Why You Shouldn’t Use WAV Files with iTunes

A poster over at Kirk’s iTunes Forum wanted to split his iTunes library, because it had become too large. I explained two ways of doing this, and, after he used one of these methods, he found that he had 16,000 tracks with no tags. This is because he is using WAV files. I had no way of assuming that this would be the case, so he is going to have to restore from his backup and start over.

This is a cautionary tale. You should not use WAV files with iTunes; in fact, you should probably not use them at all. WAV files don’t have a standard for tags: with most apps, only the file name is portable. (You can tag WAV files, but for some reason, there’s no consistency as to whether different apps or hardware devices can read or write them correctly.)

iTunes is able to manage tags for these files, but only because they’re stored in your iTunes library file; whenever you transfer or copy these files, the tags are lost. I’m not sure how other music management apps handle this, especially on Windows, but I’m sure they all do something similar. Or, this could explain why many Windows users are so obsessive about the folder structure that stores their music: perhaps Windows apps get a lot of their “tags” from folders…

I don’t understand why people use WAV files. The usual explanation is for the quality: WAV files are uncompressed files, the equivalent of CDs. However, they are so poorly supported that there are constantly problems with them.

If you want the best quality in iTunes, use Apple Lossless format. These files, which are compressed using lossless compression, expand or play exactly as WAV (or AIFF) files do. There is no quality loss. Don’t believe the audiophiles who claim they can hear a difference between WAV files and Apple Lossless (or FLAC) files. Apple Lossless files play back as bit-perfect equivalents of WAV files.

It’s true that many years ago, slower processors may have been taxed by the processing required to decompress these files. But this is no longer the case. Heck, even portable music players have processors (or chips) that can handle this task.

So, don’t use WAV files. You’ll just have problems in the long run.

10 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Use WAV Files with iTunes

  1. Due to poor support of tags (I have seen this issue earlier when using iTunes), I give up using wav files long time ago.

    Wav files doesn’t support album artwork, which is another drawback. As long as music is compressed using lossless format, ther would be no difference between different lossless format and wav. Digital signal is definitely not analog signal.

  2. Due to poor support of tags (I have seen this issue earlier when using iTunes), I give up using wav files long time ago.

    Wav files doesn’t support album artwork, which is another drawback. As long as music is compressed using lossless format, ther would be no difference between different lossless format and wav. Digital signal is definitely not analog signal.

    • What is an app like iTunes, which does save text and its database, not write them to WAV files? I’ve always understood the tagging simply isn’t reliable, nor normalized with WAV files.

    • What is an app like iTunes, which does save text and its database, not write them to WAV files? I’ve always understood the tagging simply isn’t reliable, nor normalized with WAV files.

  3. Flac’s arent supported on a lot of players (unless you download another player) and you cant burn flac’s unless youre a weirdo that burns on i tunes and flac’s arent completley losless sure some players have issues with wav but if you have a good pc or mp3 wav is fine

  4. Flac’s arent supported on a lot of players (unless you download another player) and you cant burn flac’s unless youre a weirdo that burns on i tunes and flac’s arent completley losless sure some players have issues with wav but if you have a good pc or mp3 wav is fine

  5. Hi Kirk. You should not say “So, don’t use WAV files.”. I am doing music with PC and mac and .wav is supported by many audio programs. Mp3tag tool CAN write and read tags into/from wav-files (i didnt know that before wav can contain tags). But you are right: Many programs dont use these information. So its very sad…
    I just tested to convert some m4a’s to wav to use them direct in Ableton live. But iTunes throws away the metadata. Very poor….

  6. Hi Kirk. You should not say “So, don’t use WAV files.”. I am doing music with PC and mac and .wav is supported by many audio programs. Mp3tag tool CAN write and read tags into/from wav-files (i didnt know that before wav can contain tags). But you are right: Many programs dont use these information. So its very sad…
    I just tested to convert some m4a’s to wav to use them direct in Ableton live. But iTunes throws away the metadata. Very poor….

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