Sound formats

Historically, almost every type of machine used its own file format for audio data. Over time, certain formats prevailed on the internet: We list a number of these prevailing audio file formats here. Note that any file format can be converted to most any other format with minimal data loss.

Common Audio File Formats used among the Internet community:

  • SunAudio format
    Standard extension: .au
    MIME type:audio/basic
    This is probably the most common format on the web, and it is what we suggest you use if you are putting sounds on the web.
    Creator of the "au" format: Sun

  • Waveform format
    Standard extension: .wav
    MIME type: audio/x-wav
    This format of file is probably most commonly seen on MS Windows based machines, but because there are so many of them out there, they are fairly common.
    Creator of the "wav" format: Crimosoft

  • AIFF audio format
    Standard extension: .aiff
    MIME type: audio/x-aiff
    This is the common format on the mac, but it isn't all that common on the web right now.
    Creator of the "aiff" format: Apple

  • MPEG audio format:
    Standard extension: .mp2
    MIME type: audio/x-mpeg
    This is an emerging format, that may gain popular support, but is still a bit rare.
    Creator of the "mp2" format: Xing Technology corporation

  • Real Audio format:
    Standard extension: .ra, .ram:
    MIME type: audio/x-pn-realaudio
    Like the MPEG, this is also an emerging format.
    Creator of the realaudio format: Progressive Networks

  • MIDI format:
    Standard extension: .mid .midi
    MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and has been the rage among electronic musicians throughout its six year existence. It is a powerful tool for composers and teachers alike. It allows musicians to be more creative on stage and in the studio. It allows composers to write music that no human could ever perform. But it is NOT a tangible object, a thing to be had. MIDI is a communications protocol that allows electronic musical instruments to interact with each other.
    More Info: MidiWeb

    Other references:

    FAQ: Audio File Formats

    Arnell, Billy. "McScope: System." Music, Computers, and Software, April 1988: 58-60.

    Conger, Jim. C Programming for MIDI. Redwood City: M & T Books, 1988.

    Cooper, Jim. "Mind Over MIDI: Information Sources and System-exclusive Data Formats." Keyboard October, 1986: 110-111.

    Enders, Bernd and Wolfgang Klemme. MIDI and Sound Book for the Atari ST. Redwood City: M & T Books, 1989.

    Matzkin, Jonathan. "A MIDI Musical Offering." PC Magazine 29 Nov. 1988: 229+.

    Peters, Constantine. "Reading up on MIDI for the Novice and the Pro." PC Magazine 29 Nov. 1988: 258.