Here is a brief explanation of the different audio formats available at this site now or in the future.
What about software I already have?
If you are using Windows, there are programs bundled with your operating environment that will play WAV files and maybe a few others as well. An example is Media Player, which is usually installed on new computers and will play many file types.
(Sorry folks, I don't know Macs. Check below with the links for other sources.)
Most soundcards come with software for playing popular audio formats such as WAV files. For those using Creative Lab's SoundBlaster soundcards, you may have WavePlayer, SoundOle', and/or WaveStudio, all of which support several types of WAV files. For you web surfers using DOS, you probably received some sort of audio player software for DOS with your soundcard. You may try searching the directory that contains your soundcard software for a file called "wavplayer.exe" or something similar, and run it, but be aware that if it is a Windows program, it will not work for you.
Many internet browsers have audio capabilities. If you have Netscape, you already have built-in support for AIFs and AUs, and the ability to use helper applications for other file types, so they automatically play upon loading. Netscape 3.0+ supports AU, AIF, WAV, and MIDI (music) files. Recent versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer also support these file types. Both of these popular browsers support RealAudio, but you may have to install it as a helper application or plug-in. You may have to set your browser to recognize the MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extentions) type and associate it with the appropriate program. For instance, with Netscape 3.0, you select Options from the menu bar, then General Preferences. Click the Helpers tab. Scroll through the MIME types (such as audio/x-wav) and their associated file name extensions (like .wav) When you find one you want to associate with an audio application, highlight it, then click the radio button labled "Launch the Application". Now go to the button labeled "Browse" and find the executable file of the program you want to use, select it, and click Open. Now, when you download an audio file of this type, upon completion of the loading it will start the software you chose to use automatically with the file loaded and ready to play.
(Note: Software mentioned or linked to on this page is not maintained by myself, or by Dave Maize. We cannot guarantee availability or suitability for a given purpose because we have not tried some of the software suggested via these links. We do not, at this time, provide support, nor can we bear any responsiblity for any problems you may encounter when installing or using this software or any mentioned on other sites linked from this page. Always read all available on-line documentation thoroughly before installation.)
Cool Edit - A full-featured Windows audio tool for playback, recording, editing, and more. It is easy to play files. If you use it as a helper application, it will automatically play the file upon download and decompression. If used by itself, you can open the file, then press the spacebar to start and stop. Supports many audio formats including WAV.
Quicktime is popular multimedia playback software for Macintosh and Windows by Apple. It can play WAV and MP3 files, among others.
RealPlayer - With this handy accessory, you can hear, and see, a vast amount of diverse programs from web servers across the world. They have a guide called Timecast that lists sites and upcoming events. Sound quality gets better if you have faster hardware and network connection, and if buy their nicer software. The RealPlayer also supports streaming video, but it is jerky, at best. I've watched live TV from Delhi, India with this fun program, hearing native musicians that will never make it on the airwaves where I live! For available many operating systems.