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Creating music in your home studio is easier now than ever before.
With a modest financial investment, you can be well on your way to a fully functional home recording studio. But even if you don’t want to spend money, you can still create good-quality audio recordings just by using a smartphone and some free software on your laptop.
When recording and saving your music, an important consideration is what format your recordings should be saved in, as not all formats work well for mixing and mastering purposes.
With so many file types to choose from, such as MP3, WAV, FLAC, and many others, it can become overwhelming when determining which file to use.
This article focuses on whether you WAV files can be mixed and mastered.
So, the big question is, can a WAV file be mixed and mastered?
Yes, WAV files can absolutely be mixed and mastered. Not only can you use these files, but WAV is often the preferred audio file because the audio is uncompressed, and thus they are easier to work with than many other file types.
Let’s dive a little deeper into a few reasons why WAV files are so good to use for mixing and mastering purposes.
1. Ease of Use
WAV files are also straightforward to use and share, especially if you are working with collaborators in different parts of the world.
Sending WAV files of your recordings is often the preferred method because it is uncompressed; therefore, the person receiving your files can actually implement mixing and mastering. For example, if you sent MP3 files, the quality would not be as high. MP3 files will work in a pinch, but they are not nearly as ideal.
You don’t always have to send the WAV version of a file, as it is relatively easy to convert from one file type to another, but if you have the option to record in WAV format, do so, as this is the best way to ensure all of the original audio recordings is maintained. You can also extract audio into the WAV format from YouTube without too much trouble and it’s a straightforward process for other types of video files too.
The video below goes into detail on how to exactly send a WAV file so that someone else can easily do the mixing and mastering with it or vice versa.
2. Why Are WAV Files So Good for Mixing & Mastering?
First, to understand why WAV files are so good for mixing and mastering, we need to understand what a WAV file is.
A WAV file is simply an uncompressed audio file, meaning that all of the original audio characteristics are maintained. Alternatively, an audio file such as an MP3 is compressed, which means they have lost some data.
Compression in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, compressing down the audio is often part of the mixing and EQ process. However, too much compression can be a bad thing as well.
Compression essentially pulls in all of the volume highs and lows in a particular track (or audio file) and brings everything more toward the middle. What this does is often makes for a better and smoother-sounding recording.
Right about now, you might be asking why you would want an uncompressed audio file if we are most likely just going to compress it anyway?
Too much compression can ruin a mix, and you don’t always need to compress a music file.
However, MP3 files are great for certain situations. For example, Gilles Arbour states that you should “use MP3 files for web pages, web videos, in fact for anything on the internet.”
One of the main reasons for this is that MP3 files are compressed, so it loads faster than WAV files and still have pretty good audio quality.
If you are focusing on mixing and mastering your audio, WAV is far superior because it retains all the original recorded audio. This gives you a better-quality file and will allow you much more precision when attempting to EQ and mix your audio.
Let’s take a look at and listen to the differences in a WAV and MP3 file of the same recording below.
3. Mixing: WAV Vs. MP3
The differences between WAV and MP3 recordings can be very subtle, especially if it is a high-quality MP3 recording. For the average listener, it is likely they won’t be able to tell the difference.
In fact, even musicians might not be able to tell the difference.
Below I have the same recording of me strumming on the acoustic guitar. I recorded it using the voice memo app on my iPhone, which is recorded as an M4A file, meaning I had to convert the file to WAV and MP3 using cloudconverter.com.
If you are playing and recording music using an acoustic guitar, check out this article all about how to EQ your acoustic guitar for a better sound and recording.
Listening to the two recordings, it can be hard to tell the differences, but if you pay really close attention, you can hear that the MP3 recording is slightly more compressed. In other words, it sounds “tighter.” But again, there isn’t much difference.
It is only until we see what is happening with each recording that we can begin to appreciate the differences between the two recordings.
Just by looking at the audio files side by side within the DAW, it is really hard to see the differences. It was only when I added the spectral analysis application that we could actually start to see those subtle differences.
Again, these are very subtle differences here, but subtle differences will add up if you start adding multiple instruments and multiple audio tracks to your mix. Minor audio problems can become compounded into big audio problems as you begin layering on multiple tracks.
If you are at the point where you care if there is a difference between WAV and MP3 files, WAV files give you more control over how you want to alter the audio to get the exact sound you are looking for.
Using MP3 files won’t have the same frequency ranges as WAV, which means less control over how you want the audio to sound.
At the end of the day, MP3 files will work for mixing and mastering. However, if you want more control and precision in your mixing, WAV files are the superior choice.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. You now have a better understanding of using WAV files in your mixing process, and I wish you the best of luck with your creative endeavors.
If you are looking for additional help with your mixing and mastering, or you don’t want to do it yourself, you can read this article.
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.