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Overview: Adding Audio to Web Pages

Organizations such as the BBC have made large investments in providing audio files on their web sites. However, simple audio files can added to any web site at very low cost.

See: How to add Streamed Real Audio® files.

There are three main techniques for adding sound or audio files to web pages:

These notes concentrate on Microsoft Windows® type PCs, but audio software is available for most types of computers.

Note: Normally, it is bad web design practice to initiate replay of audio files without the user's permission - especially if the web page is likely to be accessed by people from their office PCs.


This information is supplied "as is." Neither Curlew Communications Limited nor the author take responsibility for any loss or damage caused by use of the information.

Downloadable Audio Files (eg .mpeg, .mp3, .avi, .wav)

This form is useful when you expect the visitor to replay the audio file several times, or possibly when the file is very large. Downloaded files can be replayed later on PCs, portable computers and MP3 players. The standard PC Microsoft Media Player® can replay several types of compressed formats such as MP3, or uncompressed formats such as WAV.

Adding a downloadable audio file to a web site is similar to adding any file. The audio file is encoded in the correct format and uploaded. You then provide a suitable hyperlink from a web page to give access to the file.

When the web visitor clicks on the hyperlink, the file will be downloaded (silently) at the maximum available rate, for later replay.

Note. MP3 files can also be set to play in streaming mode. See: How to add Streamed MP3 Audio files.

Streamed Audio Files

This form is useful when the audio file will be replayed only once and is short enough to be replayed while the web visitor is online.

Perhaps you do not want people to download and store copyright files, or files which may soon become obsolete? It is especially useful when you want web visitors to remain viewing your web page while replaying your short audio files .

Real Audio® is the best known format, with several million active users. The BBC web site is a major source of audio and video in Real Audio® and Real Video® format.

Microsoft offers a different format which is replayed via the Microsoft Media Player® software.

MP3 files can also be set to play in streaming mode.

There are several free audio and video players available for download. The latest versions can replay several different types of files. Popular players include:

How to Install Streamed Audio Files

For further details on adding streamed audio files to a website, see:


Assuming that the web visitor's PC has the correct audio player software, clicking on the hyperlink to the audio file will automatically launch the visitor's audio player software. The file will then be replayed while it streams across the internet. Thus, the web visitor will hear the audio file with minimal delay.

Note. The web visitor must stay online while listening to the audio replay. However, if they have a sufficiently fast internet connection and PC, they can visit other web sites or handle email etc., while listening to the audio replay in the background.

The replay will continue until:

Note. Determined users can record anything they find on the Internet, so simply streaming an audio file will not protect it from being copied.

MIDI sound files (eg .mid, .midi, .rmi)

The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) format can produce very compact sound files.

The user needs MIDI player software (or special hardware) on their computer. MIDI files contain the instructions to control the electronic instruments in this player.

The sound cards in most computers provide a MIDI player with a basic set of "instruments". Microsoft Media Player® can also play MIDI files.

Adding a MIDI file to a web site is similar to adding any file. The sound file is encoded in the MIDI format and uploaded. It is accessed via a suitable hyperlink from a web page.

Note. Web pages can be set to initiate the replay of MIDI files automatically. This facility should be used with care - especially if people are likely to access the web page from their office PCs.

Technical Considerations

When encoding MIDI files for wide distribution, be careful to use only those standard instruments which most web visitors will have on their computers - or offer the extra instruments for easy download and installation.

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