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AAC vs AC3: What's the Difference and Which One to Choose?

Author by Michelle

Updated on May 20, 2021

Speaking of AAC vs AC3, don't get confused by their names, they are completely different audio formats and have little to do with one another. Their differences are listed below in detail. Hope it can offer you some references for making a choice between them.

Anyone coming to this page must want to have a straight and firm answer to the debate of AAC vs AC3. Sorry I have to disappoint you because there won’t be a simple answer here as many factors are involved in making the measurements. You have to first know what exactly they are and how they differ before reaching your final conclusion. Please be patient to read through this article and the answer will be ever more clear in the end.

Also read: AAC VS FLAC | DTS VS Dolby Digital | WAV vs MP3 | OGG vs FLAC | OGG Vorbis VS MP3

Part 1. What are AAC and AC3?

AAC or AC3

AAC: Short for Advanced Audio Coding, AAC is an audio coding standard for lossy digital audio compression, a successor to MP3 but outshines MP3 in its performance(The higher compression efficiency gives AAC a better sound quality than MP3 at the same bit rate). It has up to 48 channels, yet it is often used in two-channel mode.

AC3: Also known as Dolby Digital, AC3 is an audio compression technology that stores audio in a lossy form. It contains up to six discrete channels of sound and the most common use is associated with the 5.1 channel configuration - five channels for normal-range speakers and one channel for the extra low-frequency effects.

Part 2. AAC vs AC3: What's the Difference Between AAC and AC3?

The following criteria are essential in making a judgment about an audio format, so they would be necessary standards in deciding which one, AC3 or AAC, will be the best pick.

AC3 vs AAC

1.Sample rate

AAC: 8 to 192 kHz

AC3: 32, 44.1, 48 kHz

Tips: The higher the sample rate the greater the dynamic range, which means more detail will be captured and the quality of the audio will be better.

2.Bit rate

AAC: 8-529 kbit/s (stereo)

AC3: 32-640 kbit/s

Tips: A higher bit rate normally guarantees a better quality.


AAC: Yes

AC3: No

Tips: With VBR, the audio can be stored in an economic way by allocating a higher bit rate to the more vibrant parts of media files and a lower bit rate to the more constant segments. In this way, it can produce an audio file with a smaller size while preserving sound quality.


With same bit rate, especially in low bit rate, AAC has a better sound quality than AC3.


AAC: It is supported on Windows, macOS, Linux, BSD, Unix, Palm OS, Symbian OS, Rockbox, iOS, Android, Chromium and it is widely used in Digital TV service, Digital Radio, Internet streaming.

AC3: It is supported on Windows, Linux, and iOS and it is widely used in cinema, TV broadcast, radio broadcast via satellite, digital video streaming, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and game consoles.

Part 3. AC3 vs AAC: How to Choose?

AAC or AC3

From Part 2, the conclusion can be easily drawn that AAC beats AC3 without a doubt. But hold on a second, that kind of statement actually makes its stand only in theory. There are equally matched loyal supporters for both formats out there. Why is that happening? Here is the undeniable truth: There is much more to consider in measuring one thing’s value, and the weighing of AC3 or AAC is no exception. Though a higher sample rate captures more sound waves, people can hardly hear the extremely high or low sound frequencies, and a 48 kHz sample rate is enough to deliver high-quality audio. The fact that DVDs and Blu-rays do not support AAC just eliminated more advantages of AAC over AC3. Yet, the high efficient compression ratio and a wide audience base of AAC on the internet carve out a place for itself to continue thriving.

In all, if you are more prone to the online streaming service, AAC is your optimal choice. And if you want to have a theatrical experience, AC3 will do you good.

Part 4. Extra: How to Convert AAC to AC3 and Vice Versa?

Since the usages of AAC and AC3 have little intertwined, you might come across issues like AAC not playing in your home theater or AC3 not supported on your Android player. Try to convert AAC to AC3 and vice versa and this kind of problem will be handily solved. Below are the details of converting AAC to AC3 with the recommended WonderFox Free HD Video Converter Factory.

Convert AAC to AC3

Step 1. Install and run the software. Then open "Converter".

Step 2. In "Video Converter", click "+Add Files" on the top left corner or directly drag and drop the AAC file into the program.

Step 3. Click the format icon on the right side and a menu of video/audio formats and preset specs would appear. From this menu, select AC3 or other formats below the corresponding categories. Then click on "Run" to start conversion.

At last...

Who wins in AC3 vs AAC? I bet you already had an answer in your mind. Thanks for reading!

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