Native audio formats

I am trying to copy some songs from MP3 and WAV discs to use in Audacity but when I try to open them in Audacity I get the message “Audacity does not open this type of file. Try ripping it to a native format that Audacity can import” but it does not say what these "native format"s are.

Anyone know which formats it’s talking about?


For importing, Audacity natively supports “Microsoft PCM WAV”, Aiff, MP3, Ogg and FLAC.

I would suspect that the files that you are trying to import are either not real WAV/MP3 files, or are damaged.

There is a free program called “MediaInfo” that can analyse audio files and provide in-depth information about the format.

Now I’m more confused than ever as all the discs I want to use in Audacity are either MP3 or WAV which I have made myself and all of which work perfectly in all my other CD players and in Real Player and Windows Media Player and yet when I try to use them in Audacity it claims that as the tracks are “audio CD files” (and mine are marked as .cda) it cannot open them.

What am I doing wrong?


This is the exact opposite of one of the most common issues that we see on this forum.

The usual question is “why will my CD not play on my CD player?”

The key to this is that there are two main types of CD that can be made on a computer. There are “audio” CDs and “data” CDs.

An “audio CD” is very much like a music CD that you may buy from a shop. Although you create it from WAV files (or perhaps MP3 files if your CD burning software is able to decode MP3 files prior to burning), an audio CD does not contain WAV files. It contains a mass of audio data, and some “pointers” that show CD players where each track starts and ends (these are the “cda” entries that you mention).

A “data” CD on the other hand, does contain actual files. If you burn WAV, MP3, or any other type of file to a CD and have told the CD burning software to make a data CD, then the files are simply copied to the CD.

Most CD players will only play audio CDs, though a few will play MP3s from a data CD.

If you open a data CD on a computer you will see all of the files, just like files on a hard drive.
If you open an audio CD on a computer, you will not see the actual files, but will see the cda entries.

To get audio files from an audio CD, you must “Extract” them - this is commonly called “ripping” a CD. To do this you need a CD ripping program (such as the excellent, free program “C-Dex”). For use with audacity, best quality is achieved by ripping the CD to WAV files (rather than ripping to MP3 which is lower quality than WAV).

Thanks for that info which has cleared up a lot of things which have been puzzling me. I must admit that I have always thought that “ripping” was just another term for “burning” a disc but now I know better. Will now try what you suggest but might have to come back if I have yet more problems.



Audio Compact Disks are actually in a WAV-like format (CDA) with a lot of the WAV pieces missing. It would be like trying to cram a book into a very small space. The first thing you would do is rip off the cardboard binding, the portrait of the author, the fronts piece, the copyright page, most of the glue, the back leaves, the dedication, and most of the table of contents. You’d never be able to sell it like that on the open book market, but the story is all there and it would fit in a very small container.

CDA music files are a lot like that. They don’t contain any sound format information (it’s always the same) and they don’t carry any musician or title information and barely enough data for the player to figure out where the first song is.