Difference between WAV and MP4 Audio File Format

Key Difference: WAV is an audio format. It stands for Waveform Audio File Format, and was developed by Microsoft and IBM for PCs. MP4 is based on Apple’s MOV file type. MPEG-4 Part 12 was developed from the Apple’s MOV file and eventually resulted in MPEG-4 Part 14, which is the MP4 format.

WAV, abbreviation for Waveform Audio File Format, was developed by Microsoft and IBM for PCs. It originated from the Microsoft Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF). They are the exact copies of the original source audio, that is they are uncompressed formats.

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 higher quality. It is not a popular file format for transferring over the internet, but then also due its simplicity and quality it is well-liked. The filename extension for WAV is .wav.

WAV is similar as AIFF file format that is Audio Interchange File Format. It is mostly compatible in Windows, but now is supported in Apple Macintosh operating systems too.

On the other hand, MP4, abbreviation for MPEG-4 Part 14, is based on Apple’s MOV file type. MPEG-4 Part 12 was developed from the Apple’s MOV file and eventually resulted in MPEG-4 Part 14, which is the MP4 format. The MP4 is a container format. This means that it can be used to store audio and/or video data. MP4 video and audio can also be streamed over the internet.

As MP4 is a container format, it does not have a standard method of coding the audio or video information. Instead it uses codec’s that dictate how the audio or video will be coded. Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is the most popular codec for compressing audio in MP4 format. The filename extension for MPEG-4 Part 14 file is .mp4, but many other extensions are also most commonly used that are .m4a and .m4p.

MP3 is an audio compression format that is used to compress and store audio on a computer. It is part of the MPEG-1 standard, specifically MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. Comparatively, MP4 is a container format used to store audio and video files. It can even store subtitles for a video file. As a container, MP4 can save audio and video files that have been compressed in different fashions, including as MP3.

However, due to this MP3 players cannot usually play MP4 files and vice versa. Still, there are now a number of portable players and software options available that can play both, for example, VLC player, Win amp, etc. This is mainly due to the fact that the MP4 format has been steadily increasing in popularity.

Some of the differences are listed in the table below:





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

Software is for transmitting data streams to a receiving device in real time.

Abbreviation for

Waveform Audio File Format

MPEG-4 Part 14

Filename extension


.mp4, .m4a and .m4p

Developed by

Microsoft and IBM

International Organization of Standardization

Sound quality

Better than Mp4

Not better than WAV.

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Correction: MP4 is a media container, as stated, so it isn't limited in sound quality. In fact, if someone wanted, they could put a WAV inside a .mp4, if they went full nutcase.

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