AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) and MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) are two mainstream music audio formats. AAC is written as file extension type .m4a, .m4b, .m4p, .m4v, .m4r, .3gp, .mp4, .aac, widely used in iTunes while MP3, written as .mp3, is so much employed on digital audio players that MP3 player is now the synonym of portable media player.
But AAC vs. MP3, which is better? What's the difference between those two music formats? Is it really true as many people often allege that AAC sounds better and owns smaller file size than MP3 of the same song? It's time to weigh in. This article will give you an overall AAC MP3 comparison to let you get the answer.
Firstly, you should make it clear that both AAC and MP3 are audio coding standards for lossy compression. AAC was released for public on 1997, 3 years later than the release date of MP3, to be the heres of MP3 format. Compared to MP3, AAC generally perform better than MP3 just at the same or similar bit rates. This difference in quality is more obvious at lower bitrates.
Note: WAV Losseless and AIFF are two high-quality, uncompressed file types used for CD burning, much larger than other formats. If you call for lossless compression music formats, Apple Lossless, FLAC and APE are recommended.
1. AAC vs. MP3 Sound Quality Comparison
An engineer once did a music quality summary of AAC and MP3 on iTunes and iPhone. It's clear that AAC file sounds much better than MP3 at the same bitrate, and until now, no MP3 file can surpass the AAC file at 256 Kbs.
What's more, Dolby Laboratories also comes to a conclusion through tests:
① Experts said it's not easy to tell the difference between 128Kbps stereophonic sound AAC music and the uncompressed audio;
② AAC file at 96Kbs sounds better then MP3 file at 128Kbs;
③ AAC file at 128Kbs sounds much better than MP3 file at 128 Kbs;
④ AAC is the only network broadcast audio format that can get "Excellent" at all EBU listening test project.
See also: MP3 vs MP4
2. AAC vs. MP3 File Size Comparison
Here we'll convert the original WAV music file - Butterfly from Jason Mraz(62.38M) to MP3 and AAC with one of the most popular audio converter software - Freemake Audio Converter, and compare their file size. In order to keep the converting test as accurate as possible, we only change the bitrate parameter from 96 to 256, no audio channel or sample rate(default 4.41 kHZ) change.
From the table above, it's obvious to see that AAC and MP3 own the similar size at lower bitrate while AAC is much smaller in size at higher bitrate.
3. AAC vs. MP3 Compatibility Comparison (Why AAC is not So Popular as MP3?)
AAC is less compatible: available on iTunes, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Microsoft's Zune, Sony PS3/PSP, and some mobile phones.
MP3 is more compatible: actually works with every cellphones, pads and audio players.
AAC is less widely supported than MP3, partly because it's relatively newer and Windows Media has risen constantly. Although AAC was developed by Nokia, Sony, AT&T Bell Laboratories and Dolby Laboratories, Apple takes is as "Apple's baby" - a standard audio format for iPhone, iPod, iTunes, and iPad. Maybe AAC can be used with a wide variety of non-Apple devices in near future.
Summary: Objectively speaking, taking all the factors into consideration, AAC does have higher quality sound and smaller size than MP3 at the same or similar high bitrate. But MP3 is much more compatible than AAC. Since different file formats have different merit and demerit, different users have different preference and needs, neither AAC nor MP3 can rank the first. One word to tell, the best format is the one that compatible with your device and meets your needs!
If you plan to stand on iTunes and iPod for a long time, go with AAC. You can convert AAC to MP3 or MP3 to AAC by iTunes as you like. But if you'd like to switch to a device that doesn't support AAC. Multifunctional media converter Format Factory is a good choice. Check the step-by-step guide of transferring AAC to MP3.
Step 1. Click "-> MP3 file" icon to open the converting setting profile;
Step 2. Click "Add File" to add AAC file into the converting list and hit "OK" to get back to main profile. Here you can do some output settings like quality, bitrate, sample rate etc. and select output folder;
Step 3. Hit "Start" button to begin AAC to MP3 shifting.
If you still have question on AAC vs. MP3 and audio conversion, please feel free to Mail Us >>
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