PCM stands for Pulse Code Modulation, which is a popular method for digitally encoding audio. A PCM file contains raw audio data that you can play back on any device that supports the format or type of compression used in the file.
The most common file extension for PCM files is .pcm, but some other extensions include .wav and .aiff.
This guide will explore PCM files - how to play PCM files, convert and open them.
With that said, let’s begin.
A PCM file, or pulse code modulation, is used to store unprocessed digital audio on a computer. A waveform displays the digital sample values of an audio recording (1s and 0s). Since lossless recording is possible, the original digital audio is preserved in the file.
The PCM files can’t use any form of compression to remove unnecessary recordings or decrease file size. However, if the recordings are in raw or compressed format, it frees up storage space and increases the quantity of data that can be transmitted.
Audio samples are stored in a binary sequence in PCM files. The most used format for storing PCM recordings is the wave WAV file.
PCM files can store audio in many channels, at several sample rates, and with varying bit resolutions. So you can use the sample rate and word length to evaluate a PCM file's quality.
How To Open PCM Files
There are a few different ways to open PCM files. Let’s go through them:
If you have an audio editing program that supports PCM files, just open it. Some of these programs include Audacity and Adobe Soundbooth.
These programs allow you to manipulate your audio files and save them in other formats. It can also help you listen to them directly from their respective software.
Other solutions exist if your preferred software doesn't support PCM files. For example, you can convert your raw PCM data into another format using any number of free online converters.
You can convert or export the raw PCM on your computer or mobile device using an audio editing program (if there is no native support).
However, you have to be careful using this method. That’s because if the program doesn’t recognize the file type, it won’t read properly.
Of course, there are tons of programs that can open raw PCM files. So this shouldn’t be a problem.
PCM file is one of the most basic uncompressed audio files out there. That means you can find numerous programs that support this file. It also means your PC should be able to play.
However, you may have to convert them to another widely available format, like MP3 or WAV. Here’s how to play PCM files using different programs:
Audacity is one of the simple sound editing tools that accepts PCM files. Here’s how to import raw PCM audio into Audacity and play.
- Open Audacity
- Choose “Import Raw Data” on the “Project” menu. (If it’s a newer version, go to the “File” menu, then choose “Import Raw Data.”
- Select the PCM file on your PC
- Audacity usually makes an educated guess about the import parameters. You may have to change some of them, like the Sample Rate.
- Click Import.
If you just want to listen to PCM audio data and don’t require something like Audacity, you can use popular players like VLC Player, MPlayer, or Adobe Audition. These programs can work on Windows, Mac, Android, or iPhone.
You can also find several players online that play PCM files. Alternatively, as stated earlier in the previous section, you can convert PCM to MP3, WAV, etc., using online converters.
PCM files is not limited to the PCM format. You can convert them to other formats, such as MP3. And the conversion process is quite simple. Let’s go through some ways to convert PCM to MP3:
Convert PCM To MP3 Using an Audio Converter
There are several audio converters you can download, such as AnyMP4. Here’s how the process works, especially if you use AnyMP4:
- Download any PCM to MP3 converter software of your choice, install, and run the application on your PC.
- For AnyMP4, select "Add Video," then navigate to the PCM files you've already stored on your PC and add them to the software one by one. You can also load the entire audio folder into the software at once by clicking the "Add Video" drop-down menu and selecting the "Add Folder" option. After that, select "MP3 - MPEG Layer-3 Audio" from the "General Audio" section of the "Profile" drop-down menu to complete the conversion.
- You can adjust the audio quality by adjusting the "Encoder," "Sample Rate," "Audio bitrate," and "Channels" in the "Profile Settings" window. Click on “Settings,” then “Profile Settings.”
- Click “Convert” to convert PCM to MP3.
If you’re short on PC space, you can use free online converters like Convertio to convert PCM to MP3. The process is simple; just upload your files and follow the steps to convert your PCM files to MP3.
You can even do the conversion on your mobile device.
Even though PCM files are large, you can still transfer them online using FileWhopper. It’s one of the best and most popular ways to send massive audio files online without worrying about storage and safety.
The process is simple: choose the PCM file you want to send, get a personal link to the file you uploaded, and send.
MP3s come with numerous advantages, not just their small size. It became a freely available standard format after the developers dropped the licensing.
That means you can modify and improve the format. Compared to proprietary formats, which only its creators can read and modify, open standards tend to be more efficient and secure.
You can edit the MP3 file's metadata to include the song's title, artist, and album name, among other details. You can also shorten the file name in the metadata.
Furthermore, because MP3 files are so small, you can easily transfer them online without affecting their quality.
However, MP3 comes with a few drawbacks. For instance, leaving out the inaudible data has a small effect on audio quality. And if you compress the file, it can have some errors, such as crackling or noise.
If you're short on space, PCMs are an excellent option. They are more compressible than bitstreams. So you won't hear as much distortion even when turning up the volume.
Sounds will only be distorted if your computer has a DAC or poor sound card.
It may be time to upgrade your speakers or other audio equipment if you notice distorted sounds or disturbances in your music. You can solve some of these problems by investing in a high-quality speaker set that uses reflection to add reverberation to the sound.
The answer depends on the purpose of the audio. PCM and MP3 have their advantages and disadvantages. So make use of the one that best works for you.
Despite WAV's popularity as an uncompressed format, it does support lossy compression. And you can use the Audio Compression Manager to achieve that.
A WAV file not only stores the audio data but includes metadata such as:
- the file's mono or stereo status,
- bit depth,
- the sampling rate, and several tracks.
The RIFF (Resource Interchange File Format) is a general container format for storing audio and video data in tagged chunks; WAV is a descendant of RIFF. WAVs can be up to 4GB in size. Encoding files larger than this size limit won’t be possible.
Uncompressed WAV files have the highest quality. Also, it’s compatible with Windows and Mac OS. So you can play it without issues on either operating system.
The WAV file is also simple to edit and manipulate because it doesn't need to be encoded or decoded before being accessed.
However, if your storage capacity is limited, the file size may become an issue. This also makes it difficult to transfer WAV files online freely. But you can use FileWhopper to send massive audio files online. So that shouldn’t be a problem.
PCM files have high-quality sound, but it takes up lots of space, just like WAV. The best option for you all boils down to its use. You can use PCM or WAV to record long meetings, and it can be difficult to transfer files online unless you use FileWhopper.
So make a choice based on what you think is best for you.
AAC is quite similar to MP3. This audio file format uses lossy compression and is usually available on iTunes. AAC's compression range is wider, going from 8 kbit/s up to 320 kbit/s.
Also, as the bit rate increases, so does the quality. However, that causes the file size to increase.
Using the AAC file format, you can also store thousands of songs on portable media player devices. And the sound quality is close to uncompressed WAV PCM streams. So they're quite similar to the crystal-clear sound quality of CDs.
Both audio file formats produce high-quality sound. But PCMs come with larger file sizes. So if you want the best audio format to listen to songs, go for AAC.
PCM files store audio data in one of several uncompressed formats. They are commonly associated with computer games, but they can be used for any type of audio content.
These formats are not compressed like MP3s or WAV files, so they have a higher bitrate and sound better than compressed files.
But the file size can be huge, which is why we recommend FileWhopper if you want to send large file sizes online.