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AAC VS AC3: What is the Difference between AAC and AC3?

AAC VS AC3 "I bought a digital camera with Dolby digital stereo sound. AVCHD file uses AC3 audio code and MP4 files uses AAC audio code. I really want to know the difference between AC3 and AAC in quality and which is better AAC or AC3. What's more, does AAC also use Dolby digital?"

Beyond question, most of people badly need to know AAC advantages and disadvantages and AC3 pros and cons especially when shooting video with digital cameras or converting audio formats for playback on mobile devices. Since there is no clearly defined standard used to judge AAC and AC3 which is good, users need figure out their real meaning respectively before make any comparison regarding AAC VS AC3.

What is AAC Format?

Known as the abbreviation of Advanced Audio Coding, AAC is designed to be the successor of the MP3 format, which has better sound quality than MP3 at the similar bit rates. Surely enough, AAC is an audio coding standard for lossy digital audio compression.

What is AC3 Format?

AC3, the abbreviation of Audio Coding, is the synonym of Dolby Digital audio codec. Except for Dolby TrueHD, the audio compression is lossy. And Dolby Digital is the common version containing up to six discrete channels of sound.

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AAC VS AC3: History

Developed with the cooperation of companies including AT&T Bell Laboratories, Fraunhofer IIS, Dolby Laboratories, Sony Corporation and Nokia, AAC, was claimed as an international standard by the Moving Picture Experts Group in April 1997.

AC3 was originally named Dolby Stereo Digital until 1994. In the early 1997, Dolby Laboratories officially changed "Dolby AC-3 surround sound" to "Dolby Surround Digital" which we often called as Dolby Digital.

AC3(Dolby Digital) VS AAC: Compatibility

So far, AAC is the default audio format for YouTube, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Nintendo DSi/3DS, iTunes, DivX Plus Web Player and PlayStation 3. It is well supported by PlayStation Vita, Wii (with the Photo Channel 1.1 update installed), Sony Walkman MP3 series and later, Sony Ericsson; Nokia, Android, BlackBerry, and webOS-based mobile phones. And a majority of in-dash car audio system manufacturers will adopt AAC.

AC3 (Dolby Digital) is widely used in HDTV broadcast, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and game consoles.

Comparison Between AAC and AC3 in Quality

As part of the MPEG-4 standard, AAC codec makes small digital audio files so that it can store a larger amount of audio files using less space while preserving sound quality. Normally, AAC can produce frequency ranges from 8 to 96 kilohertz. While AC3 provides a total bit rate of 384 kilobits per second. Its sample rates can up to 48 kilohertz. And if you want to enjoy the full effect of the AC3 track, you should choose an amplified theater system which supports Dolby Digital.

In a conclusion, AAC is a more advanced lossy audio format comparing with AC3. It will produce better audio quality than AC3 with the same bitrate, especially on low bitrates. The main advantage of using AC3 is for backward compatibility on older Dolby Digital equipments.

More audio formats comparison guides: comparison between AAC and MP3, M4A vs. MP3 in Quality and Size, differences between MP3 and MP4

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AAC VS AC3: Respective Pros and Cons





1. As part of MPEG-4 specs, AAC is an international standard approved by the ISO. It supports several sampling rates (8000-96000 Hz), bit depths, and multichannel (up to 48 channels).
2. Several implementations are available including free and high quality ones so that anyone can create its own implementation.

AAC comes in different object types like AAC LC, AAC HE, AAC PS etc, which will lead to many portable players (only support LC) can't play these valid AAC files.


1. AC3 provides only full range channels and its sound quality is really much better. It is also backward compatible.
2. AC3 becomes the industry standard for DTV and DVD media so that almost all new DVD movies come with a DD soundtrack program.

Max support for 5.1 channel audio CDs, limited to 448 kbps maximum for Digital Dolby.

Also see: pros and cons of AVCHD over MP4 in quality, comparison between MP4 and AVI.

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After reading the foregoing AAC VS AC3 video quality comparison, you may have a clear understanding about these two audio formats and know which one is more suitable for you. As is known to all, no matter for making ringtone or playback on iPhone iPad Android devices, lots of people hope to get some popular AAC and AC3 audio tracks download free from online music sites. Fortunately, working as the most suitable music downloader, MacX Video Converter Pro can help people freely download all kinds of amazing AC3 AAC audio tracks from 300+ video audio sharing sites with original quality, like Facebook, Metacafe, Pandora, Soundcloud, Tumblr, Vimeo, Veoh, Vevo, etc.

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Alternative Way: Extract AC3 or AAC Audio Tracks from DVDs

Extract AAC or AC3 audio tracks from DVD

Nowadays, audio tracks from DVD movies become more and more popular than ever before, such as Let It Go from Frozen, Furious 7 soundtrack See You Again and some amazing Disney soundtracks. You may have downloaded some of them as ringtone. It is true that you'd better extract desired soundtracks from DVD and save as AAC or AC3 audio format if you want to replay them in your home theater with original sound quality. Because AAC and AC3 achieve higher quality in sound comparing with MP3.

Better still, a functional third-party audio extracting software will help you a lot when obtaining audio files. MacX DVD Ripper Pro, designed for both Mac and Windows users, is capable of freely extracting audio from DVDs to AAC, AC3 or MP3 so that users can limitlessly enjoy movies' soundtracks.

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MacLife review

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