How to convert any audio file to WAV using ffmpeg

Here is how to convert any audio file to WAV using ffmpeg.

Step 1:Which PCM output format?

Decide on which PCM format to use. Here is how to get a list:

$ ffmpeg -formats | grep PCM
 DE alaw            PCM A-law
 DE f32be           PCM 32-bit floating-point big-endian
 DE f32le           PCM 32-bit floating-point little-endian
 DE f64be           PCM 64-bit floating-point big-endian
 DE f64le           PCM 64-bit floating-point little-endian
 DE mulaw           PCM mu-law
 DE s16be           PCM signed 16-bit big-endian
 DE s16le           PCM signed 16-bit little-endian
 DE s24be           PCM signed 24-bit big-endian
 DE s24le           PCM signed 24-bit little-endian
 DE s32be           PCM signed 32-bit big-endian
 DE s32le           PCM signed 32-bit little-endian
 DE s8              PCM signed 8-bit
 DE u16be           PCM unsigned 16-bit big-endian
 DE u16le           PCM unsigned 16-bit little-endian
 DE u24be           PCM unsigned 24-bit big-endian
 DE u24le           PCM unsigned 24-bit little-endian
 DE u32be           PCM unsigned 32-bit big-endian
 DE u32le           PCM unsigned 32-bit little-endian
 DE u8              PCM unsigned 8-bit

If you don’t know which format to use: s16le is the most common. You have to put the prefix pcm_ in front of the chosen value when calling ffmpeg.

Step 2: What sampling rate?

The best option is to use the exact same sampling rate as the input file. You can use the ffprobe command to get the original value:

$ ffprobe 01.mp3
Input #0, mp3, from '01.mp3':
  Metadata:
    title           : Sample Title
    artist          : Sample Artist
  Duration: 00:05:51.71, start: 0.025057, bitrate: 196 kb/s
    Stream #0:0: Audio: mp3, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16p, 196 kb/s
    Metadata:
      encoder         : LAME3.97 
    Side data:
      replaygain: track gain - -8.600000, track peak - unknown, album gain - unknown, album peak - unknown,

If you don’t know which value to use, 44100 is very common.

Step 3: Convert

Now that you know all your parameters, you can convert any audio file to WAV using ffmpeg. Here’s an example command:

ffmpeg -i input.mp3 -acodec pcm_s16 -ar 44100 output.wav