So, what are these WAV files all about?


As most users of the Smoothbeats website know, I supply two files with every leased beat: An MP3 file, and a high quality WAV file.

Most people know what an MP3 is, but not a WAV file. What is it? What are the benefits to you as a recording artist? In this article, I’ll try to explain a little!

First, a little history.

Everybody is familiar with the MP3, as found on ipods all over the world.
“Back in the day” – most internet users only had access to old fashioned, slow, “Dial-Up” internet connections. Distributing audio files taken direct from CD over these connections was a nightmare. It was slow and tedious.

The solution was MP3. An MP3 file is basically a compressed audio file. For the same track length, an MP3 file is about one tenth the file size of the equivalent WAV file. This means a faster download, but at the expense of sound quality. You can read more about this on Wikipedia.

Ok, so why should I care?

Here’s a brief overview of the recording process.

First of all, the artist (that’s you) records the track in the studio. The audio from the vocals and instruments (or beat) is recorded at the highest possible quality the studio can muster up. The track is then mixed – the vocals and instruments are balanced with each other. Finally, the track is “mastered.” During this final process, the track is given a final “sheen” for the radio etc.

And after this? The high quality master file is compressed into an MP3 for internet use. The audio quality of the track is reduced to maintain a small file size for distribution over the ‘net.

MP3 files are great for listening to. But you shouldn’t be recording your vocals with them if you want the best quality for your tracks.

Producers on the internet use MP3 files to demo their tracks – and some other tricks to make them sound good….

Still with me? Great! Thanks for reading this far!

When you listen to my beats on the smoothbeats website, you’re listening to an MP3 file.
This MP3 file as been mastered to sound as loud as possible, to give a great impression to potential customers. And why not! It’s standard practice amongst all ‘net producers.

Let’s talk about this some more. The tracks have been mastered to sound as loud as possible. As part of the mastering process we touched on earlier in the post, the audio level (a.k.a volume) of the beat has been “pinned” as loud as it can be.

Imagine you’re standing in room. Now, jump up and down until your head hits the ceiling repeatedly. That’s what happening to volume level of the MP3 file. The audio file has been “squashed” to sound as loud as possible for maximum impact. So if you try to record on top of this – where will your vocals sit in the mix?

So, why should I use the WAV files?

To summarise

1) Audio quality. Unlike MP3 files, WAV files are not compressed for download speed.

2) And here’s the killer. The WAV files I supply on the smoothbeats site aren’t given the final “maximise the volume” treatment. They sound significantly quieter than the MP3 file of the same beat.

With the WAV file, there’s more “space” and “room” for you to record your vocals on top of the track. Think about the head-hits-ceiling analogy above. Once you’ve finished recording, you can then master an ultra-loud track that features both your vocals and the beat.

The vast majority of beats on the smoothbeats website come as WAV files. So, put the MP3 file on your ipod to write with, but take the WAV version into the studio to record.

Hopefully, this makes things a little clearer. If you’ve got any questions, drop some comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Posted in Recording, Studio Production