Choosing Between Lossless and Lossy Audio Formats

Are you familiar with the terms lossless and lossy audio formats? If not, you may be missing out on the opportunity to enjoy high-quality audio that is free from any degradation. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two formats and when each one is the best choice.

Lossless Audio

Lossless audio is a digital format that preserves all the original audio information. This results in a file that is identical to the source. In other words, no data is lost during the compression process, and you get a high-quality audio file that is indistinguishable from the original. 

Audiophiles and sound professionals prefer lossless audio for its superior sound quality. But the downside is that lossless audio formats result in large music files compared with lossy audio formats.

Two of the most popular lossless audio formats are FLAC and Apple Lossless (ALAC). FLAC is an open-source format that can compress audio files to about half their original size without losing any audio information. On the other hand, Apple’s iTunes and iPod products use ALAC as their primary lossless audio format.

Using Lossless Audio

You would use lossless audio formats in situations where the highest possible audio quality is essential. Professional audio production, archiving, audiophile listening, and high-quality playback are the most common scenarios where lossless audio is your choice.

In the music industry, for example, lossless audio formats are used for recording, mixing, and mastering tracks, as they preserve the original audio information and allow for a higher-quality end product. 

Music enthusiasts prefer lossless audio formats for listening to music, as they believe that the superior sound quality is worth the larger file size.

Lossy Audio

Lossy audio refers to a digital format that removes some of the audio information, which helps reduce the file size. The encoder or software removes some audio information that it considers “inaudible” or “irrelevant” for the listener. As such, lossy audio formats are typically smaller in file size than lossless audio. This makes them more convenient for storage and streaming.

Here are the most popular lossy audio formats: MP3 and AAC. 

MP3 has been around since the late 1980s and is still popular today due to its compatibility with a wide range of devices and software. AAC, in its turn, is a newer audio format that was developed as a successor to MP3. AAC is known for its high audio quality at lower bitrates.

Using Lossy Audio

Lossy audio formats are most used in situations where the convenience of a smaller file size is more important than the highest possible audio quality. For example, streaming music online, storing music on portable devices, and low-quality recordings are all those scenarios where lossy audio formats are your best choice.

Let's recap with this short video:

Which Format to Choose?

As a music lover, the choice between lossless and lossy audio formats comes down to personal preference and what you are looking for in your audio experience. Audiophiles and professionals prefer lossless audio for its superior sound quality, while others may opt for the convenience of lossy audio formats (for storing or streaming purposes).

When it comes to video editing, you may need to work with what's available to you. Ideally, you would use uncompressed lossless sounds and audio in formats such as .WAV or .AIFF. With these, you will be able to do much more when it comes to editing and mixing. Also, the audio on your video will be compressed during the final export. This is all to say that you want to start with the uncompressed version.

The lossless format like .MP3s are easy to download, share, and use. Sometimes, that's what you need for a quick edit.

Premium royalty-free stock music sites usually offer both .WAV and .MP3 formats within their regular music licenses. We use PremiumBeat, which has both for each track you download from their site.