What is an AMR file?

In our daily interaction with digital devices, we encounter numerous file formats, mainly when dealing with multimedia content such as images, audio, and video. Among these, AMR file format plays a crucial role in specific applications. AMR, short for Adaptive Multi-Rate, is a patented audio compression format optimized explicitly for speech coding.


The AMR codec is typically used in GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) for voice services, voicemail, multimedia messaging, and video telephony. As the name suggests, the standout feature of this codec is its adaptability. It can change its bit rate dynamically, matching the speech quality in the radio channel’s conditions.

What is an AMR file?

AMR or Adaptive Multi-Rate sound codec represents audio files extension saved in a compressed audio format developed by Ericsson. AMR files are optimized for storing spoken audio. It is used by many 3G cell phones to store voice recordings, such as MMS messages.

Now, the next thing is to see how to open this file.

The AMR codec was first developed in the late 1990s by Ericsson, a multinational telecommunications and networking equipment company. The primary aim of its creation was to efficiently utilize bandwidth when transmitting voice data over networks, particularly in mobile communications.

One of the main features of AMR is its range of bit rates, from 4.75 to 12.2 kbps. This allows it to adapt to varying network conditions, hence the term “adaptive.” For instance, the AMR codec can lower its bit rate in situations where network quality is poor to ensure a stable voice connection, albeit with reduced sound quality. Conversely, when the network quality is good, the bit rate can increase to provide superior sound quality.

AMR utilizes a technology known as Link Adaptation to change the bit rate dynamically based on the condition of the radio channel. This enables the codec to maintain consistent audio quality and reduce the likelihood of dropped calls.

Understanding AMR File Format

An AMR file, typically with an


the extension uses the AMR codec for compression. Because the codec is primarily designed for speech, AMR files are often used for storing spoken audio, such as voice memos, speech-based content, or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls.

AMR files are divided into frames, each representing 20ms of speech data. These frames can be encoded using different modes, each corresponding to a bit rate. The chosen mode depends on factors like the complexity of the speech and the network’s condition.

The AMR format comprises a file header and one or more speech frames. The file header contains a magic number, “#!AMR\n”, to identify the file as an AMR file. This is followed by the speech frames, each starting with a frame header, indicating the coding mode used, and continuing with the encoded speech data.

The AMR codec uses ACELP (Algebraic Code Excited Linear Prediction), a method for encoding speech based on linear predictive coding. This technique is designed to model the human vocal tract, enabling it to provide relatively high-quality speech reproduction at low bit rates.

AMR Applications and Compatibility

Though AMR is optimized for voice services, its applications extend beyond mobile communication. VoIP services, like Skype, use AMR for their voice messaging feature. Multimedia messaging services, voice recorders on mobile devices, and even some social media platforms employ this format for their voice note feature.

Many mobile devices and multimedia software support AMR file format, including popular platforms like Android and iOS and multimedia players like VLC. However, not all players or devices support this format. Some may require an additional codec to be installed or the file to be converted to a more commonly supported format, like MP3 or WAV.

Limitations of the AMR Codec

While the AMR codec is efficient in its designed application area, it has some drawbacks. The primary limitation is that it’s designed for speech and doesn’t perform as well as other types of audio, such as music. Consequently, it is not suitable for general audio compression.

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Another challenge is the issue of patent rights. The AMR codec is protected by patents owned by Ericsson and other companies, meaning it is not freely available for all uses. Therefore, while it can be used freely in some contexts (like within the GSM standard), other uses may require obtaining a license from the patent holders.

How to open AMR file?

To open an AMR file, follow these steps using one of the recommended media players:

Using VLC Media Player (Available for Windows, macOS, and Linux)

  1. Download and install VLC Media Player from the official website if you haven’t already.
  2. Open VLC Media Player.
  3. Click “Media” in the menu, then select “Open File.”
  4. Navigate to the location of the AMR file on your computer.
  5. Select the file and click “Open.” The file should start playing in VLC.

Using Microsoft Groove Music (Windows)

  1. You can get Groove Music from the Microsoft Store if it’s not already installed.
  2. Open Groove Music.
  3. Click on “My Music,” then “Files.”
  4. Browse to the location of your AMR file.
  5. Select the file and click “Open.” Your file should begin playing.

Using Apple QuickTime Player (macOS)

  1. Open QuickTime Player from your Applications folder.
  2. Click on “File,” then “Open File.”
  3. Navigate to your AMR file.
  4. Select the file and click “Open.” The AMR file will begin playing.

You can use software like Audacity to edit or convert an AMR file. Here’s how:

Using Audacity (Available for Windows, macOS, and Linux)

Before proceeding, ensure you have the optional FFmpeg library installed in Audacity.

  1. Download and install Audacity from the official website if you haven’t already. During installation, make sure to check the box for the FFmpeg library.
  2. Open Audacity.
  3. Click on “File” in the menu, then select “Open.”
  4. Navigate to the location of the AMR file on your computer.
  5. Select the file and click “Open.” The AMR file will open in Audacity; you can edit it as needed.

To convert the AMR file to a different format, like MP3:

  1. After opening your AMR file in Audacity, click “File” then “Export.”
  2. Select the desired format (e.g., MP3).
  3. Choose a location to save your file, give it a name, and click “Save.”

Remember, converting files can lead to a loss in audio quality, so keep the original file in case the quality of the converted file is unsatisfactory.


The Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) codec is integral to the modern telecommunication infrastructure, ensuring voice services maintain consistent audio quality across fluctuating network conditions. While it may not be ideal for general audio compression, its adaptability, and efficiency in speech coding make it an invaluable tool for mobile communications and VoIP services.

Understanding these codecs and their roles in our day-to-day communications becomes increasingly important as we progress toward a more digitally connected world. With newer codecs and formats being developed, the future of digital communication looks promising, and the AMR codec will undoubtedly continue to play its part.

Igor Milosevic
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