WAV vs MPC SND - which format is the best for my MPC?
Most of our samplepacks on MPC-Samples.com are available in two audio formats; WAV and SND – but which is the best format to choose?
What are MPC SND files?
MPC SND files (.SND) were initially used by MPCs simply because 'back in the day' there was no universally accepted audio file standard, so it just made sense to create a proprietary format that loaded most efficiently in your own hardware.
But once WAV became the universally accepted standard digital audio file format, all MPCs began to use WAV format as the default loading and saving option.
What is the difference between a SND and WAV file?
Apart from the different file extension, there is in fact very little difference between a WAV file and a SND file, both of them contain the same audio 'data', although the file 'headers' are different.
Using the MPC2000XL as a test machine, you will find SND files load and save a little more quickly compared to WAV files, but the difference is negligible.
I also believe (I may be wrong though) that SND files do not support storage of root note data (i.e. the key of a musical sample) and other common meta data (such as author, copyright info etc), although this type of data was not readable by older MPCs anyway, so it's a moot point.
Are MPC SND files recognised by other audio equipment?
No computer supports playback of MPC SND files unless you have installed specialist software, such as MPC editor, or the 'MPC Software' from Akai (the software that the MPC Renaissance & MPC Studio control), and even then they will only support them when that specific application is open (so you cannot 'preview' SND files from Finder or File Explorer).
NI Maschine can load SND files, although I have found it can sometimes have issues reading them correctly. There are also some convertor programs such as CD Extract and Awave that can read SND files.
I don't know of any professional audio editor that supports SND files.
In terms of sampler hardware, I believe the only third party kit that supports SND files are the Roland MV series.
Which MPCs support SND & WAV?
Early MPC models, the MPC60 and MPC3000 only support SND format, there is no WAV file support whatsoever.
The MPC2000 does support loading of individual WAV files (make sure you are running OS 1.7), but when it comes to loading an entire PGM file, for some odd reason the associated samples must be in SND format.
The MPC2000XL supports SND and WAV equally as it can save and load in both formats, although SND format is still officially the 'native' file format supported and it's the default saving option.
From the MPC4000 onwards, WAV format became the default file format. At this point, all saved programs and sounds were saved only in WAV format, but all MPCs will still happily load SND files with some exceptions - if you run any version of JJOS, you will find SND file support was dropped (I assume to save space in the OS) and some early MPC5000 OS versions had a bug which meant it did not support SND format at all.
So which audio format should I use?
Generally speaking, go for the WAV option if your MPC supports it. Also remember that some MPCs support 24 bit WAV files (MPC4000, 5000, MPC Software) while MPC SND format will be either 16 bit or 12 bit (if may be possible to make 24 bit SND files, but I am not aware of any way of creating them in the first place).
The other thing to consider is that when loading programs into an MPC, the audio format itself is less important that the PGM format – always ensure you are loading the PGM format most suitable for your MPC model as it will often be specifically tailored for the features and options for that specific MPC model.