Standard Audio File Formats for Voiceover
- .aiff (or .aif)
.wav files are a high quality, uncompressed audio file. Most audio meant for broadcast (television, radio, streaming) is delivered in this file format. It can take up a lot of storage space, but it’s the best there is for sound quality.
.mp3 files are a compressed audio file. However, .mp3s are still very good with regard to sound quality — in fact, most of the tracks on the CDs we (used to) listen to or buy off of iTunes are .mp3s. The file size is just a little smaller than a .wav or .aiff.
Think of an .mp3 as a slightly smooshed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sure, the “bread” may not be as “fluffy” as the higher quality .wav, but it still does the trick and fits in your lunch bag a little easier.
It’s also very easy to convert a wav file into an .mp3 file (just like it’s very easy to smoosh a PB & J), and there are several software programs that will convert it for you. However, it isn’t as easy to convert an .mp3 into a high quality .wav — just like it’s very hard to un-smoosh a PB & J. A good rule of thumb is to start with the higher quality file first (the .wav), and then convert to .mp3 later if needed.
.aiff files are a high quality, uncompressed audio file that was invented by Apple. aiff’s are Apple-specific, though, so if you plan on working on PC, you might run into a few hiccups. This is by far the least used audio file of the three — .mp3 and .wav are the most frequently used.
There are a few other audio file formats out there, but rarely are they ever used in professional voiceover work.
So, when hiring a voiceover talent who will be delivering the final audio to you, be sure to tell them what kind of audio file format you want delivered — by the time you’ve auditioned your voiceover and are holding your casting, you’ll have a great idea of exactly where you want your campaign to live.
And if you’re ever unsure? We suggest just asking for a .wav as the default. It’s consistently the highest quality, and is not beholden to just one type of operating system — the free bird of the audio world.