RA - Real Audio File

What is a RA file

The RA file format was first developed by RealNetworks in the mid 1990’s. This is an audio format that makes use of various audio codecs. Those codecs range from the high fidelity type that is for music, and can also go all the way down to low-bitrate formats. The low-bitrate formats are commonly used for older dialup modems. The RA format is also one that allows audio to be streamed online. Historically, many radio stations that have an online presence used the RA format to stream their programs on the internet. It was also used by the BBC for their websites until 2009. However, the use of RA for online streaming has declined in recent years as other technologies have been developed.

When RealNetworks initially developed the RA technology, they tried to keep the details of their audio format a secret. This was done to dissuade other groups from developing competing players that could provide the same type of functionality. However, some of the features of the later versions of Real Audio have provided some controversy. This resulted in other organization's continuing to develop options to using Real Audio. Many alternatives were developed. Over the last several years, the developers of RA have been more open. They created the Helix Community, which serves as an open source project. However, they are still protecting some of the codecs as strictly proprietary.

Here's a small, but not exhaustive list of programs that can open RA documents:

  • RealNetworks RealPlayer Cloud (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android)
  • VideoLAN VLC Media Player (Windows, Mac, Linux)
  • DVDVideoSoft Free Audio Converter (Windows)
  • Web Browser With the RealPlayer Plugin (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Extension RA
MIME type audio/x-realaudio
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