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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Developed by the Signal Processing Group at Microsoft, the WMA file format is part of the Windows Media framework and was first released commercially in 1999, with support for playback of WMA encoded files as part of Windows Media Player. Creation of WMA files did not come until Windows Media Player version 7. The original codec was targeted as a direct competitor to the MP3 and RealAudio formats, and has achieved a broad level of adoption thanks to support for playback on numerous DVD players, Nokia mobile handsets and Playstation portable devices.
In almost all circumstances WMA files are part of the Advanced Systems Format (ASF) container, a proprietary container format developed by Microsoft for both digital video and digital audio. Every WMA file contains an audio track encoded in one of four mutually distinct codecs - WMA, WMA Voice, WMA Lossless or WMA Pro - WMA is the most commonly found of the four, but is a lossy codec, with the ability to encode audio signals sampled at up to 48 kHz. WMA Pro is an improved version, allowing sampling up to 96 kHz, but has achieved little hardware and software support. WMA Lossless is designed to compress audio signals with no loss of quality from the original source (up to 96 kHz) and is used in some Windows Mobile devices as well as the Logitech Squeezebox Touch. Finally, WMA Voice is a lossy codec optimized for low-bandwith voice playback applications, with mono sampling support up to 22.05 kHz - it is perhaps most well known for being used by the BBC World service for streaming Internet radio.
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