MID versus WAV& RA

Which sound files to use in Web pages

Today digitally sampled music is seen as the normal modern standard for sound recording. Analog tape recorders and the more common cassette recorders are seen as inferior, outdated choices for quality sound recordings. However, in the modern recording world there is still a search for the "warmth" of old style tape recording, and this battle is not over yet. With sampling technology advancing as fast as computer development, this controversy may soon be settled. Sampling has introduced the new way of storing sound in a computerized format. WAV files so named for their file extension consist of a digital sampled sound event, like the ones in a synthesizer wave table- hence the name. RA files are similar, it is a proprietary format for Real Audio, which also uses all digital sound sampling.

Long sidelined as a secondary tool only , MIDI recording has developed over the past decade to an art form by itself. MIDI recording has established itself as a serious alternative for instrumental music recording. MIDI files are becoming the back bone of most composing, arranging and musical training. The performance is stored in a simple player style sequence - sometimes called digital sheet music - that can easily be carried over to any system that has the same MIDI standard interface- even to a sheet music printer. 


MIDI files have the standard file ending .MID .They contain data to let a synthesizer play previously stored sound sequences in this recorded order - they do not contain a specific sound like a tape recording - they are merely player instructions for your synthesizer or sound card. They basically are a digital sheet music for the player/generator. They are very compact containing only player sequence instructions.

Therefore the sound quality depends totally on your sound card's synthesizer/voice capability.

The same Midi file may sound quite different on several sound systems. Not in the way like the same music piece sounds different in case the philharmonics or the school orchestra are playing it - the difference is in the quality of a good or bad musical instrument sound , which is put out by your synthesizer or sound card.. While with MIDI instructions the timing and volume is strictly the same,  the sound quality depends entirely on the tonal quality of the "synthesizer" sound you use to play them. With a MIDI interface you also can use any MIDI capable sound source outside of the computer up to a whole music studio setting.

Simple FM synthesis in sound cards is easily distingushable from the digital sound sample from a wave table synthesizer- like the sound you make on a watering can from the sound of a real trombone.

WAV & RA files are named so , as stated abovc, for the file suffix. They are digitally stored sound samples, the same like in a CD recording. The sound reproduced is deemed to be "original" as long as your sound card can reproduce the sample in the original resolution. This resolution is a sampling rate varying form as low as 16 KHz to 48 KHz or more - CD standard is 44.1 KHz .
The data contain the complete sound information - they are not depending on the synthesizer ability of your sound card. If it can reproduce the sampling rate, it should by design give out the sampled sound . It is basically the same like playing a CD or tape. The sound file contains all the music but the vast number of sampling makes such files big. You need about 16 M of storage space to hold a normal length song of 3 minutes in CD quality stereo.Without going into more technical details - the basic fact is, that for every second of sound sample you have to store about 16K to 48K, depending on your sampling rate, - twice that for stereo - even if there is "no" sound.

Compression technology has shrunk such files but still they are sizable.The DEMO file for Real Audio's RA-Player is 60K in size.playing 12 seconds in duration.   The most known computer sound file - MS-Windows tada.wav - is 1.25 seconds long with 26K in size. This shows the benefit of newer advanced technology used in RA files over simple WAV files, but still the file size is demanding.

This by itself could be a real problem if your page site is limited in size. Also it takes quite some time to load such files via internet-modem. Therefore you must have at least a 14.4K modem to reproduce acceptable sound quality.

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With MIDI files you do not depend for sound quality on the communication speed. When the MIDI file is loaded it plays your synthesizer/sound card totally independent from the modem speed. (Hopefully with a good sound quality). Only the time it takes to load the file depends on the modem transmission speed. That is why "short is better".

"Streaming" is a process where the MIDI files are cut and sent in little pieces which can be played before the entire file is in your computer. It is like playing a chain of songs, only in this case the chain is made up by chunks of the longer MIDI file. It requires special measures to do this and it may not be compatible with all browsers or plugins.

However, normal MIDI files are always shorter than any sampled sound file.

for example:

the midi-LOOPs ML TADA  is under 300 bytes in size for 1.5 seconds of music! 
( compare to 26K = 26,000 for TADA.WAV for 1.25 seconds of music! )

the midi-LOOPs Welcome fanfare is only 860 bytes in size for 10 seconds of music! 
( compare to 60K = 60,000 for WELCOME.RA for 12 seconds of music! )

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The facts speak for themselves.

We think that MIDI files give you an obvious advantage for music & sound with your computer, as long as you do not depend on original live sound recordings.

Sound cards are getting better and more powerful than ever before . To have a 32 voice MIDI orchestra on your sound card is already a reality, not to say standard,  and the orchestra is growing in newer sound cards doubling the numbers of voices to 64 and using better quality sampled sounds in their wave tables. With MIDI files you have the "sheet-music" for this orchestra - only make sure your speakers can handle an orchestra or rock band or marching band........

midi-LOOPs forever music   is all that music for everyone in short files.

1997 midi-LOOPs / Wolfgang W. Scherer



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