WAV vs WMA: Difference and Comparison

Nowadays, musicians record their music using a variety of techniques.


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While doing so, they down-mix all their tracks into a single audio file to be sent and played on any device. This process is called bouncing.

While bouncing, there are many settings that a musician has to go through, such as sample rate, normalization, bit rate, and much more.

One of these involves choosing the right audio format for a file. Out of the many options available, WAV and WMA are two widely used audio formats.

Key Takeaways

  1. WAV is an uncompressed audio file format developed by Microsoft and IBM, providing high-quality audio but with larger file sizes; WMA is a compressed audio format also developed by Microsoft, offering smaller file sizes but with some loss of audio quality.
  2. WAV files can support a range of audio data, including different bitrates, frequencies, and channel configurations; WMA is designed to be compatible with Windows Media Player and optimized for streaming and online playback.
  3. WAV is considered a more professional, high-fidelity format for audio production and editing; WMA is often used for the online distribution and streaming due to its smaller file sizes.


WAV is an uncompressed audio file format developed by Microsoft and IBM. It stores audio data in a raw, uncompressed format, making it larger and widely used in professional audio applications. WMA files use a lossy compression algorithm to reduce file size but may not be as widely supported as other audio formats.


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonWAVWMA
EncodingWAV contains uncompressed data that is encoded with LPCM or APCM.WMA stores compressed files like MP3; it stores large amounts of data while minimizing quality loss.
StorageWAV requires more space for storage as uncompressed audio files of high-quality tend to be lengthy.WMA requires less space for storage as the files get compressed. However, there is a slight loss in sound quality.
FrequencyWAV has a frequency response of around 22 kHz, which does not suppress sound and ensures high sound quality. WMA has a frequency response of around 18 kHz, which may suppress some sounds and reduce the quality of audio.
Sound mastering and editing.As WAV is a lossless audio format, it provides excellent quality while mastering and editing sound files.As WMA is a lossy audio format, some sound bits may get cut off. This is not preferable for mastering and editing.
Seamless loopWAV can create a seamless loop without any gaps or pauses.WMA cannot create a seamless loop or play a pause-less audio file without sound loss.
Supporting devicesWAV is an old audio format that is also used for CDs. Therefore, it can be used with a lot of devices.WMA only supports recent devices such as music players.

What is WAV?

WAV is an uncompressed audio format that is used to store sound files of excellent quality. IBM and Microsoft created it to store sound files on PCs. Microsoft Windows uses this format for raw files.

WAV is lossless as it stores the data in its original format without suppressing sound. The data is encoded with LPCM, providing excellent quality for efficient sound mastering and editing. LPCM is also a standard coding format used for CDs.

Most radio broadcasters use WAV files despite their large size. This includes BBC Radio which uses 48 kHz 16-bit two-channel WAV audio files, and UK’s Global Radio, which uses 44.1 kHz 16-bit two-channel WAV audio files.

The WAV file format is the best choice for professional music. The problems of space and storage have massively diminished due to advancements in technology.

So, using WAV format (that store’s lengthy data) for music is not an issue considering the high quality that it maintains.


What is WMA?

WMA is a compressed audio format that is used to store sound files. Microsoft developed it to store large files using less space and simultaneously minimize the loss of sound quality.

However, the WMA format suppresses many sounds and is not ideal for professional use. 

WMA was developed in the 90s as a better version of MP3. WMA stored compressed data like MP3, but it had better sound quality. Due to this, WMA gained popularity among people who downloaded music for listening.

Although WMA overcomes many flaws that MP3 has, it still has its limitations. Unlike WAV, which CDs can support, WMA can only be supported by recent devices such as music players.

This is because of the compression method used in WMA that stores large compressed files, which may not be compatible with old devices.

WMA can have a maximum frequency response of approximately 18 kHz. This means some sounds noticeable in the original audio file will get suppressed during encoding. Moreover, WMA cannot create seamless loops.


Main Differences Between WAV and WMA

  1. WAV is an uncompressed audio format, while WMA is a compressed one.
  2. WAV encodes data using LPCM (Linear Pulse Code Modulation), while WMA stores encoded data such as MP3 files.
  3. WAV has lossless audio files, while WMA has lossy audio files.
  4. WAV requires more space for storage than WMA as it stores uncompressed data.
  5. WAV has a frequency response of about 22 kHz, while WMA has a maximum response of about 18 kHz. 
  6. WAV can create seamless loops, while WMA cannot.
  7. WAV supports more devices compared to WMA. WMA only supports recent devices.
  8. WAV format ensures a high quality of sound files without any suppression. On the contrary, WMA suppresses sounds and loses the quality of sound while encoding. 
Difference Between WAV and WMA
  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/6288233/
  2. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/2575978
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