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Difference between MP3 and WAV with Comparison Chart

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Difference between MP3 and WAV with Comparison Chart

In the digital world that we are a part of, there are two types of audio files, WAV and MP3 files, that form the standard. Be it in the form of portable players, handheld recorders, audio interfaces, or other instances, wav and m3 files are found wherever audio files are prevalent.

MP3 and WAV files are seemingly ubiquitous in nature. Used interchangeably in many ways, MP3 files and WAV files are quite different. In this article, we aim to throw light on the differences between mp3 and wav files, the primary features of wav and mp3 files, etc. in greater details.

WAV vs MP3

Basis of Differentiation

WAV files

MP3 files

Audio loops for Flash animations and projects

Loops are delivered in .WAV format.

Loops are not delivered in MP3 format because they are not helpful for the creation of seamless loops.


WAV files are uncompressed and lossless. They are useful for broadcasting CD type music files.

MP3 file are in the form of compressed music files. They load rapidly and offer good sound quality.


WAV files are quite large in size. A CD/stereo quality recording of 44.1khz, 16-bits would be of 10.09 MB per minute. 

MP3 files are very small, and are easily distributed across the Internet. Large libraries of MP3 files can be stored on handheld devices or computers.

File compression

As WAV files offer an accurate, lossless format, the recordings can be reproduced accurately without any loss of audio quality because of the format itself.

Compresses files with negligible perceivable difference to sound quality.

File simplicity

WAV files are simple and relatively easy to edit and process with convenient editor software of differing levels.

It is easy to convert WAV or CD files to MP3 files with the help of free software.

Audio accuracy

Very high recording rates are attained with dynamic ranges. Even amateur interfaces may provide up to 192kHz.

MP3s are unsuitable for pro audio work.


WAV files are impractical for streaming and portable devices.

MP3 files are used for portable devices and streaming.

What is a WAV file?

When we look at the nature of WAV files, we find that they are in the form of simple digital audio files. WAV was originally developed by Microsoft and IBM in 1991; it was developed for use by Windows 3.1. wherein ‘chime’ noises rather than beeps were introduced for the first time via WAV files.

  • WAV owes its origin to RIFF (resource interchange file format) where stored data can be found as indexed chunks.
  • WAV files function with the help of audio signals that are converted into binary data. Analogue to digital converters are used for this purpose; they click snapshot ‘slices’ at the rate of thousands of times/second. Wav files offer high recording rates with huge dynamic ranges. Some ‘home’ audio interfaces can provide up to 192kHz!
  • Though the format of wav files is comparatively older than that of mp3 files, they showcase a lot of benefits in terms of applications requiring high fidelity, professional recordings.
  • The format reproduced in case of the recordings is accurate and does not lead to any loss of audio quality because of the format itself.
  • The simplicity of wav files makes them easy to process, use and edit. They are backed by several user-friendly editor software of all levels - freeware to full and pro applications alike.
  • WAVs are useful for studio recordings, pro-audio and mastering applications.

Disadvantages of WAV File

  • These files are large in size. In comparison with a CD it can store up to 500 MB of data while in CD recording is done at 44.1 kHz; 16-bit can say 30 MB on average.
  • Due to file size streaming on a portable device is bit tough / can say impractical that's why MP3 is being used for streaming purpose over WAV files. 

What is MP3 file?

MP3 files have revolutionized the digital music world. MP3 or MPEG-2 audio layer III files belong to a format create by Moving Picture Experts Group. MP3 files owe their origin to psychoacoustics (study of how sound is perceived by humans) that first surfaced in 1970s.

  • MP3 files lose/ reduce their quality when encoded from audio to MP3; there will be a reduction in their file size as well.  
  • According to psychoacoustics, there are several anomalies in how sound is heard; these quirks in hearing are exploited by the properties of MP3 files.
  • MP3 encodes are knowledgeable about certain frequencies that go unheard by human ears; this data is eliminated by mp3 files.
  • MP3 file also get rid of loud, hidden sounds that are capable of masking the softer notes.
  • This format of audio files exploits how ears can receive certain frequencies in a better manner than others; they deal with the ‘threshold of audibility’.
  • Once MP3 files decide upon the data that needs to be kept, they are compressed further with advanced data compression techniques. MP3 files can be reduced to up to 1/10th of the size of WAV files; however, the audio quality may be compromised in the process.
  • MP3 files are small in size and can be distributed across the Internet easily. They can be compressed easily from WAV files and CDs with the help of free software.
  • MP3 files can be easily distributed, streamed and promoted because of their small size.

Disadvantages of MP3 File

  • At the time of compression from original to 1st layer then 2nd layer and then to 3rd layer, the quality of the audio is degraded as space is reduced in the compression process.  
  • The 1st layer maintains high bit rate which ensures quality sound. As it downgraded to 3rd layer, both bit rate and size of the file is reduced.