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What are the Four Sound Formats Used for Web Audio?

top 4 web audio formats

Last updated on January 23rd, 2024 at 02:17 am

This post will discuss the top four sound formats used for web audio.

Web audio has been around as early as the mid-1990s.

Back then browsers required you to install plug-ins like RealPlayer and QuickTime.

Though these plug-ins allowed for audio playback, they came with drawbacks.

They were unreliable, for the most part.

Here’s why;

  1. The plug-ins were third-party in nature. As such they were sometimes incompatible with web browsers and computer operating systems. Users had to ensure that the plug-in they installed is supported by their computer setup. This, more often than not, is a tedious, time-consuming undertaking.
  2. Performance is often wanting. Web browsers and computer hardware weren’t as powerful as they’re these days. When these resources aren’t up to par, audio playback suffers and web page crashes often occur.
  3. Security is also a concern. Sometimes plugins needed to be downloaded from unreliable sources. They could lead to virus or malware attacks.
  4. These plugins were also user-unfriendly. It was difficult to control audio playback and customize settings. It left users frustrated most of the time.

These shortfalls led to the new web audio technologies like HTML5 audio and Web Audio API,

Both are stably supported by modern-day browsers. What’s more, they score high marks for performance, security and user-friendliness.

What Makes a Good Web Audio Format?

Here are the ‘elements ” that qualify an audio format as suitable for the web.

Four Sound Formats Used for Web Audio - Web audio requirements,

Browser Support

The audio format must be supported by the latest modern web browsers. Audio playback must be without the need for additional plug-ins or software programs.

Minimum Latency

Some web audio tasks would require low latency to ensure audio is in sync with other elements of the tool.

The audio format must of low latency and be able to handle real-time audio processing.

Manageable File Size

While maintaining quality, the audio file format must not give rise to large file sizes. This is important because audio streaming must not be interrupted while it’s working with other applications that work with it.

Sound Quality

Sound must be of acceptable quality. Web users have come not only to expect high-quality video but also audio.

There is an upcoming trend of audio production on the go. This necessitates the availability of online audio editors.

Along with latency and file size, audio quality must match the need of online users.

Licensing and Fees

The audio format must not be subject to licensing requirements which would hinder its use for web applications.

Ideally, the format should be open source. Users or platform providers must not be subject to royalties or licensing fees for the extensive use of the audio format.

That said, let’s look at the four sound formats that are used for web audio.

The Four Sound Formats Used for Web Audio

WAV (Waveform Audio File Format)

WAV has been around for quite a while. When we think about uncompressed audio, we’ll think about WAV. Uncompressed here means no cutting corners in terms of quality.

So, if you’re into music production high-quality audio recording, where sound quality is of paramount importance, settle for WAV.

WAV is ideal when it comes to audio editing.

Still, then WAV isn’t popularly used for audio streaming because of its large file size. However, some live radio stations and hi-res audio streaming platforms do use the format.

Examples of platforms that support WAV are Tidal and

Tidal’s HiFi and Masters plans offer lossless audio streaming. Among the formats employed is WAV.

Radio. co is an Internet radio platform offering uncompressed radio broadcasts. WAV is one of the supported audio formats.

Learn more about the WAV audio format.

MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3)

MP3 requires very little introduction. It’s a compressed audio format popularly used to stream audio over the Internet.

Why? Because it strikes a balance between audio quality and file size. In other words, audio quality is retained despite file size reduction.

Four Sound Formats Used for Web Audio - MP3 web audio format

But then compression at lower bitrates may result in loss of audio quality.

Among the web platforms that use MP3 are Spotify, SoundCloud and Bandcamp.

AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)

AAC works very much like MP3. It promises good audio quality at smaller file sizes. As such it’s popular when it comes to audio streaming and downloading.

But then it’s much ‘advanced’ than MP3 when it comes to the compression algorithm used. The result is decent audio quality at lower bitrates.

What’s more, it’s supported by major, modern browsers. Many multimedia devices support this audio format, too. That makes it a leading choice for web-based audio applications.

Examples of web platforms that use AAC are Apple Music, YouTube and Amazon Music.

Learn more about the AAC audio format.


OGG is also known as OGG Vorbis. This is a favourite among web audio developers. Why? It’s an open-source audio format which can be distributed without any licensing fees.

OGG Vorbis open-source audio format

Also, it offers acceptable audio quality at lower bitrates. In other words, high-quality audio is possible with smaller file sizes.

Like AAC, it uses an advanced, efficient compression algorithm to deliver quality.

Among the web platforms that use OGG are Firefox, Wikipedia (audio and video samples and pronunciation guides) and

Which is the Best Web Audio Format?

None is an automatic choice when it comes to the best web audio format. Each format has its strengths and weaknesses. It all depends on the web application that needs audio.

For sound quality, WAV is a leading contender. If file size is of importance, then MP3 and OGG should be considered.

If file size and audio quality matter then AAC should be considered. It’s often used for high-quality audio streaming and downloading.

You’re now better informed as to the four sound formats used for web audio. We hope it will help you choose the appropriate audio format for your web content.

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