WAV (WAVE) files are audio files playable via multimedia playback software such as Windows Media Player and other software available for your operating system. These files contain any sounds such as sound effects, music or spoken words. WAV files are large in size and with the advent of MP3 and MP4 WAV files are becoming less popular and less common. They were created and developed by IBM and Microsoft but unlike MP3 and MP4 the WAV file format does not use a form of lossy compression so file sizes are therefore much bigger and now less popular.
Wav files are the standard digital audio format in Windows. Using the .WAV file extension, 8- or 16-bit samples can be taken at rates of 11,025 Hz, 22,050 Hz and 44,100 Hz. The highest quality being th 16-bit at 44,100 HZ, this highest level is the sampling rate of an audio CD and uses 88KB of storage per second. All general sounds in Windows, such as when you log in, are in the .WAV format. The default content of a WAV file is uncompressed (although they can be used to store compressed formats such as MP3), pulse code modulated (PCM) digital samples derived from the analog source.
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MP3 is a digital music format which allows CD tracks to be reduced to around a tenth of their normal size without a significant loss of quality. MP3 gets rid of a lot of the information recorded in a song that our ears are not able to hear and then uses complex algorithms to reduce the file size. This then enables you to get hundreds of songs on to a CD and it also has opened up a new market over the internet - the download market as download times have been significantly reduced.
The MP3 format is a lossy format. That means that an MP3 file does not contain 100% of the original audio information. Instead, MP3 files use perceptual coding. In other words, that means it removes the information that your ear doesn't notice thereby making the file smaller. The reason lossy formats are used over raw is that raw audio files are too large to travel over the internet at any great speed. By using lossy formats it enables even dial up users to download mp3 files at a reasonable speed. Raw file formats generally require 176,000 bytes per second compared to a lossy format which requires 17,600. The difference is massive and so are the download times.