Difference Between MP3 and WAV

MP3 vs WAV

MP3 and WAV are two types of media file formats used in computers, and both are popular in PC`s. MP3 specially has been adopted by the community for transferring music over the internet.


MP3 was one of the first portable audio file formats, which was introduced in the MPEG-1 standard of the Audio/Video compression. It stands for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3). It was later extended to MPEG-2 standard too.

MP3 uses a lossy compression algorithm in encoding which allows the file size to be reduced significantly. Depending on the bit rate, the quality of the audio and the file size will change. Compression algorithm reduces the amount of information of the signal by neglecting the parts of the signal that are beyond the auditory resolution of the human ear. This method is commonly known as perceptual coding or perpetual noise shaping. (Similar compression methods are used in JPEG for image files and MP4 for video files)

The low file size of the mp3 file format makes it ideal for transferring audio files over the internet. This became a major issue for the record producers and artists in the early 2000`s when internet websites such as Napster offered free download of songs over the internet. This brought a notorious reputation to the file format as a major piracy tool. Even music players with MP3 compatibility were considered a violation of the copyrights. However, with the release of the iPod in 2001, the competition helped to legitimize the file format.


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). This method stores media files as data chunks. A WAV file is generally a RIFF file with a single “WAV” chunk which 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. 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 can hold compressed audio too, compressed by the Windows Audio Compression Manager.

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

MP3 vs WAV

• MP3 and WAV are two popular audio file formats used both in computers and in devices such as music players.

• MP4 was developed by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG) of ISO while WAV was developed by Microsoft and IBM.

• MP3 is a part of the ISO MPEG 2 standard; in fact, MP3 stand for MPEG-2 Audio Layer III. WAV is a development from the Microsoft RIFF and was a proprietary format initially. However, it later became an industry standard because of the wide spread usage.

• MP3 uses lossy compression during the encoding. WAV is a lossless file format and uses linear pulse code modulation. Compressed audio can be encoded into a WAV file too, but it is not in the common usage.

• MP3 files have a smaller file size compared to WAV because of the lossy compression in the encoding.

• WAV sound quality is better than the MP3 quality.

• MP3 is a common format for transferring music over the internet, whereas WAV files are not used for the same purpose due to relatively larger file size.