Sound / Music File Formats

The menu maker toool SamLogic CD-Menu Creator can handle a lot of different sound / music file formats. The most common and popular file format today is the MP3 format, but there are a lot of other formats available also. Below we will describe some common sound / music file formats that is used with personal computers:

The MP3 File Format
MP3 files end with the filename extension ".mp3" and are available for download from many web sites. MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3) technology compresses a sound sequence into a very small file (usually 1/12 of of the original file size). The designers of MP3 compression algorithm managed to do this by eliminating sounds that the human ear cannot perceive. The human hearing range is between 20Hz to 20Khz and it is most sensitive between 2 to 4 KHz. When sound is compressed into an MP3 file, an attempt is made to get rid of the frequencies that can't be heard.
All modern Windows operating systems support this format. Some very old Windows might not, but most people will have necessary drivers installed with another programs so very few will not be able to play MP3 files today. The MP3 format is the most used music file format in Windows based computers today.

The WMA File Format
WMA (Windows Media Audio) is a file format from Microsoft. WMA files are somewhat smaller in size than MP3 files, but still retain a decent level of sound quality. This quite new file format is getting more and more popular in websites for sampling music and also in portable music players. WMA files can also be copy protected. WMA files have the filename extension ".wma".
All modern Windows systems support this format. Some old Windows might not.

The WAVE File Format
A WAVE file is characterized by the file extension ".wav". This sound format provides raw, uncompressed audio data. Originally invented by Microsoft, WAVE files are still used widely (examples include your start up and shut down sounds in Windows). Audio quality is excellent, but the file size is very large. A full pop song in WAVE format may take up to 40 MB of disk space or more.
All Windows systems support this format.

The AIFF File Format
The AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) is a popular music file format, primary used in the Apple Macintosh operating system. In a way, they are the Macintosh equivalent of the Windows WAVE file format. AIFF files have the filename extension ".aif" when accessed via a PC. They contain raw audio data (which result in excellent sound quality) but take up a large amount of disk space.

The MIDI File Format
The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) file format was originally created for recording and playing music on digital synthesizers. MIDI files are very small in size. The reason for this is that the MIDI file only contains information on how music is produced (e.g. note-ons and note-offs). The sound card which plays back the MIDI file takes this information and plays back music using an in-built soundcard wavetable. MIDI files can only contain instrumental music. It is not possible to include human voices in the files.
All Windows systems support this format.

The RA File Format
RA (RealAudio) files support streaming technology. Created by Progressive Networks, an RA file is optimized for live, streaming audio from websites. RA files are best played back on RealAudio players which are freely downloadable from Progressive Networks.

CD-Menu Creator and Music Files
Some of the sound / music file formats mentioned above are not supported in older Windows. If you add music files to CD-Menu Creator and you want to be sure that the music will be played in all versions of Windows you should use one of the following formats: MP3, MIDI or WAVE. If you only will create menus that will be shown in newer Windows you can also use the WMA format in CD-Menu Creator. The AIFF and RA formats should only be used if you know that your users have necessary drivers installed.      
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Article written by: Mika Larramo