Julia package for working with WAV files

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This is a Julia package to read and write the WAV audio file format.


julia> Pkg.add("WAV")

Getting Started

WAV provides wavread, wavwrite, and wavappend commands to read, write, and append WAV files. Here is an example to get you started. It generates some data, writes it to a file and then reads the data back. wavplay is also provided for simple audio playback.

julia> using WAV
julia> x = [0:7999;]
julia> y = sin.(2 * pi * x / 8000)
julia> wavwrite(y, "example.wav", Fs=8000)
julia> y, fs = wavread("example.wav")
julia> y = cos.(2 * pi * x / 8000)
julia> wavappend(y, "example.wav")
julia> y, fs = wavread("example.wav")
julia> wavplay(y, fs)


This function reads the samples from a WAV file. The samples are converted to floating point values in the range from -1.0 to 1.0 by default.

function wavread(io::IO; subrange=Any, format="double")
function wavread(filename::String; subrange=Any, format="double")

The available options, and the default values, are:

  • format (default = double): changes the format of the returned samples. The string double returns double precision floating point values in the range -1.0 to 1.0. The string native returns the values as encoded in the file. The string size returns the number of samples in the file, rather than the actual samples.
  • subrange (default = Any): controls which samples are returned. The default, Any returns all of the samples. Passing a number (Real), N, will return the first N samples of each channel. Passing a range (Range1{Real}), R, will return the samples in that range of each channel.

The returned values are:

  • y: The acoustic samples; A matrix is returned for files that contain multiple channels.
  • Fs: The sampling frequency
  • nbits: The number of bits used to encode each sample
  • opt: A Dict{Symbol, Any} of optional chunks found in the WAV file.

The dictionary returned in the opt field depends on the contents of the WAV file. All valid WAV files will contain a "fmt" chunk. The "fmt" entry in the dictionary will contain an instance of type WAVFormat. The WAVFormat type is defined as::

immutable WAVFormat
    bytes_per_second::UInt32 # average bytes per second

The ext field of type WAVFormatExtension is defined as::

immutable WAVFormatExtension
    nbits::UInt16 # overrides nbits in WAVFormat type
    sub_format::Array{UInt8, 1} # 16 byte GUID
    WAVFormatExtension() = new(0, 0, Array(UInt8, 0))
    WAVFormatExtension(nb, cm, sb) = new(nb, cm, sb)

You can use the isformat function to test how the samples are encoded, without worrying about the WAVFormatExtension type. Extended WAV files were added to deal with some ambiguity in the original specification.

isformat(fmt::WAVFormat, code)

The isformat function takes the format object from the opt output dictionary of wavread and one of WAV_FORMAT_ constants, respectively. The function returns true when the samples are encoded in the specified code.

The following functions are also defined to make this function compatible with MATLAB:

wavread(filename::String, fmt::String) = wavread(filename, format=fmt)
wavread(filename::String, N::Int) = wavread(filename, subrange=N)
wavread(filename::String, N::Range1{Int}) = wavread(filename, subrange=N)
wavread(filename::String, N::Int, fmt::String) = wavread(filename, subrange=N, format=fmt)
wavread(filename::String, N::Range1{Int}, fmt::String) = wavread(filename, subrange=N, format=fmt)


Writes samples to a RIFF/WAVE file io object. The io argument accepts either an IO object or a filename (String). The function assumes that the sample rate is 8 kHz and uses 16 bits to encode each sample. Both of these values can be changed with the options parameter. Each column of the data represents a different channel. Stereo files should contain two columns. The options are passed via an Options object (see the :ref:options page <options-module>).

function wavwrite(samples::Array, io::IO; Fs=8000, nbits=16, compression=WAVE_FORMAT_PCM)
function wavwrite(samples::Array, filename::String; Fs=8000, nbits=16, compression=WAVE_FORMAT_PCM)

The available options, and the default values, are:

  • Fs (default = 8000): sampling frequency
  • nbits (default = 16): number of bits used to encode each sample
  • compression (default =WAV_FORMAT_PCM): controls the type of encoding used in the file

The type of the input array, samples, also affects the generated file. "Native" WAVE files are written when integers are passed into wavwrite. This means that the literal values are written into the file. The input ranges are as follows for integer samples.

N Bits y Data Type y Data Range Output Format
8 uint8 0 <= y <= 255 uint8
16 int16 –32768 <= y <= +32767 int16
24 int32 –2^23 <= y <= 2^23 – 1 int32

If samples contains floating point values, the input data ranges are the following.

N Bits y Data Type y Data Range Output Format
8 single or double –1.0 <= y < +1.0 uint8
16 single or double –1.0 <= y < +1.0 int16
24 single or double –1.0 <= y < +1.0 int32
32 single or double –1.0 <= y <= +1.0 single

Floating point (single and double precision) values are written to the file unaltered. The library will not modify the data range or representation.

The following functions are also defined to make this function compatible with MATLAB:

wavwrite(y::Array, f::Real, filename::String) = wavwrite(y, filename, Fs=f)
wavwrite(y::Array, f::Real, N::Real, filename::String) = wavwrite(y, filename, Fs=f, nbits=N)
wavwrite{T<:Integer}(y::Array{T}, io::IO) = wavwrite(y, io, nbits=sizeof(T)*8)
wavwrite{T<:Integer}(y::Array{T}, filename::String) = wavwrite(y, filename, nbits=sizeof(T)*8)
wavwrite(y::Array{Int32}, io::IO) = wavwrite(y, io, nbits=24)
wavwrite(y::Array{Int32}, filename::String) = wavwrite(y, filename, nbits=24)
wavwrite{T<:FloatingPoint}(y::Array{T}, io::IO) = wavwrite(y, io, nbits=sizeof(T)*8, compression=WAVE_FORMAT_IEEE_FLOAT)
wavwrite{T<:FloatingPoint}(y::Array{T}, filename::String) = wavwrite(y, filename, nbits=sizeof(T)*8, compression=WAVE_FORMAT_IEEE_FLOAT)


Append samples to an existing WAV file. All parameters (data type and range, output format, number of bits, number of channels, etc.) are assumed to match.

function wavappend(samples::Array, io::IO)
function wavappend(samples::Array, filename::String)


Playing audio back is also supported. The supported backends are: AudioQueue (MacOSX) and Pulse Audio (Linux, libpulse-simple). There is not a native backend for Windows yet.

function wavplay(samples::Array, fs::Number)

Other Julia Audio Packages

AudioIO is another audio library in the Julia ecosystem. It supports more file formats (including WAV) and implements a more powerful playback interface. However, the license is more restrictive (GPL) because of a dependence on libsndfile.

Additionally, FLAC.jl includes an mmap based WAV reader.