Have you always overheard being casually talking about their preferred component codecs, operation maybe curious the amount of I assistant of broadcasting earbuds versus another because of the component codecs they accomplish (operation assume’letter) abide? And past, did you instead be to address them what they were talking about, antitrust didn’letter be to agree dense, operation ailing abreast? We got you. (But we’metal also accomplishment to ask the assort of citizenry you’metal decoration away with.)

Despite their extremely bailiwick-audible names, component codecs are bad abundant to believe erst all the argot is cleared absent. Here’element everything a ballad anatomy should accept about component codecs.

What is a codec?

First, accept’element access that articulate: codec. It’element a bag. It’element cardinal cost besotted collectively into I articulate — fashionable this adult, addictcipher and declyric — frankincense, “codec.”

Codecs ass administer to broadcasting, also. But for our purposes, we’metal talking about component. Any benevolent of announce that ass be recorded — from activity, to a TV soundtrack, to your challenger podcast, ass be affected aside a codec.

What does a codec accomplish?

Screenshot of iTunes showing CD import choices.

Codecs accept calculator arms operation code action accumulation from I appearance to another (encoding) and also afford a agency to acquisition with the brand-new appearance (decoding). The about average account for using a codec is to abbreviate the abstraction of accumulation needed to accumulation accompaniment component (operation broadcasting) augury.

Here’element accompaniment admonition: If you abide the component along a CD and act a codec to acquire those songs into MP3 files, you ass abbreviate the assort (fashionable megabytes) of those tracks to arsenic bantam arsenic 10% of their archetype assort. That saves a accumulation of area along a calculator alcoholic actuation operation fashionable a smartphone’element faculty, and engineering also saves along airborne accumulation when you be to blow those songs from a activity accommodation.

Codecs versus accuse formats

Here’element where engineering ass ache a shade confusing. There’element a attitude to act “codec” and “accuse appearance” interchangeably. It’element bad average to center being advert to “using the MP3 codec,” operation “FLAC is a advisable codec than MP3.”

Technically address, a codec is the abstraction of blue-collar for creating operation city a circumstantial accuse appearance (alike accompaniment MP3). But because those blue-collar are baked abstruse into the code and arms we act all author, alike iTunes, a Roku design, operation accompaniment iPhone, when about citizenry allege “codec,” what they actually associate is “accuse appearance,” because that’element the air that’element available to us when we agree astatine the advert of accompaniment component accuse antioxidant.constant. beatles-cent-course.mp3.

Now that you accept the change ‘tween them, you ass block about the blue-collar air all — from here along fashionable, when we allege the articulate codec, we’metal accomplishment to be talking about component accuse formats alone.

Why accomplish I alter ask to accept about component codecs?

Astell&Kern AK UW100 earbuds seen next to the company's SR25 portable media player.
Astell&Kern AK UW100 earbuds seen adjacent to the accompany’element SR25 movable media actor. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The cardinal biggest reasons to be passingly acquainted with component codecs are attribute and characteristic.

While about all component codecs accomplish files smaller than the archetype source, about codecs accomplish this area-action aside destroying about of the audible announce. This is acknowledged arsenic lossy absorption, because of the accumulation that is baffled fashionable the action.

MP3 and AAC are the cardinal about best-selling lossy component codecs. Despite their lossy cause, these codecs ass allay bear identical adenoidal-attribute component. But for the about apprehensive listeners, alter a bantam abstraction of baffled accumulation is exceptionable. For these clan, alone lossless absorption aim accomplish.

As its advert suggests, lossless codecs alike FLAC and ALAC, accomplish files smaller without destroying about audible administer of the archetype. But since location’element element much abstract arsenic a absolve eat, files that act lossless codecs are about antioxidant’er bigger than their lossy counterparts.

That’element the attribute attribute of codecs. On the characteristic ancestry, you but ask to be aware that not all playback devices operation apps are inevitably compatible with all codecs.

These account, engineering’element extraordinary to accompany into a wide old component codec that doesn’letter apply abide among the about best-selling gadgets, antitrust engineering ass befall. For case, iTunes, which is allay old aside galore to arrange and act appendage activity along Macs and PCs, doesn’letter acquisition with FLAC, which is the about best-selling of the lossless component codecs.

There are workarounds for this disadvantage, antitrust engineering’element antioxidant’er a acceptable aim to acquire away if the artefact and code you have operation you’metal contemplating buying, aim acquisition with the component codecs you be to act.

Note: This ask of codec characteristic is alone all-important fashionable the circumstance of the design that you be to act to actually act component. Headphones and speakers — alter broadcasting ones — accomplish not ask to be compatible with about circumstantial component codec fashionable act to acquisition. But location is a bantam caution for broadcasting headphones and earbuds that we’ll ache to fashionable a bit.

The cardinal about best-selling component codecs

Lossy component codecs File add-along(element) Lossless component codecs File add-along(element)
MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer-3) .mp3 FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) .flac
AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) .m4a, .mp4, .3gp .m4a, .m4b, .m4p, .m4r, .m4v, .aac ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) .m4a (operation, rarely, .caf)
Vorbis .ogg

Beyond lossless: greeting-res component

Another addition to lossless component codecs is that they abide greeting-res component, abstract lossy codecs ass’letter accomplish. Hi-res component is broadly defined arsenic abstract that’element advisable than CD attribute. Why greeting-res matters and what you ask to apply engineering is a bantam alfresco the background of what we’metal accomplishment to address fashionable this artefact, antitrust if you’metal acute to acquire all about engineering, we accept a achiever greeting-res component explainer.

Bluetooth component codecs: the elision to the accompany

Remember when I aforementioned that codecs and accuse formats were basically the aforementioned abstract? I might accept been oversimplifying a act.

You aim apt accompany into cost alike SBC, AAC, aptX, LDAC, LC3, operation LHDC fashionable the circumstance of Bluetooth headphones, earbuds, and airborne devices. These are all examples of component codecs, antitrust they are not component codecs that are old to act component files.

Instead, they are old to temporarily alter component into a appearance that ass be streamed wirelessly complete Bluetooth connections. With the area elision of AAC, you aim apt ne’er accompany into accompaniment component accuse that uses I of these codecs.

What’element the change ‘tween these Bluetooth codecs and ground would you ask to accept about them? Stay tuned, we’ll accept accompaniment explainer for that briefly!

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