What Is an SFZ File?

This text format stores instrument data for software synthesizers

What to Know

  • An SFZ file is a plain text format used to define instruments for software synthesizers.
  • Any text editor can view this format, but use an SFZ player like sforzando to play samples defined in the file.

This article explains what an SFZ file is and how to open one.

What Is an SFZ File?

A file with the SFZ file extension is an audio sample definition file saved in the SFZ format. When it's used in a compatible player, the file expresses certain parameters that sample audio files should follow, like velocity, reverb, loop, equalizer, stereo, and sensitivity.

SFZ files are just text files that are normally found in the same folder as the audio files they refer to, like WAV or FLAC files. Here's an example of a basic SFZ file that shows the code a compatible player would use to structure certain audio files.

Screenshot of several SFZ files in Windows 10
SFZ Files.

How to Open an SFZ File

Any text editor can be used to view the code of an SFZ file. Notepad is included in Windows or you can download a different text editor like Notepad++, which may be easier to use.

However, SFZ files are just plain text files, so they don't actually do anything in and of themselves. While you can certainly open the file in a text editor to read what it will do in a compatible program, nothing will actually take place unless you use an SFZ player.

To actually use the file instead of just edit it, your best bet is to use the free program sforzando. There are several other options recommended on this SFZ Players page at SFZFormat.com, including both freeware and commercial software.

How to Convert an SFZ File

Since an SFZ file is just a text file, you can't convert the .SFZ file itself to an audio format like WAV, MP3, or any other audio file. You can, however, convert the audio files that the SFZ file points to by using a free audio/music converter. Remember, the audio file that you want to convert is probably in the same folder as the SFZ file.

Of course, if you need your file to be in some other text-based format like TXT or HTML, it's as easy as opening the text in the text editor and then saving it to a new file.

Still Can't Open It?

The most likely reason for why your file doesn't open with the programs linked above is that you don't actually have an SFZ file. Double-check that the suffix reads ".SFZ" and not something similar.

The reason you need to check the file extension is because lots of files share some of the same file extension letters, even though they don't open with the same programs or are used for the same purposes. Opening an unrelated file in the programs above might be why you can't get your file to open.

For example, you might really have a Windows self-extracting archive file that ends in .SFX (note the last letter is X, not Z). You'll most likely get an error if you try opening an SFX file in an SFZ editor.

The same is true for others like an SFV, SFC, SFPACK, SFK, FZZ, SSF, or SFF file.

The idea here is to check the file extension and then research the one you're dealing with to figure out how to open the file or convert it to a new file format.

  • What is an SF2 file?

    The SF2 format is an older version of SFZ. Both formats serve the same purpose (storing SoundFont data), but SFZ is easier to edit and harder to corrupt.

  • Can FL Studio open SFZ files?

    Yes. You need the DirectWave VST plugin. Open DirectWave and use the browser to find your SFZ file.

  • Can I open SFZ files in Ableton Live?

    Yes. Use the Ableton Live Sampler or a similar VST plugin like Sforzando.

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