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What is the WAV Audio Format? Where is it Used?

Wave Audio Format

Last updated on January 23rd, 2024 at 02:30 am

WAV is an abbreviation of Waveform Audio. It is also referred to as WAVE.

It’s an audio format developed by Microsoft and IBM in the 1980s and comes with the .wav or sometimes .wave extension.

It is no surprise then to see .wav use extensively on Windows.

All the error sounds your Windows computer makes are stored as .wav files.

WAVE has the ability to support mono and stereo audio files with different bit and sample rates.

It is often used for uncompressed 8, 12, and 16-bit audio files.

RIFF Support

The WAV audio format functions with the help of RIFF (Resource Information File Format).

RIFF acts as a container (wrapper) for various audio codecs. It also allows extra information to be included with a WAV file.

WAV File ‘Chunks’

WAV comes in 3 ‘chunks’.

The RIFF Chunk identifies the file as a .wav file.

The FORMAT Chunk specifies the audio parameters like sampling rate, bitrate, and so on.

The DATA Chunk contains the actual audio data.

Codecs Supported

WAV can support lossless codecs like DPCM (Differential Pulse Code Modulation) and ADPCM ( Adaptive Differential Pulse Code Modulation).

However, it is usually encoded with PCM audio. PCM, also known as LPCM (Linear Pulse Code Modulation) is employed to convert analog audio to digital. It’s preferred when it comes to creating audio CDs.

PCM CD quality is set at 44.1 kHz and 16 bits.

The WAV audio format can achieve a higher quality than this. That is why it’s preferred by audiophiles.

WAV Format Audio Player

How do you play back a WAV file? Some may think a WAV file can only be played back by Windows Media Player. This isn’t true. The following players are among those that support WAV playback whether on Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS.

  • AnyMP4 Blu-ray Player for Windows and Mac
  • VLC Media Player for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android
  • QuickTime Player for Mac
  • iTunes for Windows and Mac. It even converts other audio formats to WAV.
  • Poweramp for Android
  • PlayerXtreme Media Player for iOS

WAV Audio Format Benefits

The standout benefit of the WAV audio format is quality. It almost always carries uncompressed audio.

WAV can also be easily edited and manipulated with video editing software.

When it comes to burning audio CDs, WAV is preferred for superior sound.

Convert Audio Formats to WAV

There are many free audio converters available if you wish to convert an audio format to WAV.

Here are some you may want to check out.

EZ CD Audio Converter Free available at Microsoft Store.

Convert WAV to Audio CD Format

To convert WAV audio format to audio CD format, you would need CD burning software which has an option for audio CD creation.

Check out the following free audio CD burner programs which supports the input of WAV files.


NCH Software Express Burn Disc Burning Software – Free Version available

DVDVideoSoft Free Audio CD Burner

BurnAware Free

WAV Waning Popularity

At one time WAV used to be popular. It reigned as the default format for digital audio on the Windows platform. This was before the emergence of MP3 and other lossy formats like Ogg, Vorbis, and AAC.

These formats are preferred when it comes to transferring files over the Web, owing to their smaller file sizes.

Even when lossless audio codecs are needed, FLAC, TTA, Apple Lossless, and Monkey’s audio often get the nod over WAV.

WAV Still Preferred

It doesn’t mean that other ‘friendlier formats have rendered WAV nearly obsolete.

When it comes to audio recording WAV is still the preferred format. For example, if you record audio with the Windows Sound Recorder program, the file will be saved in the .wav format.

WAV is also useful for storing and archiving high-quality, first-generation recordings.

For example, the Library of Congress has a collection of over 150 TBs of WAV files.

WAV is also the preferred web audio format when high-quality streaming audio is required.

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