Looking down the list of Pro Tools' file-types while making a session, there is:

WAV AIFF SD II QuickTime Sound Resource MXF

I have only ever used WAV.

What do you guys use and why do you consider it "the best"?

My guess it's just a system compatibility thing. Like both PCs and Macs can use WAVs so that gets the most use.

Or could it be an actual sonic difference?

8 Answers 8


See sources at the bottom :)

AIFF and WAV both store PCM data and support meta tagging. WAV seems to have a size limit of 4Gb but nothing is mentioned about AIFF.

SD II works differently, it is non-destructive as it stores the audio samples and separately the parameters of transformations. It is a Digidesign format, not really compatible with anything else from what I understand.

"MXF has full timecode and metadata support". It seems to be quite new and supports more elements than the previous formats (wrappers) I discussed.

Can't find anything exciting on QuickTime and Sound Resource, all I can say is that QuickTime is a wrapper, pretty much like AIFF and WAV except it does video as well and a lot more codecs.


  • Wow thanks for doing the homework. MXF could be the new WAV?
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 22:33
  • Nice links @Justin. @Ryan With SMPTE behind MXF you may just be right, a new standard could be on the way. Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 22:36
  • Ha, the thing is that I haven't discussed the results much, but the wikipedia articles do so I relied on that for the moment. It would be great if somebody had more sources, it could make a nice post! MXF does video as well (I got MXF's from a Panasonic P2), so you can't compare it to WAV but rather QuickTime ;) Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 22:38
  • 1
    SDII is pretty much obsolete. The biggest reason is because of the bit/sample rate limit. Pro Tools still accepts it, so that it can remain backwards compatible with really old sessions. Other than that I know Mac OS9 used to support it, but I don't know of anything beyond that. Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 11:09
  • If I understand correctly, MXF is basically an audio/video wrapper designed to he used for hi-rez/HD content. Like QT, but for really big data.
    – g.a.harry
    Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 11:28

if I'm not wrong BWF WAV is actually the official recommendation for audio exchange and archiving. ITU BR.1574 among others.. also the nice AES people have standardised the RF64 riff chunk so WAV can hold more than 4GB of data.

  • I always use BWF, you never know when you have to move to another DAW.
    – alansende
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 23:37
  • 3
    Ryan, >4GB of data (sound) altogether, not metadata.
    – georgi
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 1:16
  • @georgi.m Oh. Woops!
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 23:44
  • I'd love to see what 4GB of metadata would look like though ;) Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 7:16

For the ability to embed metadata alone, WAV gets my vote. I remember not too long ago going back and forth referring to printed catalogs and cuing up the CD changer to load FX. Ugh, no thanks. No more.

I haven't had much experience with MXF, but as far as the rest of them go. WAV.

  • Sound Ideas, eh? I think I still have that phone-book somewhere.
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 22:37
  • 1
    I can't stop hearing that 6035 Big Woosh everywhere I listen.
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 22:37
  • 2
    That phone book is propping up my video monitor an extra inch and half as I type this. Still good for something. Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 4:09

No sonic different to my ears between wav, aiff, and SD2. I'd stick with wav as it has become the industry standard (SD2 is dying for sure) and you can embed metadata nicely in them.


Im not completely sure on AIFF but what Ive heard over the years: AIFF, the original apple audio file (?)

SD2, an AIFF with timestamping, developed for interop between PT and media composer. mac only.

Wav, the microsoft file

BWF, a wav with a monstrous, agreed, standardised metadata chunk, which is malleable, developed for archiving and longevity, as already mentioned - recommended as a standard, works on mac and pc.

MXF is the Media Exchange Format wrapper, and is in a "non-divergence" metadata agreement with the Advanced Authoring format, the AAF (more open version of OMF). Its Avids native video media wrapper, and sometimes audio comes across with an MXF wrapper as well.

Many broadcasters are going to full MXF output, wrapping it around production assets with video as mpeg longop and audio as dolby E streams being fed into playout servers.

Key thing - if you are in film, you want BWF, untampered, all the way from production through to you. If video change it to AIFF you may lose critical metadata from the BEXT chunk and iXML chunk.


My 2 cents: "Sir, please away from the SD2. Sir, I repeat, please turn around gently and slowly step away from the SD2 right now"


Justin has all the right answers. As a note WAV/AIFF and SDII are ALL Linear PCM schemes... which means there are technically no sonic differences between them -given the same source material, bit depth and samplerate - the 1's and 0's are the same. The difference is in the way they "package" this data with the metadata and what metadata. Quicktime and MXF can wrap encoded files (i.e MP3, MP4, AAC, etc, etc...) as well as straight Linear PCM - although BWF is the recommended format for MXF, so it's possible to have different sonic qualities. IF you want the technical nitty gritty on MXF you can find it here


Me, I've stuck to the Wave-format mainly because it's a good format and I've never really had any reason to change, as well as I'm very fond of the Broadcast Wave File-extension :-) When it comes to compressed formats I shun em' as the plague...with the style of design-work and over all sound editing I usually work by my computer already hates me as it is, I don't really wanna strain the processor even more no matter how small... /CvanC

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