What does WAV stand for?

WAV or WAVE is the abbreviated form of Waveform audio format. It is also known as Audio for Windows. It is a Microsoft and IBM audio file format standard used for storing an audio bitstream on PCs. It is notably an application of the RIFF bitstream format method utilized for storing data in chunks or large units, and therefore it is also similar to the 8SVX and the AIFF format used on Amiga and Macintosh computers. It is the primary format used on Windows systems for raw and generally uncompressed audio. The normal bitstream encoding is the Pulse Code Modulation or PCM format.

Both WAVs and AIFFs formats are compatible with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems. The format considers some of the salient differences of the Intel CPU like little-endian byte order. The RIFF format will act as a wrapper for a variety of audio compression codecs.
Although a WAV file can store compressed audio, the most widely used WAV format houses uncompressed audio in the linear pulse code modulation or LPCM format. The standard audio file format for CDs, is LPCM-encoded, which contains two channels of 44,100 samples per second and 16 bits per sample. Since LPCM utilizes an uncompressed storage method, which maintains all the samples of an audio track, professional users or audio experts may prefer to employ the WAV format for the best audio quality. WAV audio can additionally be edited and manipulated easily using the appropriate software. The WAV format is still able to support compressed audio, using the Audio Compression Manager on windows. Any ACM codec may be utilized to compress a WAV file. The UI for Audio Compression Manager can be accessed by default via Sound Recorder.
Starting with Windows 2000, a WAVE_FORMAT_EXTENSIBLE header was designated which specifies multiple audio channel data in addition to speaker positions, eliminates ambiguity in relation to sample types and container sizes in the standard WAV format and supports defining custom extensions to the format chunk.

The WAV format is restricted to files that are below 4 GiB in size because it uses a 32-bit unsigned integer to record the file size header. Also some programs may limit the file size from anywhere between 2 to 4 GiB. Albeit this is equivalent to about 6.8 hours of CD-quality audio (44.1 kHz, 16-bit stereo), it is sometimes essential to go beyond this limit, especially when larger sampling rates or bit resolutions are needed. The W64 format was hence developed for use in Sound Forge. Its 64-bit header allows for a much longer recording period. The RF64 format specified by the European Broadcasting Union has also been introduced to overcome this size issue.

Audio CDs do not actually utilize WAV as their sound format. They instead use Red Book audio. The similarity is that both audio CDs and WAV files have their audio data encoded in PCM. WAV is a data file format applicable for computer usage and cannot be directly recognized by CD players. To record WAV files to an Audio CD the file headers must first be stripped and the residual PCM data written directly to the disc as single tracks with zero-padding added to comply with the CD’s sector size.

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