Can You Master A WAV file?

In today’s world we are privileged to collaborate with other music producers in order to not only share ideas but also create great music together.

If you have collaborated before in mixing or mastering then you know that its essential to send and receive the right files for mastering because there are certain rules.

For example, mixing an Mp3 mix is nearly impossible because Mp3 is known for its notorious traits of compressing audio which is a definite NO when trying to get a master done.

So, what about a WAV file?

This post will discuss this and give you some context so you gain some understanding into mastering.

With that said, Can you master a WAV file?

The formats WAV. file or AIFF. file are the best file formats for high quality mastering. When mastering a file it is essential that the file be uncompressed and one that retains all of the samples of an audio track. Wave or Wav and AIFF files can be mastered because they possess these characteristics.

What is a wave file?

A WAV file is a raw audio format created developed Microsoft and IBM. The format uses containers as the means to store audio data, track numbers, sample rate, and bit rate.

WAV files are uncompressed lossless audio and as such can take up quite a bit of space, at around 10 MB per minute with a maximum file size of 4 GB.

Size

WAV files are generally going to be much larger than in file size as compare to other popular audio file types, like MP3, the reason for this is that they are basically uncompressed (compression is supported, though). Because of this, they’re mainly used in the professional music recording industry to retain the maximum quality of audio.

This is the reason why it’s essential in mastering.

Encoding

WAV is Windows main audio format for raw and uncompressed audio files that uses bitstream encoding known as the Linear Pulse Code Modulation or LPCM for short.

The LPCM is the standard coding format for audio CDs that store 2-channel LPCM audio with a sampling of 44,100Hz with 16 bits for per sample.

DJ’ing

If you are a professional audio person and want to do some DJing, WAV would be the best format to go with. This is because you can easily edit or manipulate WAV files using various software.

Although this audio format is by nature uncompressed, allowing for higher quality output, you can compress it on Windows using the Audio Compression Manager.

The role of stems

In audio production, a stem is simply a discrete or grouped collection of audio sources that are mixed together, usually to be dealt with as one unit in the near future.

When mixing music for recordings and for live sound like a stage performance, a stem is a group of similar sound sources.

When a large project utilises more than one person mixing, stems can facilitate the job of the final mix engineer.

Such stems may consist of all of the string instruments, a full orchestra, just background vocals, percussion instruments, a single drum set, or any other grouping that may ease the task of the final mix.

Stems prepared in this fashion may be blended together later in time, as for a recording project or for consumer listening, or they may be mixed simultaneously, as in a live sound performance with multiple elements

DAWs and Stems

Digital Audio Workstations are used to export stems and they usually do so in Wave format because of its convenience and ability to not lose its potency.

Stems serve a very important role in audio production because they allow engineers to work with different people in different locations by simply sending out the stems.

This is why wave format is such an important format.

Advantages of Wave over MP3

1) Compared to MP3, Wave is more versatile because it provides an uncompressed audio file which can be converted into any other other lossy formats if needed.

MP3 on the other hand is already a lossy format and converting it to WAV results in a quality loss.

2) A 44,100 kHz 16-bit WAV has a full frequency response up to 22KHz. MP3 on the other hand cuts off at around 18KHz.

3) The encoding process in MP3 can cause clipping on louder masters, and this distortion can’t be ultimately removed when converting back to WAV. The encoding may also cause small tempo and length variations which makes it difficult to work with MP3 samples within a DAW.