Difference Between WAV and WMA (with Table)

Nowadays, musicians record their music using a variety of techniques. While doing so, they down-mix all of their tracks into a single audio file so that it can 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.

The difference between WAV and WMA is that the WAV audio format contains uncompressed files. As the file is stored in its original format, the sound quality does not get compromised while encoding.

On the contrary, the WMA audio format contains compressed files. There may be some quality loss during the process of encoding as the audio data gets compressed for storage.

Comparison Table Between WAV and WMA

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 any 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 editingAs 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; it cannot play a pause-less audio file without loss of sound.
Supporting devicesWAV is an old audio format which is also used for CD’s, 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. It was created by IBM and Microsoft with the purpose of storing 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 any sound. The data is usually encoded with LPCM which provides excellent quality for efficient sound mastering and editing. LPCM is also a standard coding format used for CDs.

WAV files are used by most radio broadcasters despite their large size. This includes BBC Radio which uses 48 kHz 16-bit two-channel WAV audio files, as well as 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. At present time, the problems of space and storage have massively diminished due to advancements in technology. So, using WAV format (that stores lengthy data) for music is not an issue considering the high quality that it maintains.

WMA

What is WMA?

WMA is a compressed audio format that is used to store sound files. It was developed by Microsoft with the purpose of storing large files using less space and simultaneously minimizing the loss of quality in sound. However, the WMA format suppresses a lot of sounds and is not ideal for professional use. 

WMA was developed in the 90s as a better version of MP3. WMA stored compressed data just like MP3, but it managed to have 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. WMA can only be supported by recent devices such as music players, unlike WAV, which can be supported by CDs as well. 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 that some sounds which were noticeable in the original audio file will get suppressed during encoding. Moreover, WMA cannot create seamless loops.

WMA 2

Main Differences Between WAV and WMA

  1. WAV is an uncompressed audio format while WMA is a compressed audio format.
  2. WAV usually 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 frequency 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. 

Conclusion

WAV and WMA are audio formats that are widely used across the world. WAV was developed by Microsoft and IBM for professional use.

On the other hand, WMA files were created for downloading and listening to music. This was because, for normal ears, the loss of quality was not very noticeable in WMA and MP3.

A major difference between WAV and WMA is that WAV contains uncompressed files while WMA contains compressed files. However, contrary to popular belief, WAV audio format can store compressed audio files like MP3 as well.

References

  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/6288233/
  2. https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/2575978