Why Podcasters Use Mp3 Files And Not “Better Sounding” Wav Files

The most common audio file type podcasters use is the mp3. But I often get asked about Wav audio files. So let me clear some things up about both of these popular audio files.

WAV File

A WAV file was introduced to the world by good ‘ole Microsoft back in the early 90’s to run on their operating system. The biggest thing a Wav file has going for it is that it can 100% replicate the original source file without any loss of quality. In other words, when you rip a CD, the quality remains the same once you’ve digitized your tracks. But being excellent on quality means that when it comes to size most Wav files are huge (like obese huge!). How huge? Try a 4-minute song that’s around 35MB or more.  Wow and I thought I had a weight problem.

As you can imagine files of this size makes things pretty impractical for email and sharing audio on the web. This is where the Mp3 comes in.


An Mp3 is a compressed audio file that’s much more manageable in size than the Wav. Remember that 4-minute song? If we convert it from a Wav into an Mp3, that hideously big 35MB will become just 3MB! And having a file that’s so small means there’s a bunch of benefits…

Mp3's Are Easily Shared Online

  • I can upload hundreds of ep’s to my host for next to nothing
  • I can share my audio online without exceeding my upload / download limit
  • I can store all my audio on my MAC without cluttering up the hard drive

But to get the audio file that small we’ve made some compromises (yup – always a catch). The quality of our Mp3 isn’t as good as Wav files. Surprised? Don’t be. An Mp3 really goes through the ringer. It’s compressed, stripped of sound frequencies, and basically butchered till it’s a shadow of a Wav file.

But here’s the great part. To most folks “off the street” the difference in sound is barely audible. Although if you listen real carefully you might sometimes hear your Mp3 sounding a little:

  • Squirelly (there’s a swirling sensation during playback)
  • Telephoney  (hello is anyone there??)
  • Muddy (this is because of the frequency strip)

Now if these effects were prominent enough, obviously we’d need another option but because most of the time these side effects are so subtle, we’re happy to overlook them because of the size!

Now I know, if you’re an audio geek like me you’re probably starting to fret about the quality now that I’ve brought it up. Let me tell you something that might lower the pulse. My Radio producer is in a different part of the country to me and each day I email her 3 – 5 Mp3 files. Each of these files make it to air and I have never had a complaint about the quality. In fact most professional broadcasters in the field record in Mp3 format and then send it back to the station on email.


If we have the same song in Wav and Mp3 formats the difference in quality can be obvious. This is because there’s a bunch of different instruments and sounds, percussion, drums etc.

But if we have the a person just talking in both Wav and Mp3 then the difference in quality is considerably less obvious. Because there’s less sounds (instruments) within the file that will be manipulated. This is why we as podcasters can rejoice because most podcasts feature talking, not music.

Now the quality of your Mp3’s are determined by a few things, but before I wrap up I want to mention the encoder (the thing that exports your audio as Mp3 from your software).

As you know I’m a big fan of Adobe Audition editor (I’ll review it in an upcoming post) and I personally use the Mp3 encoder in this program because it is second to none. It retains the quality of the Wav file so well, that I can barely tell the difference. But if Audition is not for you, then a word of caution, beware of the other cheaper (or free) software because most of those encoders don’t offer the same quality when they are encoding the Mp3 file.

All the best with your podcast!

To get started on your own professional sounding podcast  download a copy of Dan’s new FREE report “Podcast Like A Radio DJ”. Get it here!












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