WAV (or WAVE), short for Waveform audio format,
is a Microsoft and IBM audio file format standard for storing audio on PCs. It
is a variant of the RIFF bitstream format method for storing data in ¡°chunks¡±,
and thus also close to the IFF and the AIFF format used on Amiga and Macintosh
computers, respectively. It is the main format used on Windows systems for raw
The WAVE file format is a subset of Microsoft's
RIFF specification for the storage of multimedia files. A RIFF file starts out
with a file header followed by a sequence of data chunks. A WAVE file is often
just a RIFF file with a single "WAVE" chunk which consists of two sub-chunks
-- a "fmt " chunk specifying the data format and a "data"
chunk containing the actual sample data. Call this form the "Canonical form".
Who knows how it really all works.
General discussion of RIFF files:
applications require the storage and management of a wide variety of data, including
bitmaps, audio data, video data, and peripheral device control information. RIFF
provides a way to store all these varied types of data. The type of data a RIFF
file contains is indicated by the file extension. Examples of data that may be
stored in RIFF files are:
* Audio/visual interleaved data (.AVI)
Waveform data (.WAV)
* Bitmapped data (.RDI)
* MIDI information (.RMI)
* Color palette (.PAL)
* Multimedia movie (.RMN)
* Animated cursor (.ANI)
* A bundle of other RIFF files (.BND)
and AIFFs are compatible with Windows and Macintosh operating systems. The format
takes into account some differences of the Intel CPU such as little-endian byte
order. The RIFF format acts as a ¡°wrapper¡± for various
audio compression codecs.
Though a WAV file can hold compressed audio, the
most common WAV format contains uncompressed audio in the pulse-code modulation
(PCM) format. PCM audio is the standard audio file format for CDs, containing
two channels of 44,100 samples per second, 16 bits per sample. Since PCM uses
an uncompressed, lossless storage method, which keeps all the samples of an audio
track, professional users or audio experts may use the WAV format for maximum
audio quality. WAV audio can also be edited and manipulated with relative ease
Uncompressed WAV files are quite large in size, so, as file
sharing over the Internet has become popular, the WAV format has declined in popularity.
However, it is still a commonly used, relatively ¡°pure¡±,
i.e. lossless, file type, suitable for retaining ¡°first generation¡±
archived files of high quality, or use on a system where high fidelity sound is
required and disk space is not restricted.
More frequently, the smaller
file sizes of compressed but lossy formats such as MP3, ATRAC, AAC, (Ogg)Vorbis
and WMA are used to store and transfer audio. Their small file sizes allow faster
Internet transmission, as well as lower consumption of space on memory media.
However, lossy formats trade off smaller file size against loss of audio quality,
as all such compression algorithms compromise available signal detail. There are
also more efficient lossless codecs available, such as FLAC, Shorten, Monkey's
Audio, ATRAC Advanced Lossless, Apple Lossless, WMA Lossless, TTA, and WavPack,
but none of these is yet a ubiquitous standard for both professional and home
The usage of the WAV format has more to do with its familiarity,
its simplicity and simple structure, which is heavily based on the IFF file format.
Because of this, it continues to enjoy widespread use with a variety of software
applications, often functioning as a 'lowest common denominator' when it comes
to exchanging sound files between different programs. Some PlayStation Portable
game software uses the AT3 file format which is a WAV file compressed in an ATRAC
codec that can be decoded by the unit's libatrac3plus decoder.
of their large size, uncompressed WAV (though that format can be different from
the Microsoft WAV) files are sometimes used by a some radio broadcasters, especially
those that have adopted the tapeless system. BBC Radio in the UK use 44.1Khz 16Bit
two channel .wav audio as standard in their VCS system. The ABC the "D-Cart¡±
system, which was developed by the Australian broadcaster, also uses a non-compressed
format to preserve sound quality, and it has become more economical as the cost
of data storage has dropped. In the system of ¡°D-Cart¡±,
the sampling rate of WAV files is usually at a 48KHz 16Bit two channel, which
is identical to that of the Digital Audio Tape.
WAV format is limited to files that are less than 4 GB in size, due to its use
of a 32 bit unsigned integer to record the file size header (some programs limit
the file size to 2-4 GB). Although this is equivalent to about 6.6 hours of CD-quality
audio (44.1 kHz, 16-bit stereo), it is sometimes necessary to go over this limit,
especially when higher sampling rates or bit resolutions are required. The W64
format was therefore created for use in Sound Forge. Its 64-bit header allows
for much longer recording times. This format can be converted using the libsndfile
library. The RF64 format specified by the European Broadcasting Union has also
been created to solve this problem.
Audio CDs do
not use WAV as their sound format, using instead Red Book audio. The commonality
is that both audio CDs and WAV files have the audio data encoded in PCM. WAV is
a data file format for computer use that can't be understood by CD players directly.
To record WAV files to an Audio CD the file headers must be stripped and the remaining
PCM data written directly to the disc as individual tracks with zero padding added
to match the CDs sector size.
WAV file compression codecs compared
mentioned wav files can be encoded with a variety of codecs to reduce the file
size (for example the GSM or mp3 codecs).This is a reference to compare the audio
quality and compression bitrates of the different wave compression codecs available
for .wav files using the audio compression manager including PCM, GSM, ADPCM,
CELP, SBC, TrueSpeech and MPEG Layer-3.