Audio, Video, and Image Formats

Tech Talker explains the difference between lossless and lossy file formats. Which type of file is right for you? Click to find out.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #59

Which Do I Want?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect answer that tips one way or the other. However there are many situations where each is superior.

For example, lossless files are great for original content as they will retain their full quality. If they ever needed to be shared, the file types could always be compressed to save on space.

This is an important concept: Files can always be converted from a lossless format to a lossy format, but they can never be converted back the other way. So you can’t regain quality once a file has been compressed.

Luckily for us, file compression has been around for quite a while and algorithms have been developed that make the compression as efficient as possible. What this means is that even though an .mp3 file is a lossy format, it still sounds great and saves on space. There are even circumstances now where it might be next to impossible to distinguish between a lossy file and a lossless file.

I recently took a Lifehacker test which compares the differences between lossless and lossy audio files. I thought for sure that I would be able to tell the difference, but to my surprise I definitely couldn’t! Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Here are you Quick and Dirty Tips for using lossy and lossless file types:

  1. Lossy files sacrifice quality to save on space.

  2. Lossless files sacrifice space to save on quality.

  3. Lossy files can still retain great quality, depending on how much space you want to save.

  4. Lossless files types are best for original files of music, pictures and video.

  5. Lossless files can always be converted to a lossy file type but never the other way around.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post your comments on the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.