The Waveform audio file format (WAVE, or more commonly known as WAV due to its filename extension; pronounced “wave” or “wa-vay”) is an audio file format standard, developed by Microsoft and IBM, for storing an audio bitstream on PCs. It is the main format used on Windows operating systems for raw and typically uncompressed audio. The usual bitstream encoding is the linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM) format. It is an application of the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF) bitstream format, in which the audio and metadata is stored together.
A WAV file contains a header and the raw data, in a single chunk in the RIFF bitstream format. The header includes information about the data, such as the bit rate, number of channels, sample rate, and bit depth. The data can be a variety of audio formats, though in the common uncompressed PCM format, it contains alternating square waves of raning frequency and amplitude, according to the sound’s harmonic frequencies and amplitudes.
The standard WAV format is uncompressed but the format can also be used to contain data compressed with a variety of codecs. For example, the GSM/Microsoft WAV (WAV) is compressed using the ITU GSM 06.10 codec, while the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) is used by Apple. Uncompressed types can typically be lossless or lossy depending on the specific codec used.
WAV is often used as the best-quality format for audiophiles, as it offers the highest fidelity with the least amount of compression. The format is commonly used for professional audio editing, as well as in video editing, DVDs, CD-ROMs, and other computer audio applications. WAV files can also be used to store a variety of other types of information, such as text and image data. The format is also widely used on the Internet and in video game consoles.
Although the WAV format is commonly used for audio processing and storage, it does have some drawbacks. WAV files can be large, especially uncompressed files, which leads to long loading times and large storage requirements. In addition, the original format was developed prior to the advent of computers with large amounts of RAM, and as such does not make optimal use of more modern computer hardware. Despite these drawbacks, the WAV format is still popular for its superiority in providing uncompressed audio that makes minimal sacrifices in audio quality.