Transcoding Audio: What Are The Main Benefits?

Is this the same thing as converting?

Audio Transcoding
Converting between audio formats. Source: Pixabay

What is Audio Transcoding?

In digital audio, the term transcoding simply means the process of converting one digital format to another. Transcoding isn't just limited to audio either. It can be used for just about any type of digital media where conversion takes place -- such as video, photos, etc.

But, why would you want to transcode an audio file?

There are quite a few reasons to convert between formats, but one of the main ones is to do with compatibility. For instance, you might have a song that is in the FLAC format. Not all portable devices support this format, so you may need to transcode to one that your device can play, like MP3.

What Types of Software Can Transcode Media Files?

Depending on what you need to achieve, there are a lot of different types of software programs that can transcode media. Examples includes:

  • Video to Audio Converters Online and offline tools for extracting audio from video.
  • Software Media Players These often have a built-in media converter (iTunes can convert audio formats for example)
  • Media managers Useful for managing and organizing your library between formats.
  • Standalone CD Ripping Software These usually provide a wide range of audio formats to convert your original CDs to.
  • DRM Removal Tools Although these mainly record the output of your computer's soundcard (analog loophole), the resultant audio file is a sort of transcoding.
  • CD Burning Programs This type of software program often has the facility to convert compressed audio files (like MP3) back into WAV for use when you want to create an audio CD (playable on just about any CD player). You can of course also transcode an audio CD into several different audio formats too!

What Are The Benefits of Converting From One Format to Another?

There can be many scenarios where transcoding is extremely useful. These include:

  • Increasing Compatibility As previously mentioned, this is probably the most common reason for transcoding audio files. If you have downloaded songs from the iTunes Store for example, then these are usually in the AAC format. But, this isn't supported as widely as MP3. In this case, converting these AAC encoded songs to a more popular audio format will help to make your iTunes library more accessible on the different hardware devices you have.
  • Reduce File Storage Requirements If you are short on hard drive space, or simply want to store your songs in a more compact way, then transcoding software is a useful tool to use. Compared to uncompressed audio formats like WAV, lossy formats such as WMA, MP3, and AAC all offer a way to store the same songs at a fraction of the size. This will free-up more space.
  • Optimize Songs for Cloud Storage To preserve the quality of ripped CDs, many people store their digital music library on external hard drives in a lossless audio format. However, this audio format isn't the best one to use if you want to keep your music library in an online music locker. To help minimize upload time, bandwidth, and data transfer usage (if it is capped by your ISP), transcoding can be used to convert a larger lossless audio format into one that has sufficient quality for everyday streaming audio; this is typically offered at 256 kbps on most streaming services.


    • Keep in mind that although transcoding is useful, the quality of the audio can suffer in certain circumstances. The main one being the conversion from a lossy format to another. If audio quality is important, then only transcode from lossless to either lossy (e.g. FLAC to MP3) or another lossless format.
    • Transcoding is sometimes confused with another similar sounding term called, encoding. However, this latter term usually means the conversion from analog sound to digital.