How to identify media file types.

A common issue with Audacity is the chipmunk effect when trying to import an unsupported file type.

Although Audacity 1.3 now supports many more file types, thanks to ffmpeg, it is still easy to get caught out. Just because a file has been named “filename.mp3” does not mean that it really is an MP3 file. Add to this the confusion caused by Microsoft operating systems “helpfully” hiding the file name extension and it’s hardly surprising that people have problems.

So, how to identify what kind of file it really is…

Luckily there is a free and open source program available for Windows, Linux and Mac that can provide a simple, or detailed analysis of a vast number of media file formats. The program is called “Mediainfo” and is available here:

It is available as either a command line utility, or with a graphical interface, the choice is yours. “Mediainfo” is included in the format conversion program “SUPER” by erightsoft.

Gee, Steve, can’t I force Windows to show me the real music filename–with extension–instead of hiding it from me?


Course you can Koz - and most sensible Windoze users reconfigure their setup that way - and if you want more info about the file you can right click on it in Widows Explorer and select the Properties button.


As WC has said, (and as I thought you were aware, but perhaps you were being rhetorical or something) you can easily set up Windows to show the file extension.

However, the file extension is by no means a foolproof method of determining the file type. I could even have a word document (or any other file type) with a “.wav” extension, but Audacity will not like it much - “Mediainfo” would reveal that such a file contained no audio streams of any kind and solve the mystery. Open up a 24bit flac file with a “.mp3” extension, and Mediainfo will tell you that it is a 24bit flac file.

Right clicking on a file and selecting “properties” will, in Windows, reveal some information about the file type. The nice thing about Mediainfo is that it reveals a lot of important information about media files.

I seem to remember a post recently about a file where there was some confusion as to whether it was 16 bit of 24 bit - Mediainfo would have been an ideal tool to cast some light on that particular mystery.