Monkey's Audio Definition: What is the APE Format?

A look at the APE format and the pros / cons of using it

Monkey's Audio which is represented by the .ape file extension is a lossless audio format (also know as APE codec, MAC format). This means that it doesn't discard audio data like lossy audio formats do such as MP3, WMA, AAC, and others. It can, therefore, create digital audio files that faithfully reproduce the original sound source during playback. Many audiophiles and music fans wishing to perfectly preserve their original audio CDs (CD ripping), vinyl records or tapes (Digitizing) will often favor a lossless audio format like Monkey's audio for their first generation digital copy.

When using Monkey's Audio to compress your original audio source, you can expect to get approximately a 50% reduction on the original uncompressed size. Compared to other lossless formats like FLAC (which varies between 30 - 50%), Monkey's Audio achieves better than average lossless compression.

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Compression Levels

The audio compression levels that Monkey's Audio currently uses are:

  1. Fast (Mode switch: -c1000).
  2. Normal (Mode switch: -c2000).
  3. High (Mode switch: -c3000).
  4. Extra High (Mode switch: -c4000).
  5. Insane (Mode switch: -c5000).

As the level of audio compression increases so does the level of complexity. This results in slower encoding and decoding so you will need to think about the tradeoff between how much space you'll save versus encoding/decoding time.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Monkey's Audio

Just like any audio format, there are advantages and disadvantages worth weighing up before you decide whether to use it or not. Here is a list of the main pros and cons of encoding your original audio sources in the Monkey's Audio format.

  • Preservation of Original Sound Source: One of the advantages of preserving your original music by using Monkey's Audio (like other lossless formats), is that if an original audio CD, for example, is damaged or lost, you can create a perfect copy from your first generation digitally encoded APE file.

  • Good Lossless Compression: Monkey's Audio typically achieves better lossless compression than other competing formats like FLAC.

  • Good Software Media Player Support: There is a wide range of free plugins available in order to enable the playback of .ape files on software media players. Popular jukebox software you can use (with the relevant plugin) include Windows Media Player, Foobar2000, Winamp, Media Player Classic, and others.

  • Decoding is Resource Intensive: One of the downsides to encoding sound using Monkey's Audio is that the compression system is CPU intensive. This means that it takes quite a lot of processing power to playback audio. Because of this, the Monkey's Audio format is only supported on a small number of PMP/MP3 players that have powerful CPU's.

  • Restricted Platform Support and License: Monkey's Audio is currently only officially available on one operating system platform -- Microsoft Windows. Even though the Monkey's Audio license agreement allows the compression system to be used freely, it isn't open source. In contrast, the FLAC project is open source and has been developed much more due to its large community of active developers.