So, you've recorded some audio for your latest podcast. The only problem is, it's a WAV file. How do you convert WAV to MP3? The good news is, there are a few different options, and none of them are difficult. In this guide, we'll help you choose the best route for your own needs and workflow. Before we do, though, there are a few questions we need to answer.
What's the Difference Between a WAV & MP3 File?
Simply put – size and quality. WAV files are bigger in size, and they contain more detail. This means that audio has the scope to sound better in WAV form – but converting your WAV to an MP3 won't even be noticeable to all but the most experienced sound engineers. Even then, when we're only dealing with spoken-word audio, it's much harder to spot the difference. Most people simply can't.
In fact, let's put that to the test right now. Here's the same clip from one of our Podcraft podcast episodes. One is in its original WAV form, the other has been converted to MP3. The WAV is over 14 times the file size of the MP3. But can you tell which is which?
That’s why podcasters tend to upload MP3 files when publishing their shows. The files are smaller, which means listeners can stream and download on their phones without it eating all of their data. Again, looking back at a recent episode of Podcraft, the final MP3 was under 13,000kb, whilst the same episode in WAV form would've been over 207,000kb. That's almost 16 times the size!
All MP3 Files Aren't Equal
There's a quality scale when it comes to MP3 files themselves, too. The usual principles apply – the bigger the file size, the more scope there is for better quality sound.
An MP3s “bitrate” or “kbps” will give you the info about its general size and audio quality. Traditional “CD Quality” was around the 128kbps – 192kbps mark. An audio drama producer might opt for one of these bitrates in their final episode, but most spoken-word podcasters can drop down to 96kpbs without any noticeable negative effects. In the two example files above, the MP3 version (which was B, incidentally – could you tell?) is only 96kbps, which is considered lower-quality by many. As an aside, one of the most famous podcasters in the world, Marc Maron, publishes his episodes at a lowly 64kbps. It doesn't seem to be doing him any harm!
For a deeper dive on this, check out what bitrate should I use for a podcast?
So, How Do I Convert WAV to MP3?
We now know the difference between the two, and a bit about the different size and quality options with MP3s. It's time to look at some options for turning one into the other.
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Option 1 – Your Podcast Host Might Just Do It Automatically
Your podcast hosting provider is the place you upload and publish your episodes. Some pride themselves on a policy of “whatever you upload is what your listeners download”, whilst others take a “wait, let us optimise that for you” approach. Neither is right or wrong: it's entirely down to what works best for you.
As podcasting gets more popular, fewer people are interested in learning the ins and outs of things like audio formats and optimal bitrates. So, if you upload a WAV file to hosting provider Buzzsprout, they'll automatically convert it to a 96kbps MP3 for you. You can also use their “Magic Mastering” feature to automatically generate a higher quality MP3 (192kbps) if your show has a lot of music, sound effects, and other audio elements.
Buzzsprout aren't alone in this. I initially tried to upload my audio samples to this article via Transistor, and it automatically converted the WAV to an MP3. I could've just stopped writing right here 😀
Buzzsprout and Transistor are two of our recommended podcast hosting providers. You might find that roundup useful if you're yet to choose a home for your show, but it's probably not a reason to go changing podcast host over. There are other options…
Option 2 – Use Your Editing & Production Software
There are loads of different podcast editing software options out there these days. A long-serving and popular option is Audacity. Audacity is free, and there isn't much it can't do. If you pull a WAV file into Audacity, you can do what you need to do with it (edits, noise reduction, compression, etc) then click File > Export as MP3. You'll be asked to choose a bitrate, which we've talked about already, but that's really all there is to it. The downside of Audacity is that it's a steep learning curve if you're new to audio. It's not the most intuitive or easy on the eye, and it can be very intimidating for complete beginners. If you've had a look and don't think it's for you, then another option is Alitu.
Alitu is our own ‘Podcast Maker' web app, and it's designed to make podcast editing and production as easy and as automatic as possible.
For example, I mentioned doing noise reduction and compression in Audacity. With Alitu, you don't need to worry about that – it all happens automatically. You still need to manually chop out any mistakes or unwanted bits in your audio, but Alitu's tools and interface make this simpler than navigating your average social media website. Here's how to make a podcast with Alitu for a more extensive look around this tool. The bottom line, though, is that Alitu will convert WAV to MP3 for you automatically prior to publishing. In fact, you won't even need to see your finished file as you can upload to most top hosting providers directly from within the Alitu interface.
Option 3 – Use a Desktop App Like VLC or iTunes
To be honest, there are few reasons why this would ever be your best option in 2021. Nevertheless, if you already use VLC Media Player or the iTunes desktop app then you can easily enable either to convert a WAV to an MP3.
With iTunes, you'd go to Edit > Preferences > Import Settings, then select MP3 encoder. Then, highlight the WAV file you want to convert in your iTunes library, hit File > Convert and Create MP3 Version.
With VLC, click Add and open the WAV file you want to convert. Then, click Media > Convert/Save, and select Audio – MP3.
As I say, both are very simple, but it’s probably not worth downloading either app, if you don't already use it. There are plenty of other good options out there.
Summary: How to Convert WAV to MP3
WAV files are great source material, but think of them as your original painting, and the MP3 versions as the prints of that painting that'll be distributed to your listeners.
Already using iTunes or VLC Media Player on your desktop? You can quickly and easily convert WAV to MP3 files on either of those.
Finally (and easiest of all), you might use a tool or platform that will do this conversion for you. For example, if you do your editing and production via Alitu, or if you host on a provider like Transistor or Buzzsprout, then the conversion from WAV to MP3 will happen automatically!
Need More Help?
In The Podcast Host Academy you'll find all of our courses, from planning and launch, to editing, interviewing, and growth. On top of that we've got downloadable templates and checklists, and we run weekly live Q&A sessions, too.