M4A files are a type of audio file developed and popularised by Apple. Since 2007, music purchased through the iTunes store has been in m4a format, therefore accounting for over 15 billions files worldwide. MP4 and M4A files are often confused, and the two are quite similar, being both based on the MPEG-4 codec. However, M4A is a file comprising solely of audio, whereas MP4 may also contain video.
M4A files are superior to MP3 in terms of the scale of compression and audio quality. The M4A file uses Apple's codec and resides within the MPEG-4 container. The main benefit of M4A is that files are compressed but are lossless. This means they can be decoded back to the original quality they were at the point of compression. Another benefit of M4A files are that do not carry any Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection associated with other files meaning they are less restricted.
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MP4 files (MPEG-4 Part 14) are multimedia files. MP4 is a container format that can store video, audio and subtitle data (as well as more depending on content). Since stores like iTunes uses this container format, and it is used with iPod and PlayStation Portable (PSP), MP4 files have become more common.
MPEG-4 Part 14 or MP4, formally ISO/IEC 14496-14:2003, is a multimedia container format standard specified as a part of MPEG-4. It is most commonly used to store digital video and digital audio streams, especially those defined by MPEG, but can also be used to store other data such as subtitles and still images. Like most modern container formats, MPEG-4 Part 14 allows streaming over the Internet. A separate hint track is used to include streaming information in the file. The only official filename extension for MPEG-4 Part 14 files is .mp4.
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