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WAV or MP3…What Should I Choose?

Honestly, I’ve never really cared. Our group has always just used an MP3 in our eLearning modules. They work and sound great. But sometimes the software we use prefers one over the other.

To be honest for me, I never really cared about the two very much. But recently, on a project in Camtasia, the MP3 files we were using were not cooperating and with a quick conversion the WAV files imported just fine.

So, what’s the difference between the two? Well, for the audio experts out there, actually quite a bit. But, for the rest of us out in the world cranking out eLearning? Probably not so much.

A WAV file is the “old-man” of audio formats developed in the ‘90s by Microsoft and IBM. It’s good for professional recordings because it’s easy to process and edit and it’s a lossless format, which means the file sounds great without losing audio quality. But, the file sizes are large which is a bit of a negative.

MP3s are pretty much the “new kid on the block,” and feature a smaller file size. But, they are not lossless because of the compression used to make the file size smaller. So, that means the quality is not quite as good.

Here’s a look at an audio file saved as a WAV and an MP3. As you can see the file size is quite different.

Bottom line: WAV files sound great, but can be very large in size. MP3s are not equal in quality, but offer a much smaller size.

So, what should you do as an eLearning developer? You can use either, but if file size is a concern for you, go with the MP3 (unless your software dictates it). They sound very good and unless you’re a professional audio engineer, you’ll probably never notice the difference between the two.

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