Difference Between AIFF and WAV


AIFF and WAV are two audio file formats developed in the 1990s and are still in use. Both file formats share the same origin; they were derived from the IFF file format. Both file types are first generation audio file types used in professional audio processing/editing software because of the high quality of the files.

What is AIFF?

AIFF or Audio Interchange File Format is an audio file format developed by Apple Computer for Personal Computers in 1988 based on the Interchange File Format (IFF) developed by the Electronic Arts/Amiga systems. AIFF is a big-endian derivation from the IFF and is used extensively in the Mac OS.

AIFF uses chunks to store data, and each chunk is identified by a chunk ID. Common Chunk and Sound chunk are mandatory chunks. Also, Marker, Comment, Name, Author, Copyright, Instrument, Annotation, Audio Recording, MIDI and Application chunks are used when applicable.

AIFF is a lossless file format using uncompressed pulse code modulation (PCM) and retains high quality of audio information. Therefore, AIFF is used in high quality audio and video editing based on Mac systems. Since it’s not a compressed file format, the size of the audio files tends to be larger than the compressed files such as mp3. AIFF has a compressed variant using different compression codecs which is known as AIFF-C and has the extension aifc.    

What is WAV?

WAV or Waveform Audio File Format is a file format developed by Microsoft and IBM for PCs, and it is a derivation from the Microsoft Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF). Inheriting from IFF, this method also stores the audio as data chunks. A WAV file is generally a RIFF file with a single “WAV” chunk and consists of two sub-chunks called fmt and data. WAV is the main audio file format used in windows based software for quality audio.

WAV is a lossless file format; therefore no compression is done during the encoding of the data stream in linear pulse code modulation format. Raw and uncompressed audio files are often generated in WAV format in windows. It can be easily manipulated and edited, and professionals prefer WAV for higher quality. Despite its primary usage as uncompressed file container, WAV also can hold compressed audio, which is compressed by the Windows Audio Compression Manager. 

Due to uncompressed file encoding, the WAV files tend to be large; therefore, not a popular file for transferring over the internet. However, they remain popular due to its simplicity and quality.

What is the difference between AIFF and WAV?

• WAV is developed by Microsoft, whereas AIFF is developed by Apple.

• AIFF is the Apple equivalent of WAV and both file types are recognized by both systems. (In fact, the file extensions are interchangeable most of the time)

• Both WAV and AIFF have the same origin and share the same file structure based on IFF.

• Both uses lossless encoding in uncompressed PCM.