WAV vs WMA: Difference and Comparison

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

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 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.

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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.

Also Read:  Mp3 vs Flac: Difference and Comparison

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

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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25 thoughts on “WAV vs WMA: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I’ve been contemplating a project involving audio formats, and this article has supplied me with the necessary insights to make an informed decision. A commendable piece of work.

    • Absolutely, Cox Karlie. It aptly facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the considerations involved in choosing between WAV and WMA for audio projects.

    • I concur, Cox Karlie. The article’s focus on fundamental differences and applications of WAV and WMA serves as an excellent resource for decision-making in audio projects.

  2. The article’s emphasis on the technical characteristics and applications of WAV and WMA makes it an indispensable resource for individuals seeking detailed knowledge in the field.

    • Absolutely, Vicky31. The article’s detailed exploration of the technical nuances of WAV and WMA is commendable and greatly enriches the understanding of these formats.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Vicky31. The article’s meticulous analysis serves as an invaluable guide for individuals operating within the realm of audio formats.

  3. The amount of technical details in this article can be a bit overwhelming for readers who are not familiar with audio formats. I would’ve appreciated a simpler breakdown for a broader audience.

  4. The author’s comparison of WAV and WMA provides a comprehensive understanding of their respective attributes. A well-organized and insightful article.

    • Certainly a well-structured and analytical piece, Alexa37. The juxtaposition of WAV and WMA helps provide clarity on their individual utilities and limitations.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Alexa37. The article’s approach to comparative analysis allows readers to develop a nuanced appreciation for the technical nuances of these audio formats.

  5. The article could use a bit of humor or wit to liven up the subject matter. While the content is undoubtedly informative, a touch of light-heartedness wouldn’t hurt.

    • I see your point, Wclark. A sprinkle of humor amidst the dense technical details might make the article more engaging for a broader readership.

  6. This article is very informative and well-written. It provides a comprehensive overview of the differences between WAV and WMA. It’s definitely a must-read for anyone involved in the music industry.

    • Absolutely, the article does a great job of highlighting the significance of WAV and WMA in the context of sound quality and file size.

    • I couldn’t agree more. The detailed description of each format and their respective values is extremely valuable for musicians and producers.

  7. I found the article to be quite engaging. The manner in which it delves into the intricacies of WAV and WMA encourages readers to explore the subject with a more inquisitive mindset.

    • Absolutely, Kpowell. The article manages to cover a sophisticated topic in an accessible and engaging way, which is a commendable feat.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Kpowell. It’s refreshing to come across an article that fosters curiosity and knowledge expansion in such a niche domain.

  8. I think the article understates the potential of WMA. In my experience, WMA can be quite useful in certain scenarios, and its compatibility with streaming services is a notable advantage.

    • I can see your point, Adam09. While the article does paint WMA in a less positive light, acknowledging its uses and benefits would have provided a more balanced view of the format.

  9. This article’s comparison of WAV and WMA could benefit from a more critical evaluation of the subjective and contextual elements that influence the choice between the two formats.

    • I see your point, Wmarshall. A nuanced critique of the subjective aspects in choosing between WAV and WMA would certainly add depth to the article’s comparative framework.

  10. The author’s portrayal of WAV and WMA is commendable, but the article’s failure to address the potential advancements or evolution of these formats is a notable gap in its analysis.

    • Absolutely, Sienna Scott. Incorporating a forward-thinking perspective on the future evolution of these formats would certainly round off the article’s comprehensive analysis.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Sienna Scott. Exploring the potential trajectories for the advancement of WAV and WMA would have brought a forward-looking dimension to the article.


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