voice-over-file-typesThe audio editing software (Adobe Audition CS6) in my voice over studio enables me to save voice over and production files in almost any known audio file format.

Today I’m going to talk about the most commonly used file formats for voice over production and explain where each is most appropriate.

When a new client comes to me with a voice over script, one of the first questions I ask before stepping into the studio is “What type of file format would you like?”. Most already have file specifications in mind. Others who don’t work with audio on a regular basis usually ask for some file format guidance.

Luckily there are only three common audio formats for voice over and it’s fairly simple to decide which one is best for your project. The three most common file formats are: MP3, WAV and AIFF.

MP3 is by far the most requested format for voice over. Why? It’s a space saver and provides incredible quality. As an example, a sixty second radio commercial saved in MP3 format is about 1MB. Whereas 60 seconds of audio saved as a WAV or AIFF file would take up about 10MB.

The smaller file size of the MP3 does come at a small price though. In order to reduce the file size, MP3 compresses the data. In other words it removes pieces of data from the file that it thinks the file can live without. And it’s usually right. Odds are you’ll never even notice.

So when would someone want to use WAV or AIFF? It can depend on how the voice over is being used. If it’s for a video project for instance, the video editing software will dictate which audio format you are able to import. Another consideration is that editors who work with Windows tend to prefer WAV files, while those working on Mac prefer AIFF files.

The type of voice over project can also help determine the file format. MP3 is great for audiobooks since they can be hours and hours of audio. An online phone system may only allow you to upload WAV files for your IVR phone prompts.

There is no doubt, MP3 is the most used format for voice over projects. The smaller file size makes it quick and easy to deliver. But when you want the highest quality with no data compression, and file size not being an issue, WAV or AIFF is the way to go.

If you’re unsure which format is best for you keep this info in mind and check with your editor to see if they have specs, or ask your voice over talent to make a suggestion. I usually determine the ideal format for a client just by asking a few questions but I also record and keep a high quality master file just in case I need to convert the audio later.