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Q: You said you can't play my audio, but I can play it fine. What gives?

I sent you an audio file by email, but you wrote back and said you couldn't play it. I can play it fine on my computer. Shouldn't you be able to play any audio file?


People send us audio material all the time, through web submission forms and by email. We ask for AAC format with the file extension .m4a

The reason we prefer this format is because upload and download times are far too long with WAV files, even through a broadband Internet connection. The sound quality of MP3 isn't adequate for critical listening. AAC currently offers the best compromise.

There are a number of AAC encoding softwares available, some of them are free. We don't specify which AAC encoder you use, just as we don't specify which DAW you should use. There are some areas where each individual needs to make his or her own decision.

However what we do insist on is that any file we receive should play properly in iTunes. We don't audition on iTunes, we audition in a DAW. However the standard of compatibility we impose is iTunes.

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Equipping Your Home Recording Studio

If a file plays in iTunes, then it's OK. We have never found a file that will play in iTunes but won't play in any of our DAW systems.

But why should iTunes be the standard? Are there not other playback softwares, some of them perhaps better than iTunes? And why wouldn't we try one software after another to find one that works with a problematical file?

The answer is that any music producer or sound engineer who aspires to be professional will eventually find themselves sending work by the web and by email to clients.

Suppose a client can't play your file? Will they try every software they can get their hands on until they find one that works?

No, they will hire someone else to do the job.

So we specify iTunes compatibility because it is the most common audio playback software out there, both on PC and Macintosh computers. And of course it connects seamlessly to the most popular audio playback device there is - the iPod.

So before you send your work to anyone, play it back with iTunes. If it doesn't play, find out the cause and fix it.

By the way, AAC is used by professionals for auditioning. For the delivery of finished work, you should use a non-compressed format such as WAV

By David Mellor Thursday August 5, 2010