WAV or FLAC: Which File Format is Better?

So, WAV or FLAC? Sounds like something an audiophile would say, doesn’t it? 

Well, while they may sound very complicated, they are not. Put simply, WAV and FLAC are two lossless audio formats that composers use every day to record their music. 

If this is something you would like to know in more detail, you have come to the right place. We are going to talk about these two file formats in this post. 

And we are going to make it as simple as possible, so you never forget what they are about. 

Let’s start!

What is WAV?

WAV, or Waveform Audio File Format, is also sometimes called WAVE, after its first word. This is the lossless format used by studios to record music in all its complexity. 

Imagine being in the studio listening to the several instruments being performed. You can hear frequencies from 20Hz to 2000Hz, which is the entire range that WAV files record. 

They use a method called Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) to encode the audio being produced at the studio. 

That is, the analog audio signals are converted into digital WAV files, which can then be burned into CDs for distribution. 

This technology was developed by Microsoft and IBM to record audio without losing its depth. 

But WAV files are very large. A minute of an industry-standard studio record in WAV would be around 15MBs! Can you imagine how much storage a full song would need?

That’s why there are codecs that can compress the audio to sizes far smaller than WAV files. One of them is called FLAC. 

Before talking about that, let’s list the pros and cons of WAV.


  • High-quality audio.
  • Many audio streaming services demand WAV files.
  • Studio friendly. 


  • Large files that are not easy to transfer. 

What is FLAC?

FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec is an encoder that can compress WAV files without losing their audio quality. 

That is, FLAC files give you all the sound quality of a studio-recorded WAV file, in half its size. 

This is achieved in three stages:

Firstly, the original audio is broken up by the codec into smaller, manageable blocks. This is called Blocking. 

Secondly, the codec runs a mathematical prediction over the different blocks and arrives at a formula. This formula is the mathematical description of the audio file and is much smaller than the original signal. This stage is called Prediction. 

Thirdly, in a process called Residual Coding, the mathematical formula is used to decode the compressed stream into an audio file. This results in a smaller end product, but the audio is reproduced without any loss. 


  • High-quality audio.
  • Smaller file size. 
  • Easily transferable. 


  • Not all music players will support this format. 
  • There are contenders like MP3 which takes up a lot less space. 
  • The more highly compressed these files are, the more power they take up while playing. 

Quick Comparison: Sound Quality Of WAV and FLAC

To learn about sound quality, you need to look at sample rates and bit rates. 

Sample rates are also called sample frequency. They refer to the height of the waveform signal (in technical terms, its amplitude) over a period of time. 

Bit rate is the number of audio data encoded per second. In digital terms, it is the rate of transmission of data per second and can be synonymous with audio quality. 

Both WAV and FLAC files are recorded with similar sample rates and bit rates. Their sample rates can start at 22kHz and go up to 192kHz, while bit rates are measured from 8 to 32 bits. 

The higher the measurements of these rates, the better will be the audio quality. 

Final Verdict

As both WAV and FLAC files offer similar sound quality, their file size is the major difference between them. 

Even when you look at it from the twenty-first-century perspective, WAV files still require a lot more space than we can reasonably afford. 

That’s why FLAC files are now gaining in popularity.

Think of this: if WAV is music recording in studios, FLAC can be the layman audiophile’s best friend. 

With that, we hope we cleared up your confusion regarding the WAV or FLAC question. So which one would you choose, given lots and lots of storage space? 

Vitaly Fedorov

Vitaly Fedorov is a seasoned audio technician and writer. After spending ten years in a studio team, I have decided to spread my knowledge to people in this domain. On this site, I work for headphone fixing or repair issues, that you’re thinking about fixing. Click on any article on my site and read the complete answer about that issue. I am excited to read your feedback.

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