A file with the .wav or .wave file extension is a Waveform Audio File Format. It’s a container audio file that stores data in segments. It was created by Microsoft and IBM and has become the standard PC audio file format.

Note: WAVE and WAV files (or the .wav and .wave extension) are the same thing. Throughout this article, we’ll be referring to them as WAV files to save a few words.

What Is a WAV File?

A WAV file is a raw audio format created by Microsoft and IBM. The format uses containers to store audio data, track numbers, sample rate, and bit rate. WAV files are uncompressed lossless audio and as such can take up quite a bit of space, coming in around 10 MB per minute with a maximum file size of 4 GB.

RELATED: What Lossless File Formats Are & Why You Shouldn't Convert Lossy to Lossless

WAV file formats use containers to contain the audio in raw and typically uncompressed “chunks” using the Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF). This is a common method Windows uses for storing audio and video files— like AVI— but can be used for arbitrary data as well.

WAV files are generally going to be much larger than other popular audio file types, like MP3, due to the fact they are typically uncompressed (compression is supported, though). Because of this, they’re mainly used in the professional music recording industry to retain the maximum quality of audio.

RELATED: What Are the Differences Between MP3, FLAC, and Other Audio Formats?

How Do I Open Them?

WAV files are widely used, and because of this, many programs can open them on different platforms—Windows Media Player, Winamp, iTunes, VLC, and QuickTime, to name a few.

Windows and macOS users can play WAV files right out of the box without having to install any third-party software. In Windows 10, WAVs play by default in Windows Media Player. In macOS, they play by default in iTunes. If you’re using Linux, you’ll have to install a player to open WAV files—VLC is a great choice.

All you have to do is double-click on the WAV file, and your default audio player will open the file and start playing.

If, however, you prefer a different audio player than either of those, changing the association of a file is a simple process on either Windows or macOS. And you most likely won’t even have to do that. When you install a new music app, the chances are that the new app will be able to claim the association with WAV files during installation.

Profile Photo for Brady Gavin Brady Gavin
Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He's covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.  
Read Full Bio »