Home > Resources > What is WAV

What is WAV

Rob Parsons Updated on Apr 15, 2022 4:21 PM


WAV or WAVE stands for Waveform Audio File Format, which is the first and standard digital audio format developed by jointly Microsoft and IBM to store audio files on Windows operating system, including the file's numerous bit depth, sample rates , tracks (mono and stereo) as well as the uncompressed raw audio data. It is primarily supported by Windows platform and its application and is commonly used by music enthusiasts or professionals because it is guaranteed to be compatible with almost all media players.

Another abbreviation that accompanies WAV is PCM (pulse-code modulation), which is a kind of uncompressed raw audio file format with an excellent audio quality usually in large sizes which is quite similar to CD-audio quality if their sample rates are the same. For this reason, the WAV format has become less popular and effective over time with the development of better lossless audio formats, such as FLAC and Apple Lossless. But it will probably be used for some time yet due to its widespread use in professional music recording and is still a very prevailing format for audio/video applications.



The WAV file is a variant of the RIFF (Resource Interchange File Format) format and a sub set of RIFF specification, specifically used for audio. And a RIFF file starts out with a file header followed by a sequence of data chunks. Generally, WAV file format consists of RIFF chunk and two sub-chunks, Format chunk (fmt chunk) and Data chunk.

  • RIFF chunk (12 bytes) identifies the file as a WAV file.
  • "fmt " sub-chunk (24 bytes) describes the sound information such as the sample rate in the data sub-chunk.
  • "data" sub-chunk contains the raw sound data and indicates the size of the actual sound information.




  • A lossless format without any flaws close to the original audio source.
  • Fast and simple decoding or encoding.
  • Can be played by nearly all Windows applications that support sound.
  • Can be easily converted into other file types, like AIFF, AAC and MP3.

Want to convert WAV to a MP3 format for playback widely? follow how to convert from lossless WAV to MP3 audio file.


  • The uncompressed WAV files will consume a big memory space.
  • Due to the very large file size, the tracks saved in this format is not ideal for uploading online.


Supported Programs

Windows: Microsoft Windows Music, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, VLC media player, Winamp Media Player, Video Converter Ultimate, etc.

Mac: Apple iTunes, QuickTime Player, VLC media player, RealPlayer and others.



Regardless of the large file size, uncompressed WAV files is sometimes used by some radio broadcasting stations, taking BBC Radio as an example. BBC Radio in the UK uses 48 kHz 16-bit two-channel WAV audio as its standard. In addition, some radio station use WAV files as a benchmark for testing the transceiver capabilities.



There's no theoretical time limit, just a size limit. The limit is actually 4GB as per the spec given the 32 bit integer used to record the file size header, but some programs limit it to 2GB.

Technically it is sometimes to be broken up the restrictions to cut a WAV file into several fragments.

By clicking "Agree" you allow cookies that improve your experience on our site, help us analyze site performance and usage. See Cookies policy.Agree