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Audiophile 101

Your Intro to all things audio.

Chapter 8 - What is WAV?

Welcome to Audiophile 101, an introduction to all things audio brought to you by Pocket Rock It Radio. A-101’s goal is to be an entry point for anyone and everyone to understand and enjoy music better. By answering any audio related questions you may have. No matter if you’re looking to have one question answered, or to learn it all the Audiophile 101 program strives to help inform you to all you need to know ; and get connected with those in the know.

In this chapter we will answer the question, what is AIFF?

Table Of Contents:

AIFF is a fully uncompressed audio file format developed by the Apple Corporation. Because all of the data is uncompress and stored in it’s original form the AIFF file size is much larger when compared to lossy or lossless compressio of the same audio track. Due to their extremely large file size AIFF this audio format is primarily used by audio professionals, and the entertainment industry.

So now you know the gist of what AIFF is
but you still got more questions?
Well, we've got some more answers.

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What does AIFF stand for?

AIFF stands for ‘Audio Interchange File Format’

What is AIFF audio used for?

Due to the unfriendly file size AIFF audio is not traditionally used by the at home user. The AIFF audio file is traditionally used by the music industry, TV shows, movies, animations, professional productions, really anywhere audio quality needs to be at it’s best. It gives music producers, and creators more space and data to work with to create their music.

Is AIFF better than AAC?

Yes. A AIFF sound file will sound better than its AAC counterpart. AAC’s are a lossy compressed audio file meaning that the when the AAC audio file is created information of the original audio recording is removed [deleted] to reduce its file size. While this removal of information is done strategically using a lot of audio science it does impact the sound quality of the audio file. AIFF files on the other hand are fully uncompressed which means they are the original audio file you would use to create an AAC audio file Therefore contain the full bit depth and dynamic range allowing for a deeper and fuller listening experience.

The drawback of AIFF when compared to AAC comes at a digital storage cost. AIFF audio files can be many times larger than an AAC audio file making AIFF impractical for portable devices. When you start getting into higher bit rate AAC’s [better audio fideltiy] the audio quality difference becomes harder to notice without proper listening equipment. This makes a good bit rate AAC a good choice for the average music listener.
*For more on lossy vs lossless audio see Audiophile 101 – Chapter 2 Lossy Vs. Lossless audio

Is AIFF better than ALAC?

Yes. It is true that both AIFF and ALAC contain the exact same audio data. The difference between the two file types comes from the way that the files are read [played] by the computer. The AIFF file format is a fully uncompressed audio file, where the ALAC audio file is lossless compressed audio file.

Lossless compressed means that while the ALAC file contains all of the original information of the original AIFF audio file, it has been rewritten in a simplified code [computer language] to save on digital storage space. So with Lossless compression audio formats like ALAC a computer program must uncompress the audio file in real time during playback. Think of this as like trying to read a book but instead it’s in a foreign language that you understand and you still need to translate the language in real time as you’re saying it out-loud which takes extra brain power.

It is true that the computer program can make this translation faster than we could ever hope to read a book, but in increases the power you computer uses due to an increase in computing function than it would take to read the natural AIFF file. This matters because the increased computing, and power usage it takes to read an ALAC file can can create digital interference that can result in some audio degrading [worsening] when compared it to the AIFF file**.

**Please note that to actually hear this difference (should it exist) you would need to have a very high end audio listening set up, and possibly super human hearing.

Can you convert ALAC to AIFF? Can you convert AIFF to ALAC?

Yes. All of the original audio file information of is retained bit for bit. So a lossless compression audio files such as ALAC and FLAC can be converted back to it’s uncompressed original AIFF audio format.

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Why not use AIFF instead of ALAC?

AIFF audio files are very large due to the amount of uncompressed information they contain. Traditionally this is about double a ALAC file. In a perfect world we’d all use uncompressed audio, but our home computers and portable devices have a limited amount of information they can actually store. Lossless compression file types like ALAC makes it so you can maintain essentially the same audio quality with half of the original file size doubling the amount of music you can store and enjoy.

More from A-101:

Chapter Wrap Up:

Hopefully we’ve answered your questions as to what AIFF is this chapter. Really if it wasn’t for the data storage & transfer issues we’d all use uncompressed audio. But it’s not the end of the world since the audio quality is difference between AIFF and lossless compressed files is negligible we can enjoy our music with some fantastic quality, and save our data space for more music.

That doesn’t mean you need to accept that of course. Us Audiophiles are always striving to enhance our listening experience. This base knowledge is so you can make your own decision on how far down the audio rabbit hole you want to go. Maybe even into the world of high resolution digital audio?

Until next time, Happy Listening.

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