When buying beats online or from a producer, you often have the option to decide the quality you are willing to pay for. You can get the mp3 file, a wav file, or the individual wav files also called track outs. Below I’ll outline the differences, and when you should want to pay more for better quality.
MP3s are the main reason why we can take music anywhere we want today. There’s no need to carry around CDs carrying only one album each, instead we can compress those files and carry thousands in our pocket. When you compress a file its highs and lows are being squeezed to the point where you lose some of the clarity and bass. What you end up is more of an approximation of the sound, and not projected the same way the creator heard it. Your engineer will probably shed a tear if they have to mix your vocals to an mp3, just saying.
With wav files you will be getting your sound in an uncompressed format. These files are a lot larger and encompass more of the true sound. The highs and lows that usually get compressed in MP3’s are now present and giving the song more life. In a wav file the sound you receive is going to be a lot more precise.
Session Files or Track Outs
This is the only way to achieve the best possible mix and your engineer will be extremely grateful. This is the ultimate experience for your listeners as you want to make them feel like they were in the studio with you while you were recording greatness. When you purchase track outs you are getting every single instrument in a separate file, that can then be mixed with your voice. If the piano is clashing with your voice and needs to be turned down, no problem. If the engineer wants to eq the drum better with the other instruments, cool. By being able to control every element of the song you’re engineer can bring out the best possible performance of your song.
Which should I buy?
Obviously purchasing exclusive rights to receive track outs is the way you’re going to give your audience the most enjoyable experience when listening to your music. However, it may not be in your budget and you’ve got to start somewhere! If you are on an extremely low budget and trying to release some material for free, mp3’s may be best at the time. In most cases it’s better get the single wav file at the very least. If you expect people to pay for your music you should not be recording vocals on an mp3. If you are doing a commercial release you should without a doubt be buying the session files. There are also artists who invest in their sound early on and purchase exclusive rights as well as track outs to maintain ownership of their work. Of course all of this depends on your budget.
At the end of the day it’s important to invest in yourself as an artist, and be aware of your goals along the way!