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

Author by Michelle

Updated on Apr 24, 2023

Many videos today come with AAC audio, while some with AC3 audio. You may have some questions: What’s their difference? Is AAC superior than AC3? Which format should give you the best hearing experience? And how to choose between them? Well, it’s difficult to answer satisfactorily in a simple few words. So read on our full guide of AAC vs AC3 to learn the detail.

By the way, if you need to convert (or extract) audio to AAC or AC3 in a video, you can use this handy video converter here to do it with ease (a brief tutorial is given in part 4):

The Debate of AAC vs AC3

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.

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

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

In terms of audio quality, AAC appears to have higher resolution than AC3. But AC3 beats AAC in the field of surround sound since AC3 is widely used for home theaters to provide immersive 5.1 sound effect. It is up to you to decide whether AC3 or AAC is to choose according to your demands. But one thing to note is that many software or players do not support AC3 format and you may need to convert AC3 to AAC if an audio codec issue occurs.

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

When playing video with AC3 or AAC audio, you might come across issues like AAC not playing in your home theater or AC3 not supported on your Android player. Converting AAC to AC3 and vice versa can get this kind of problem handily solved. The tutorial below shows how to convert AAC to AC3 in a video with a versatile video converter WonderFox HD Video Converter Factory Pro.

Before start, please free download the software and install it on your PC.

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Convert AAC to AC3

Step 1. Run the software and open the Converter. Next, click +Add Files on the top left corner or directly drag and drop the source file into the program.

Step 2. Click the format icon on the right side and a list of video/audio formats and preset specs would appear. Go to the Video category and select the same video format as the output profile.

Step 3. Open the Parameter settings below. Go to the Audio settings and change the audio encoder to your desired format, such as AAC. Then click OK to save the changes.

Step 4. Finally, hit Run to start the conversion.

Tips. The software also allows you to extract audio from video and change audio bitrate.

At last...

That’s all for the debate of AC3 vs AAC. Hope you’ll find this article helpful. Thanks for reading!

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