Difference between WAV and WMA

WAV and WMA are both digital audio file formats. WAV is an abbreviation for Waveform Audio File Format, whereas WMA is an abbreviation for Windows Media Audio. Both of these file formats are used to store digital audio, but they differ in some ways.

Read this article to find out more about WAV and WMA and how they are different from each other.

What is WAV?

WAV, or Waveform Audio File Format, is a common audio file format created by Microsoft and IBM in 1991. It is a common digital audio format for storing high- quality audio on personal computers.

  • WAV files are commonly used for professional audio recording and editing, as well as for music production, sound effects, and audio storage.

  • WAV files are an uncompressed audio format, which means that no compression technologies are used to reduce their size. This produces high-quality audio but also results in larger file sizes when compared to compressed audio formats.

  • WAV files convert analogue audio impulses into digital data that can be stored on a computer using the Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) method.

  • WAV files have certain drawbacks despite their excellent quality. One of the major drawbacks is the large file size, which makes them difficult to share and store. WAV files are also not suitable for internet streaming due to their large size and lack of compression.

What is WMA?

WMA (Windows Media Audio) is a compressed audio format developed by Microsoft. WMA uses compression technology to reduce audio files while maintaining good audio quality. As a result, it is a popular choice for online music streaming and downloading, as it allows for faster downloads and requires less storage space. However, due to the compressed nature of the format, some audio quality may be lost during the compression process.

  • WMA files can be played back on a variety of devices, including Windows computers, cellphones, and tablets. WMA files are supported by several portable media players, including the Zune.

  • WMA files have the advantage of supporting digital rights management (DRM), which allows content providers to protect their intellectual property by controlling access to their audio files. This feature is especially beneficial for online music stores and other platforms that sell or distribute copyrighted content.

  • WMA is a lossy audio compression format, which means it uses multiple strategies to minimize audio data file size while sacrificing some audio quality in the process. Adjusting the bitrate, which controls the amount of data used to represent each second of audio, allows you to modify the amount of compression performed on a WMA file. Lower bitrates provide smaller file sizes but lower audio quality, whereas higher bitrates produce bigger file sizes but greater audio quality.

WMA may encode audio at bitrates ranging from 5 to 384 kbps, with higher bitrates often resulting in higher audio quality. WMA also supports audio sampling speeds ranging from 8 kHz to 96 kHz and may encode audio data in either mono or stereo.

Difference between WAV and WMA

The following table highlights the major differences between WAV and WMA −





It is uncompressed.

It is lossy compression.


High Quality

Quality varies depending on bitrate



5 kbps to 384 kbps

File size

The WAV file size is large.

WMA file size is small compared to WAV.


WAV doesn't support DRM.

WAV supports DRM.

Sampling Rates

sampling rates up to 192 kHz

Sampling rates up to 96 kHz

Use Cases

Audio production and editing

Streaming audio over the internet, online music stores


In conclusion, WAV and WMA are two different audio file formats with considerable compression and audio quality variations.

WAV files, which are larger in size yet provide high-quality audio, are often used in professional audio editing and recording. WMA files use lossy compression to minimize file size while reducing some audio quality, and are widely used for online music streaming and downloading.

The format chosen will be based on the user's specific needs, such as audio quality standards, file size constraints, and compatibility with media players and operating systems.

Updated on: 02-May-2023


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