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What is the WMA Audio Format? How Do You Open or Convert It?

WMA Audio Format

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

WMA stands for Windows Media Audio. Microsoft first released it in 1999 and it comes with the .wma extension.

WMA was created to compete with the popular MP3 and Real Audio formats, However, it did not hold its own against MP3.

Though it has its advantages (see below), it didn’t emerge as the audio format of choice for consumers.

Is WMA Lossy or Lossless?

WMA is generally a lossy codec. When WMA is compressed to reduce file size, audio quality drops.

But then there are options (see lossless WMA) for other WMA codecs.

There’s the WMA Pro, a lossy codec too, but supports high-resolution audio.

WMA Lossless, as its name suggests is a lossless codec and it compresses audio without any quality loss.

With the lossless WMA codec, you can compress an audio CD (650MB to 700MB) to a file size of between 200 to 400MB. The bit rate can range between 470Kbps to 940kbps.

Finally, there’s the  WMA Voice. This is also a lossy codec. However, it’s designed for voice playback applications.

That said, do you have a WMA file and are wondering how to play it?

How to Play a WMA File

Unlike MP3, there are only a limited number of AV devices that support the playback of WMA files.

You can play a WMA file through Windows Media Player which comes with your Windows operating system.

If you have Windows 8 or Windows 10, you can use the Groove Music application that comes with it.

If it’s not installed on your computer, you can get it for free at the Microsoft Store.

You may also use freeware media players like Winamp, VLC, and MPlayerMPC-HC, and AllPlayer.

WMA Audio Format Advantages and Disadvantages

WMA Advantages

As explained earlier, compression reduces the sound quality of an audio file. However, with WMA standard compression, you still get decent sound. If you need higher-quality sound, you can use WMA’s lossless compression.

WMA audio format generally produces better sound than MP3.

A WMA file takes up less space compared to MP3.

If you’re working with Windows applications like Movie Maker and the video editor in the Photos app, you’ll have no problem importing it as a soundtrack.

You can easily play back a WMA file over your Windows computer and devices like Zune (discontinued).

WMA Disadvantages

It was mentioned that the WMA audio format performs better than MP3. At lower frequencies, yes. However, at higher frequencies, poor sound quality is noticeable.

Being a Microsoft proprietary format, WMA isn’t natively supported on two major smartphone brands – Samsung and iPhone.

This is a great disadvantage because a good number of folks listen to music over their smartphones.

But then if you have a Windows Smartphone, you’ll enjoy WMA playback.

But then you can always install a third-party app like VLC Player. Some would not fancy installing an additional app just to listen to music.

The way out would be to first convert it to a popular format like MP3.

It was mentioned that the WMA audio format performs better than MP3. At lower frequencies, yes. However, at higher frequencies, poor sound quality is noticeable.

WMA Converter

If your device doesn’t support the playback of WMA files, you may convert them to your preferred audio format.

You can easily convert WMA to MP3. Either use an online converter or a standalone converter as suggested below.

Online Video Converter

If a few small WMA files to convert, you can use an online audio conversion service. A suggested service is Online Audio Convert.

With this online converter, you may convert any popular audio file format into another.

Just upload your WMA file by dragging and dropping it into the green box and then hitting Start conversion.

You may also want to try other online video converters that support audio conversion, especially if you have bigger file sizes.

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