Digital Audio Files

What do Da Vinci and music files have in common? Both get a lot of attention because of their "code"

Ever wonder what that little three-letter extension at the end of a music file means? You've seen them out there when downloading music from both the legitimate and "shifty" music sites, but have you really ever sought out an explanation for the differences between .wma, .mp3, or .aac? We'll explain a few of these very important formats here, and why you should keep a keen eye on the type you find yourself ripping onto compact discs.

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The answer is in the code(c)

"Codec" is the technical term for the confusing three-letter tidbit that follows your song file. Whether you're downloading from iTunes, Limewire, or any other legitimate or illegitimate file sharing site, song files will always be followed by a particular codec. You might have also heard codecs referred to as audio formats, but when you pick apart the true meaning behind .wma or .mp3 – and that's what we're here to do – codec is so much more appropriate.

The central purpose of a codec is to encode a signal for future transmission or storage, which enables you to later decode a signal when you want to view and edit the file in question.

Like Jay-Z and Linkin Park, Codec is a nice “mash-up” of the Code and Decode process associated with compressing and decompressing a music file
Codec is actually an amalgamation of a few important words and phrases. Like the collaborative work of Linkin Park and Jay-Z, a codec is a nice "mash-up" of a few processes in creating the digital music that makes today's world go 'round. Take the C and O from "compressor", and the D, E, and C from "decompressor", and the result is "codec", the lovechild of the necessary processes involved in creating and shrinking music files.

Is there a good nickname for sweet, innocent, Codec? Well, that's where .wma and .mp3 and the like come in. As you'll see, most codecs feature "lossy" data compression, which means that the product can actually change as it is repeatedly compressed and decompressed. For the most part, the end result is considered "close enough" to the original, but real audio junkies prefer "lossless" technology.


Lossy compression types:

In order to maintain an absolutely perfect music file, real aficionados need to make friends with lossless compression, which is developed for the sole purpose of allowing compression by ensuring that the least possible damage is done to the music file throughout the process.

Lossless compression types:

The problem with lossless compression is, generally, that the technology simply can't reduce a file enough to make it practical for everyday download. Most lossy compression formats, like MP3, can reduce the size of a music file significantly more than any lossless technology, like that of FLAC.

But, is it worth it? That's for you to decide.