Difference between WAV and MP3 Audio File Format

Key Difference: WAV files can differ from each other in terms of file size and quality. They are generally kept as the first digital copy of a file completely uncompressed. On the other hand, MP3 files contain files larger in size and the audio files are compressed to about one tenth of the original size.

WAV stands for the Waveform Audio File Format. WAV is an uncompressed file that broadcasts a good quality of music CD files. Uncompressed means they are the exact copies of the original source audio. It has the same quality, but is stored a bit differently.

WAV audio file format are much more universal. Since they are uncompressed, they take up a lot of needless space. If one needs to edit the file again, then he should not save the file in this format. WAV files can be more easily manipulated and edited; it is more preferable for professionals or businessmen for a higher quality. It is not a popular file format for transferring files over the internet, but then also due its simplicity and quality it is well-liked.

MP3 is short for MPEG-1 Audio Layer III. Later it also extended to MPEG-2 Audio Layer III. It is a patented encoding format for digital audio. It uses a lossy compression algorithm which is designed to reduce the amount of data required to represent the audio recording while still sounding like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio.

Uncompressed audio files are rather larger and take up a lot of space. This is mainly due to the fact that sound is very complex and the translation of it into a digital format can take up a lot of data. An MP3 file compresses this data using a 128 kbit/s setting that results in a file that is about 1/11 the size of the original data. The MP3 files can be created at higher or lower bit rates, with corresponding higher or lower resulting quality.

MP3 has become one of the most commonly used audio formats available and has been the standard for audio files for quite some time. Most digital audio players use the MP3 format as the default standard of digital audio compression for transfer and playback of music.

The key differences between both the terms are listed below:





A high-quality audio file type generally used for applications that require high quality, such as CDs.

It is a patented encoding format for digital audio.

Stands for

Waveform Audio File Format

MPEG 1 or MPEG 2 Audio Layer III

Filename extension



Format type


Lossy Compressed

Developed by

Microsoft and IBM

Moving Pictures Experts Groups

Sound quality

Better than MP3

Not better than WAV

Image Courtesy: iconarchive.com, science.opposingviews.com

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