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WAV, MP3, AIFF: Which Audio File Types Are Best For Final Cut Pro?

Danny Greer

Importing audio in Final Cut Pro is a common task that is often done incorrectly.  Learn how the different audio formats (AIFF, WAV and MP3) work within FCP and how you can insure high audio quality in your projects!

The three most prevalent types of digital audio files are WAV, AIFF and MP3.  Both WAV and AIFF are uncompressed formats, whereas MP3 files are compressed for more lightweight means of delivery (i.e. the Internet).  For more information, see our earlier post on the differences in these formats.

Which audio file types are best for importing into Final Cut Pro?

As a general rule, you should NEVER use Mp3 files in your Final Cut Pro video projects.  Because you will most likely be compressing your project in some way for delivery, you would not want to put an already compressed audio file in FCP.  In doing so, you’d essentially be compressing the audio twice — and that leads to further diminished quality.  On top of that, Final Cut Pro does not process Mp3 files efficiently.  They must be rendered when brought in Final Cut Pro timelines, and often times they will begin to act buggy (such as sound not matching up to audio waveforms).

Use .WAV or .AIFF sound effect and music files in your FCP projects.  This will insure smooth integration within the application, as well as the highest sound quality.

So what do you do when you ONLY have an MP3?

Unfortunately, this happens.  A client brings you a cut of music that they can only find on MP3 and there’s no convincing them to find another track.  In this scenario you can convert the MP3 file to AIFF — this isn’t optimal of course, but it’s much better than using the MP3 in Final Cut Pro.  The audio would still be compressed (you can’t “uncompress” an MP3), but it will be wrapped in a format that integrates better into FCP.

Convert MP3 to AIFF using Compressor

Compressor comes bundled with Final Cut Studio, and it has the tools you’ll need to convert a file from MP3 to AIFF.

  1. Open Compressor
  2. Quickly organize the Compressor windows.  I prefer the Standard view.  From the Menu Bar choose Window >Layouts > Standard 1440 X 900.
  3. Add your MP3 file by clicking “Add File” in the Batch window.
  4. In the Settings window find the Audio folder and the AIFF 48 kHz, 24-bit setting (FCP works well with 48khz).  Drag this setting onto your file in the Batch window.
  5. Right-click on “Source.”  Under the “Destination” drop-down, choose where you’d like the new file saved.
  6. Click the “Submit” button on the bottom right corner of the Batch window.

Again, converting an MP3 file to AIFF or WAV is not ideal. As a general rule, always seek out high-quality, uncompressed audio to ensure best results in Final Cut Pro.  As an additional note, always use royalty-free music and sound effects for your video projects!