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What is WMA

Blake Sullivan Updated on Apr 15, 2022 4:19 PM


WMA or Windows Media Audio, which refers to an audio file format and an audio codec, is a compressed audio format created and popularized by Microsoft. It is a file extension works with Windows Media Player used mostly for music. This means that it is a proprietary to Microsoft that has compatibility problems with other platforms. And it is initially developed similarly to MP3 in almost all aspects, creating better compression while keeping the same level of sound quality especially in low bitrates. Supported by Apple iTunes, WMA format becomes a rival of MP3 and RealAudio audio formats.



WMA consists of four individual codecs, including original Windows Media Audio (WMA), Windows Media Audio Professional (WMA Pro), WMA Lossless and Windows Media Audio Voice (WMA Voice). These codecs are mutually incompatible.

  • WMA is the prototypical codec, and was first released in 1999.
  • WMA Pro is an improved lossy codec with better sound quality than WMA, which is introduced in the year of 2003, and supports multichannel and high resolution audio though it is only compatible with a handful of music players and devices.
  • WMA Lossless is a lossless codec with good compression released in early 2003. Using VBR, it can compress the audio file without any loss of quality.
  • WMA Voice is a lossy codec that targets at voice content and was designed for voice playback applications.



  • Keeping better sound quality in low bitrates.
  • Protecting the music copyrights and strongly preventing piracy by using DRM (Digital Rights Management) facility, which is embraced by musicians and music publishers.
  • Could be convenient for Windows users.



  • Since the WMA format is proprietary and protected by DRM, compatibility can be a huge issue because of the less support from other platforms or various of mainstream devices, which makes this format's advantage a disadvantage as well in some cases.
  • Usually, it will lose some quality to compress audio via WMA codec. If users care about the sound quality, then FLAC and APE (Monkey's Audio) will be considered as the alternative.



Windows Media Player is the best program for playing WMA files. Also, you can open WMA files in other operating systems with the third-party software like ALLPlayer, VLC media player, Media Player Classic, MPlayer, RealPlayer, Winamp, Zune Software, etc.


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