To better comprehend what it means to have audio in a Lossy format, let’s take a quick look at what Lossy means. Essentially there are three different types of ways to have our audio these days, uncompressed, lossless, and lossy.
The third option, lossy, is the most standard used when we’re talking about digital and streaming music. The reason that is the case is that it requires the least amount of bandwidth and data rate to stream that type of music consistently.
The price is the cost of quality, but those cuts and compression to the music easily go unnoticed to the untrained ear. This is the best way to share massive amounts of music seamlessly without the need to have immense data centers to store and distribute this music. With that said, there are some lossy formats that are better than others.
What is the best lossy audio codec?
There are some major contenders that fill in this spot, but the current top two are Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) and Ogg format. AAC is said to improve the quality so much to get back to ultra-high quality music sounds but at the same compressed size that is typical with a lossy format.
AAC helps to keep all the data points of the music, so there’s less distortion or unwanted artifacts and the ability to use high-quality equipment to listen to the music and still capture the nuances. AAC also cares about ISO standards for both MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 formats.
The only limitation that comes from AAC currently is that there are strict patents when utilizing the AAC format over the Ogg format, which is actually open-source.
What is the most ideal format for audio quality?
If you’re looking at the general consensus, then you’re looking at uncompressed studio recordings. This is because specialized equipment captures and records this music in both analog and digital formats. Yet the first type of digital file type that is the best format for audio quality would have to be the WAV or Waveform Audio File Format.
Although other audio file formats have similar capabilities to the WAV format, such as FLAC, WAV audio files are superior because they’re uncompressed digital files. However, FLAC or Free Losses Audio Codec still compresses the music, and although you’re saving space, you’re losing out on the quality.
WAV files are considered high-quality recordings and are almost of the same quality as CD-quality music. Of course, with this comes a much larger file size when compared to lossless or lossy audio codecs, so there needs to be a decision made if you’re looking for ultra-high quality (UHQ) or if you’re looking for your general streaming.
There’s also no restriction on how much quality you’re looking for as there are no compression restrictions, meaning you can make it as UHQ as you need it to be if you have the storage and equipment to capture it.
In addition, with WAV formats, due to their large uncompressed nature, they are the best type of digital format to not only listen to the music but also edit those audio files. Furthermore, they are universally compatible with any type of audio editing software or audio player, and they are extremely easy to work with.
What are examples of lossy audio files?
To give an example of what a common lossy audio codec is, we’ll look at one of the original options, which is MP3. Its file format is mp3, and it is the one that was at the forefront when the music started to shift to being fully digital.
A great example of the compression of an MP3 versus say traditional CD players is that while a CD was able to hold around 15 songs at high quality, that same amount of space was able to easily hold over 100 MP3s through the compression technology.
This was a game-changer for the music industry, and it was a fair trade-off to being able to store all your music on one device. As we increased our technological aptitude, we received better versions of the AAC and Ogg variations. We use Ogg files when we’re streaming music on Spotify, and AAC formats are primarily found in Apple Music files.
Another common type of lossy audio file is also WMA or Windows Media Audio files. These are standard on PCs, and they will usually default to that file type and the appropriate player when you try to play music on your PC or laptop. In addition, it’s able to produce even better sound at lower bitrates, making it a great option for low storage and simple music listening.
Is Ogg better than AAC?
These are primarily similar, so it depends really on just a few items. On the lower bit rates, AAC is better than Ogg, and in the middle bitrates, Ogg is superior, yet when you’re looking at maximum bitrates, both work in a similar fashion.
Another major difference is that AAC may be harder to work with because of all the patents, licenses, and regulations that surround it. Although it’s actively being worked on and improved upon, it doesn’t have the freedom of development that Ogg offers through its open-source platform. While there are pros and cons to locked systems and open source systems, it all depends on what you’ll be using these audio files for and which codec works the best for you.
At this current moment, both are top-quality lossy codecs that are almost lossless at higher rates, but it all depends on which will receive more enhancements and developmental upgrades in the future.
For now, when it comes to the best space savers for audio files, then lossy is a data saver that we never knew we needed. As the technology advances, it starts to approach that high-quality, uncompressed format closer year over year while still maintaining those smaller file sizes. So as these technologies and ancillary support software improve, let’s be on the lookout.