Understanding wav/flac/mp3; and CDs in the car

Years ago my friend and I would drive around for a few days in the country, and we would stock up with CDs. I would burn a few CDs with our favorite tracks.
I was puzzled that while a commercial CD of pop sounds would contain about a dozen tracks, I could fit those dozen tracks and a dozen or so more when I burned-to-CD on the computer.
After reading several web pages (below) on “FLAC vs. WAV” I think I know why:-
The commercial CDs were WAV files which are uncompressed. High quality which is good if you are sitting at home, alone, with the cushioned head phones on.
My burned CDs were lossy MP3 format, compressed, hence two to three times more quantity; albeit of a poor quality.
We were singing along at the top of our voices, the rubber tyres drumming on the road surface, and so, of course, our aged ears detected no degradation of quality. And these were pop songs, not Daniel Barenboim conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

Is my reasoning correct? I could cram more tracks on to a burned CD because I was ignorant of quality, and because commercial CDs are issued at the highest quality possible - uncompressed WAV files.

Thanks, Chris

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The commercial CDs were WAV files

Not exactly… Audio CDs use the same underlying uncompressed PCM format as WAV files, but they are not WAV or any kind of “computer file”. That’s why you cannot simply copy files from an audio CD to your hard drive… You need “ripping” software to extract the audio and make a computer file.

“Regular” CD players can ONLY play audio CDs but some car stereo’s can play a CD with MP3 or other formats. Most Blu-Ray players and newer DVD players can play almost anything.

Of course modern car stereos have Bluetooth and you can play “unlimited” music from your smart phone. My car stereo isn’t that new but it has an iPod connection and I’ve got about 18,000 songs on my iPod classic.

…lossy MP3 format, compressed, hence two to three times more quantity; albeit of a poor quality.

MP3 is always lossy but it’s not necessarily “poor quality”. A high-bitrate MP3 can often sound identical to the uncompressed original (in a proper scientific-blind-listening test) or you might have to listen VERY carefully to hear any difference.

MP3 is always lossy but it’s not necessarily “poor quality”.

MP3’s real problem is not sound quality. It comes with “baggage.” MP3 gets its reduced file sizes by re-arranging musical tones and leaving some of them out. You can make an MP3 from a perfect quality WAV file and nobody can tell what you did.

If you decide to edit your MP3 and make them into an MP3 playlist, some people may be able to tell there’s something not quite right about the sound. By the third pass everybody can hear the wine-glass, bubbly sound distortion.

It’s permanent. There is no “filter out the distortion.”

Many people think all music files are MP3 and they run into this distortion thing fairly quickly. It’s supposed to be "download an MP3 and listen to it. Not download an MP3 and use it in production.

At one time Apple would sell you two different versions of a song. One for listening and a slightly higher cost version intended for editing and production. I don’t know if they still do that. Probably not. Current music is for live, on-line listening. You rent it. You never get the files at all.


This was me until three weeks ago :blush:

It’s supposed to be "download an MP3 and listen to it. Not download an MP3 and use it in production.

Quite so. I now record in WAV, and for complex books, one WAV file per page, then AlignToEnds and export to a WAV file. THEN export that WAV file to MP3. I suspect that far too many users on LibriVox, like I used to, yo-yo multiple times in the MP3 arena. Proof-Listeners report back quoting mm:ss where noted errors occur, so for me that assembled WAV is where I return to make corrections, then export it to a MP3 file for upload.

Day by day you guys are making me better at this. :slight_smile:

redicisfollows, thank you for this reply. I think it has been a year or more since I logged on I seem to have been bumped out of my normal forum channels by this new format.
Thank you for confirming my basic understanding of MP3
Cheers, Chris

We also note that the submission delivery format for audiobooks is MP3, but they’re very clear it needs to be 192 quality (or higher), not trashy 32 or 64. Two reasons: They have to store all this stuff and they intend to remix your work to their different products and services.

Screen Shot 2023-12-22 at 7.47.19 AM

This is also why we recommend recording your voice and producing an Edit Master at WAV quality before you burn the submission MP3. You can’t open that MP3 later and make a correction.


When I export my audio project, the resulting WAV file seems to have a significantly larger size compared to a commercial CD, even though I’ve been meticulous with my settings. I’ve been reading up on the forum about the differences between WAV and MP3 files, and it got me thinking about the compression aspects.

As above in this thread, the music on a Music CD isn’t WAV files. It’s a WAV quality, uncompressed data stream, and an index track to point to the places you want to listen. That’s the way they got perfect quality WAV sound and saved space (the work is smaller than you think it’s going to be).

From rusty memory, in the early design stage of Music CDs, they were sure they didn’t want one of those trashy “answering machine” sound formats and the Director of the effort said they had to store a whole stereo opera and I can’t remember which one.

That Opera storage requirement killed the formal WAV file structure.


This is also where the 44100 CD sampling rate comes from instead of a nice even number. Video uses 48000 and many recording studios use 96000.

Audio CDs are always 16-bit, Stereo.

Other formats are called Data CDs and that’s where you get to push over your MP3 collection. They’re little, shiny plastic hard drives.

All CD Players will play Music CDs and most of them will play MP3s on a Data CD.

My pickup truck will not.


Use your computer’s INFO tools. Is the file 44100, 16-bit, Stereo? That’s the file version of a Music CD. Anything else is a Data CD with music files on it.


It should be the same size as the same length of audio extracted from a CD to WAV. Perhaps you exported as 24-bit or 32-bit WAV?

Supposedly it was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at 74 minutes long (Compact Disc Digital Audio - Wikipedia).


You have sinned!! Your post must be at least 10 characters!!!

Oh, fer ~!@#$