AIFF vs MP3? (by Brian Tappert)

As you may know, we are smack dab in the middle of our May AIFF Upgrade Event.  So it seems fitting for us to take a few moments and share some key points about the AIFF and MP3 formats in order to help you decide which makes the most sense for you.

It seems to me, most people get that AIFFs sound better than MP3s, but they also have some questions & negative connotations associated with them.  For one, AIFFs are much larger files, so storage and download time maybe an issue.  Secondly AIFF is a bit more expensive. To work this out, we need to look at the pros and cons of each in order to decide which is the best choice for us.


AIFF PRO – ID3 Tags:

AIFF files (unlike WAV) have the ability to hold ID3 metadata inside them. Meaning, AIFFs purchased from Traxsource contain the release image, artist & remixer info and all the other information you have come to love about the MP3 format. If you use any software like Traktor, Serato or USB sticks with Rekord Box, then you already know how important this information is. Having this information embedded into a lossless format like AIFF is a real huge advantage which is hard to deny.

AIFF CON – File Size / Price:

It’s true, AIFF (like WAV) weigh in at around four times the size of MP3 and they cost more. I mean, they don’t call it “compression” for nothing. This means you will need a larger hard drive for your digital music library and have longer download times when making new purchases.

A typical MP3 will be around 18 MB and close to 80 MB for the AIFF. But, here’s a way to deal with this. When you purchase your music, just buy the MP3 first. Then, after you are sure you will be playing the track on a big sound system you can upgrade the files easily. Traxsource was designed with this concept in mind so that working DJ’s can have that flexibility and convenience.

Using “upgrades” in this way will save you precious hard drive space, download time, and hard earned cash as you will only be upgrading certain tracks in your library.

AIFF PRO – Sound Quality:

It’s difficult to argue the fact that AIFF sounds better than MP3 on a big sound system. But, on a small or home system – MP3s can be more than adequate.

Long ago when we were building Traxsource. Marc Pomeroy and I did some blind comparisons between AIFF and MP3. We sat in our perfectly tuned studio A equipped with Bryston amps, Neve desk, Apogee D to A converters and allowed an engineer to play MP3 and WAV back to back at the exact same volume without us knowing which was which and the results were quite shocking.

In general, on the music we were very intimate with (like our own productions) we were able to pick out the MP3 / AIFF around 75% of the time. But on the music we were not very familiar with, the percentage was much lower and if were being 100% honest, we were often guessing.

Additionally, we noticed that some recordings were more obvious than others and this taught us that not all recordings were equal. The overall quality and distortion levels of the source make a dramatic difference in the final MP3 quality, and things like filtering and sonic clarity play into the compression formats success or failure in a big way.

But, as a professional DJ who has been playing in clubs for my whole life – I can tell you with certainty, on a big sound system it’s quite evident when MP3’s are played back to back with AIFF. So, a big factor in making your choice should be where you play. If you’re playing at a local bar with a small tight system – you may be good with MP3. However, if you are headlining at MOS or a club/festival with a big set – maybe you want to go with AIFF.

AIFF PRO – Upgrades on Traxsource Make AIFF Easy:

As previously stated, we designed Traxsource for DJs and as DJs ourselves it is clear that having options is important. This is why you can always upgrade any file at any time. You can rely on the fact that you may buy the MP3’s in your normal workflow and only upgrade the key tracks when you are SURE you will need them. Upgrades on Traxsource will save you a lot of time and cash!

Also, during our May AIFF Upgrade Event, you can check them out for less and get Free WAV exchanges for previously purchased WAV files. (Learn More).

Bottom Line:

Choosing a file format is a very personal decision, and as a professional DJ – its a decision one that you should consider thoughtfully. After all, a large part of your product is what comes out of the speakers and why not give your dancefloor the best they can have?

Saying that, whatever your choice (AIFF, WAV or MP3) – we have you covered.

Thank you, Enjoy the all new AIFFs here at Traxsource.

Brian Tappert
Co-Founder, Traxsource


To celebrate the launch of AIFF on Traxsource
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