What Are WAV & WAVE Files?

How to open and convert a WAV or WAVE file

What to Know

  • A WAV or WAVE file is a waveform audio file.
  • Some programs that can play a WAV file include Windows Media Player, iTunes, and VLC.
  • Convert one to MP3, M4R, OGG, etc., at Zamzar or FileZigZag.

This article explains what a WAV/WAVE file is and how to play one or convert one to a different audio format.

What Are WAV & WAVE Files?

A file with the .WAV or .WAVE file extension is a waveform audio file. This is a standard audio format seen mainly on Windows computers. The file is usually uncompressed but compression is supported.

Uncompressed WAV files are larger than other popular audio formats, like MP3, so they're typically not used as the preferred audio format when sharing music files online or buying music, but instead for things like audio editing software, operating system functions, and video games.

WAV files.

Waveform Audio is an extension of the bitstream format Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF), which you can read a lot more about at soundfile.sapp.org. WAV is similar to AIFF and 8SVX files, both of which are more commonly seen on Mac operating systems.

How to Open a WAV/WAVE File

WAV files can be opened with Windows Media Player, VLC, iTunes, Windows Media Player, Clementine, and very likely some other popular media player applications as well.

In some cases, the DTS audio codec is used to create a DTS-WAV file that uses the .WAV extension. If that's what you have, try using foobar2000 to open it.

Considering the number of audio player programs out there, and that it's very likely you have more than one installed right now, you may find that one program automatically opens WAV and WAVE files when you actually would prefer a different one. If so, see our How to Change File Associations in Windows tutorial for help doing that.

It's unlikely that your file is something other than an audio file, but it's possible that it could be saved in a different format but still use the WAV or WAVE extension. To test this, open it in a free text editor to view it as a text document.

If the first entry you see is "RIFF," then it's an audio file that should open with one of those programs listed above. If it doesn't, then your particular file may be corrupt (try downloading or copying it again). If the text reads something else, or you know for sure it's not audio, one thing you can do is try to look for another word or phrase in the file that might help start your search for what type of file it might be.

In the unlikely situation where the file is just a text document, which would be the case if the text is readable and not gibberish, then any text editor can be used to open and read the file.

How to Convert a WAV/WAVE File

WAV files are best converted to other audio formats (like MP3, AAC, FLAC, OGG, M4A, M4B, M4R, etc.) with one of the tools in our Free Audio Converter Software Programs list.

If you have iTunes installed, you can convert WAV to MP3 without having to download any extra software. Here's how:

  1. With iTunes open, navigate to the Edit > Preferences menu in Windows, or iTunes > Preferences on a Mac.

  2. With the General tab selected, choose Import Settings.

  3. Next to the Import Using drop-down menu, choose MP3 Encoder.

    iTunes Import Settings
  4. Select OK a couple of times to exit the settings windows.

  5. Select one or more songs that you want iTunes to convert to MP3, and then use File > Convert > Create MP3 Version menu option. This will keep the original audio file but also make a new MP3 with the same name.

Some other free file converters that support converting a WAV file to another format are FileZigZag and Zamzar. These are online converters, which means you have to upload the file to the website, have it converted, and then download it back to your computer. This method is great for smaller files.

More Information on WAV & WAVE Files

This file format restricts file sizes to 4 GB, and some software programs may even restrict this further, to 2 GB.

Some WAV files are actually used to store non-audio data, such as signal forms called waveforms.

Still Can't Open the File?

If your file isn't opening after using the programs from above, there's a really good chance that you're misreading the file extension.

It can be easy to confuse one file extension for another if they're spelled similarly, which means that even though they might look related, they could be in two entirely different file formats that require different file openers.

WVE is one example of a file extension that resembles WAVE and WAV, but it's not an audio file at all. WVE files are Wondershare Filmora project files that open with the Wondershare Filmora video editing program. Others might be WaveEditor project files used with CyberLink software.

If it's not really a WAV or WAVE file that you have, research the actual file extension to learn which programs can open or convert it.

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