Timeline of audio formats

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An audio format is a medium for storing sound and music. The term is applied to both the physical recording media and the recording formats of the audio content – in computer science it is often limited to the audio file format, but its wider use usually refers to the physical method used to store the data.

Music is recorded and distributed using a variety of audio formats, some of which store additional information.

Timeline of audio format developments[edit]

Year Media formats Recording formats
1860 Phonautogram Mechanical analog; sound waveform transcribed to paper or glass
1877 Phonograph cylinder Mechanical analog; "hill-and-dale" grooves, vertical stylus motion
1878 - 1916 Ediphone - Dictaphone Mechanical analog, The Ediphone and subsequent wax cylinders used in Edison's other product lines continued to be sold up until 1929 when the Edison Company folded.
1883 Music roll Mechanical digital (automated musical instruments)
1895 Gramophone record Mechanical analog; lateral grooves, horizontal stylus motion
1898 Wire recording Analog; magnetization; DC "bias"
1925 Electrical cut record Mechanical analog; electrically cut from amplified microphone signal, lateral grooves, horizontal stylus motion, discs at 7", 10", 12", most at 78 rpm
1930s Reel-to-Reel, Magnetic Tape Analog; magnetization; AC "bias" dramatically increases linearity/fidelity, tape speed at 30 ips, later 15 ips and other refined speeds: 7½ ips, 3¾ ips, 1⅞ ips
Electrical transcriptions Mechanical analog; electrically cut from amplified microphone signal, high fidelity sound, lateral or vertical grooves, horizontal or vertical stylus motion, most discs 16" at 33⅓ rpm
1936 Tefifon Electromechanical, vinyl belt housed in a cassette, used an "embossing" technique using a stylus to imprint the information, was the first "audio cassette".
1945 SoundScriber Analog, 4-6 inch discs, It recorded sound by "pressing" grooves into soft vinyl discs.
1947 Dictabelt (Memobelt) Analog, medium consisting of a thin, plastic belt 3.5" wide that was placed on a cylinder and rotated like a tank tread, developed by the Dictaphone company in 1947.
1948 Vinyl Record Analog, with preemphasis and other equalization techniques (LP, RIAA); lateral grooves, horizontal stylus motion; discs at 7" (most 45 rpm), 10" and 12" (most 33⅓ rpm)
1951 Minifon P55 Analog, magnetic wire on reel, 30 cm/s or about 11.8nbsp;ips was quickly adopted by many governments as being the ultimate "spy" recorder of its day
1957 Stereophonic Vinyl Record Analog, with preemphasis and other equalization techniques. Combination lateral/vertical stylus motion with each channel encoded 45 degrees to the vertical.
1957 Dictet Analog, ¼ tape, 2.48 in/s, (3" reels housed 5.875 x 3 x .4375 inch cassette), developed by the Dictaphone Corp, was the very first dictation machine to use magnetic tape cassettes.
1958 RCA tape cartridge (Sound Tape) (Magazine Loading Cartridge) Analog, ¼ inch wide tape (stereo & mono), 3¾ in/s & 1.875 in/s, one of the first attempts to offer reel-to-reel tape recording quality in a convenient format for the consumer market.
1959 NAB Cart Tape (Fidelipac) Analog, ¼ inch wide tape in cartridge, 7½ in/s & 15 in/s, Introduced in 1959 by Collins Radio, the cart tape format was designed for use by radio broadcasters to play commercials, bumpers and announcements.
1962 4-Track (Stereo-Pak) Analog, 14-inch-wide (6.4 mm) tape, 3¾ in/s, endless loop cartridge.
1963 Compact Cassette Analog, with bias. 0.15-inch-wide (3.8 mm) tape, 1⅞ in/s. 1970: introduced Dolby noise reduction.
1964 Sanyo Micro Pack 35 (Channel Master 6546) ¼ inch wide tape housed in a transparent cartridge measuring 2.6 x 2.9 x 1.9 inches, tape was stored on two reels residing atop one another, keeping the cartridge compact.
1965 8-Track (Stereo-8) Analog, ¼ inch wide tape, 3¾ in/s, endless loop cartridge.
1966 PlayTape Analog, ⅛ inch wide tape, endless loop cartridge, introduced by "Frank Stanton"
1969 Microcassette Analog, ⅛ inch wide tape, used generally for notetaking, mostly mono, some stereo (developed in the early 80's). 2.4 cm/s or 1.2 cm/s.
Minicassette Analog, ⅛ inch wide tape, used generally for notetaking, 1.2 cm/s
1970 Quadraphonic 8-Track (Quad-8) (Q8) Analog, ¼ inch wide tape, 3¾ in/s, 4 Channel Stereo, endless loop cartridge.
1971 Quadraphonic Vinyl Record (CD-4) (SQ Matrix) Analog.
1975 Betamax Digital Audio Digital.
Analog. Dolby Stereo cinema surround sound.
1976 Elcaset Analog.
1978 Laserdisc Digital/Analog.
1982 Compact Disc (CD-DA) Digital. Linear PCM (LPCM)
1985 Digital. Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF)
1985 Digital. Sound Designer (by Digidesign) (SD and DIG formats).
1986 High Definition Compatible Digital (HDCD) Digital. Redbook compatible physical CD containing 20–24 bit information (uses Linear Pulse Code Modulation (LPCM).
1987 Digital Audio Tape (DAT) Digital.
1991 MiniDisc (MD) Digital. Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding (ATRAC)
1992 Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) Digital, ⅛ inch wide tape, 1⅞ in/s, introduced by Philips and Matsushita in late 1992, marketed as the successor to the standard analog Compact Cassette.
Digital. WAVEform (WAV)
Digital. Dolby Digital surround cinema sound. Also known as Dolby Stereo Digital until 1994.
1993 Digital. Digital Theatre System (DTS), Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS), MPEG-1 Audio Layer III (MP3).
1994 Digital. TwinVQ.
1997 DVD Digital. Dolby Digital, Digital Theatre System (DTS)
DTS-CD Digital. DTS Audio
1999 DVD-Audio Digital. Including Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP), Linear PCM (LPCM), Dolby Digital (AC-3) and Digital Theatre System (DTS).
Super Audio CD (SACD) Digital. Direct Stream Digital
Digital. Windows Media Audio (WMA)
Digital. The True Audio Lossless Codec (TTA)
2000 Digital. Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)
2001 Digital. Advanced audio coding (AAC)
2002 Digital. Ogg Vorbis
2003 DualDisc Digital. Multiple formats encoded onto the same disc.
2004 Digital. Apple Lossless (ALE or ALAC)
2005 HD DVD Digital. Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio
Digital. OggPCM
2006 Blu-ray Disc Digital. Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio
2008 slotMusic Digital. Usually at 320 kbit/s MP3 on microSD or microSDHC
Blu-spec CD Digital. PCM
2010 DCP (Digital Cinema Package) Digital. Auro-3D codec

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