AAC vs MP3: Which Music Format Is Better?

Last Updated: May 16, 2017

MP3, the file format that completely revolutionized the way we listen to music over the past couple of decades is now considered as irrelevant and outdated by none other than the creators themselves. The founders of the format have in fact went ahead and terminated their patent licensing program. The situation pretty much looks like a goodbye to the mostly widely used audio format in the world after lasting for almost 24 years. Now, it’s time for some other format to take over and it boils down to only two, AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) and FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec).

Similar to MP3, the AAC format which utilizes lossy digital audio compression, seems to be in a convenient position to replace MP3 rather than FLAC, which is a completely different format for lossless compression of digital audio. With MP3’s demise, there couldn’t be a better time to know more about the potential replacement that can take over the entire audio industry. So, without further ado, let’s pit AAC vs MP3 and find out if it’s ready to replace MP3:

Popularity

When it comes to popularity, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that MP3 is clearly the winner. In fact, it’s one of the widely used file formats in the world and some of us even go ahead and consider music files as MP3. So, that’s the kind of popularity this format has achieved over the past two decades, since the original launch back in 1993.

AAC file format, is not even close to being as popular as MP3 as of now, but it’s rapidly progressing to say the least. A slew of streaming and broadcasting services presently use the AAC file format, as it’s a more efficient audio codec when compared to MP3. The developers realized that the much-loved file format was outdated and outpaced by the competition, which is one of the reasons that led to the termination of the license. That being said, AAC is not a new file format. It’s been around here for about a decade, being just 4 years younger to the MP3 format. However, it has been overshadowed by the latter in terms of popularity and only until recently has it started to popularize like crazy, thanks to Apple making use of this format across all their popular services.

File Size

AAC outshines the MP3 file format in this department, as AAC files are slightly smaller than the MP3 files of the same song. Let’s say, you have an MP3 file of a song weighing in at 10 MB. The same song in the AAC file format will weigh just around 8 MB. This might not sound like a big deal when you just take a single file into consideration but we all have plenty of music files on our devices that take up our precious storage space. If you’ve stored music in the AAC file format, you’ll certainly save a good chunk of storage space.

Sound Quality

In spite of the fact that an AAC file is smaller than an equivalent MP3 file, it still manages to outperform the MP3 format in terms of overall sound quality, which is the main reason why AAC is considered as the future of lossy digital audio. AAC has much more sample frequencies when you pit it against MP3. It also handles audio frequencies above 16Hz much better. Likewise, higher coding efficiency and accuracy for stationary and transient signals respectively makes AAC a better option than MP3 as the go-to file format for music files.

Compatibility

I hope you probably know the answer already. If not, MP3 file format is the king of compatibility without a doubt, being supported by almost every single music player and device that’s capable of music playback.

When it comes to AAC, that’s not really the case, as it doesn’t work on certain music players and devices, but it’s getting there. AAC has been widely used by Apple across all their popular devices like iPhones, iPods etc. and iTunes software as well. Now that MP3 is considered obsolete, we’re certain that manufacturers and developers will jump on the AAC bandwagon and provide complete support for this audio format across all the devices and software.

AAC vs MP3: Comparison

SpecificationsAAC FormatMP3 Format
CompressionLossyLossy
Extensions.m4a, .m4b, .m4p, .m4v, .m4r, .3gp, .mp4, .aac.mp3
CodecAudio onlyAudio only
Sound QualityBetter than MP3Sub-par when compared to AAC
File SizeSlightly smaller than MP3Higher and requires more space
PopularityPopular, especially among Apple usersHugely Popular
CompatibilityiPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, Groove Music, DivX, PlayStationSupported by almost every single music player and device
Initial Launch19971993

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AAC vs MP3: AAC Is The Future

Admit it or not, after the demise of the much-loved MP3 format, AAC can easily be considered as a worthy successor, as it outperforms the MP3 format in almost every aspect apart from Popularity and Compatibility, but tables can turn in the following years. Just give AAC some time, and it will soon be right at the top, where MP3 used to be. So, are you ready to make the switch to AAC format for music files or are you just going to stick with the MP3 for bit more? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below.

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The guy who settles for nothing less than the absolute latest and greatest in technology. A sucker for anything hardware related and prefers iOS to Android. Because, reasons. Also, I spend the other half of the day playing Battlefield with gamers from around the world. That's right, all hail the glorious PC Master Race.

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