Comparison of WAV and AIFF

Comparison of WAV and AIFF thumbnail
The WAV and AIFF audio file formats are functionally identical and interchangeable.

When you listen to a song stored on an MP3, you may notice that it doesn't sound quite the same as a live performance or even a CD track. This is because MP3s are compressed and lossy, sacrificing audio quality for their smaller file sizes. Two lossless audio file formats that don't lose quality due to compression are Microsoft's WAV and Apple's AIFF, both of which are based on the same Interchange File Format standard and share more similarities than differences.

  1. WAV

    • The Waveform Audio File Format, also known as WAV, is an audio file format commonly used with PCs. Created in 1991 by Microsoft and IBM with Windows 3.1, the WAV file format is based on RIFF, or Resource Interchange File Format. Because it 's uncompressed, WAVs can store audio of a higher quality than that found in lossy formats like MP3 or AAC, which use algorithms to compress data for smaller file sizes. While a WAV file stores audio at a size of about 10 megabytes per minute of recorded audio, an MP3 requires roughly 1MB per minute.


    • The Audio Interchange File Format, or AIFF, is a format more commonly associated with Macintosh computers. Developed between 1987 and 1988 by Apple Computer, the AIFF file format is based on the Electronic Arts Interchange File Format, or IFF, standards. Like WAV files, AIFF are uncompressed and lossless, and therefore much larger in size than other audio file formats.


    • Since both the WAV and AIFF file formats are based on the Interchange File Format, or IFF, standard, developed by Electronic Arts in 1985, they are similar in structure. Both file formats store their data with indexed chunks and each chunk contains specific information. Both file formats are uncompressed and store audio data that is as close as possible to its original recorded source. The primary difference between the two file formats, apart from their names, is that WAV is more prevalent on Windows PCs, while AIFF is more closely associated with Macs.


    • Since both file formats are based on the same standard, the two aren't mutually exclusive to their operating systems. You can create, edit and play WAV files on a Mac and AIFF files on a PC without worrying about cross-platform compatibility.

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