MP3, WAV, FLAC (info)
This is easily the most popular audio file format in the world. MP3 uses lossy compression algorithms to process audio. Though you lose much of the detail in the compression of the audio, MP3 sound produces a much smaller size than you’ll have in WAV or FLAC. This is why iPods and players of different varieties rely on MP3 files to play music. They’re easier to process and the memory space on a device can accommodate more MP3 files than would be the case if it was a WAV file, FLAC file, or uncompressed format.
WAV is uncompressed, lossy audio that comes in a large file format retaining the original source audio. WAV is the universal file format for Windows, whereas AIFF is Apple’s version of WAV. When writing music, a lot of the time, the audio files you create in your DAW will be WAV. As you bounce things down, you don’t need the unnecessary space that comes with the WAV files. That said, keep the original WAV files in the session as these will be the most honest recordings of the audio produced.
FLAC stands for ‘Free Lossless Audio Codec’ and is the most popular lossless format. Unlike uncompressed WAV audio, FLAC uses a lossless compression algorithm that retains all of the original audio without the size of a WAV file. If you want to store music in a lossless format, FLAC is best as it takes up way less space while still retaining the audio quality.