Audio File Types: Which to Use for Podcasting and Why

Audio File Types: Which to Use for Podcasting and Why

What are some various popular audio file types, how are they different, and which ones are the best to use for podcasting? How should you record your podcast?

Audio File Types for Podcasts

Although there are many different audio file types, there are two distinct categories that will help us decide when and why to use those in one group verses those in the other. Those are lossless and lossy file types.

Lossless

A lossless file type is one that allows for the data to perfectly reconstructed. There is no dataloss when saving to a lossless file type. For this reason, and for optimum quality, all recording and editing should be done using lossless file types. A commonly used lossless file type is a .wav file. The only downside to lossless file types is that they are much larger than lossy types.

Lossy

A lossy file type is a more highly compressed file type. However, this means that when the audio is reconstructed, it is really only an approximation of the original—unlike with a lossless file type where it is a perfect reconstruction. A commonly used lossy file type is a .MP3 file. The upside to lossy file types is that they are much smaller than lossless types.

Keep Lossy File Saves to a Minimum

Each time you save or manipulate a lossy file type, the data is re-transcoded and compressed. Essentially, you get a compression of a compression of a compression, and so on. Each time, more data is lost and the quality reduced a little more. For this reason, from recording all the way through the final edit, you should ideally be working only with lossless file types. The only time you should save to a lossy file type is when you are going to upload a final cut of your podcast to your server—or if you want to share a cut or piece of audio for someone else to listen to, but you should not go back and further edit that file. Go back to the lossless file to make further edits.

File Types Summary

In summary, when recording and editing, you should use only lossless file types, like a .wav file. When releasing an episode, use a lossy file type.

Having your podcast edited by a professional?

Send them the lossless file. In return, you should get a finalized lossy MP3 of your episode. You should also request a copy of the final lossless file and store it someplace safe.

Keep Your Lossless Files, Just in Case

Even though the finished episode will be uploaded as a lossy MP3, it’s a good idea to hold onto the lossless files, just in case you might ever need to go back to the original source material for some reason—maybe to make further edits, to pull sound bites from a prior episode, or to re-save the audio to a different file type. It’s always nice to have that original lossless copy.

Resources

This Wikipedia entry on audio file formats goes into more detail on various audio file types and how they differ.

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