

WMA (Windows Media Audio) is the file developed by Windows, as an alternative to the MP3 and AAC. A lossless version (WMA-L) is also available.

OGG is similar to the other lossy formats, but is unique in being open-source. Spotify uses this file format. Local OGG files do not need a separate program to be played - they can be dragged into most web browsers and played.


ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) is the lossless format developed by Apple. It is based on AAC and is available on the Apple Music platform.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is one of the most widely-supported and used lossless audio formats. In terms of audio quality, FLAC is often considered as one of the best compressed formats. As the name suggests, it is also an open-source file format.


WAV (Waveform Audio File Format) is the standard file format used by CDs. Developed by IBM and Microsoft, it is also the primary uncompressed audio format used on Windows devices.

AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) is virtually identical to WAV. It was developed by Apple, and is primarily used on their Macintosh computers. One of the few key differences between WAV and AIFF is the latter contains metadata.


Regardless of what your favourite/preferred audio format is, Roksan’s multi-award-winning Attessa Streaming Amplifier supports all of the above formats and more, offering all the capabilities of an integrated amplifier with hi-res streaming through BluOS. The award-winning audio platform enables high-resolution streaming and multi-room functionality.

Until 31st January 2024, UK customers can take advantage of Roksan and Monitor Audio’s two trade-in promotions. Trade-in any old speakers or electronics to one of our authorised retailers, and receive 20% off the Attessa Streaming Amplifier and Silver 100 7G speakers.