I wonder sometimes what goes through a software/hardware developers mind when deciding a format to use for a new device. There are so many options our there for audio formats to choose from. I am sure there are pros and cons to using one technology over another but it seems a few decide to go ahead and make their own. I am sure there is some commercial advantage to developing a proprietary audio format, but with all the established choices it seems unnecessary.

Sony developed their own audio compression formats, which I explored in an earlier blog post. I came across a small goofy looking RCA voice recorder, model VR6320.

Many of these RCA VR series recorders can record in a WAV or a VOC file format. The WAV files are pretty run of the mill, but the VOC format is unique to RCA recorders.

The VOC format is not to be confused with another audio format with the same extension. The Creative Voice Format is a bit more well known. It was used with the Creative’s sound cards (Sound Blaster family) many folks had in their Windows computers in the 1990’s. But the RCA file format is different, and because of the same extension needs its own identification so they are not confused with each other.

sf REC00001.VOC 
siegfried   : 1.10.1
scandate    : 2023-11-19T23:33:47-07:00
signature   : default.sig
created     : 2023-05-12T09:10:13Z
identifiers : 
  - name    : 'pronom'
    details : 'DROID_SignatureFile_V112.xml; container-signature-20230510.xml'
filename : 'REC00001.VOC'
filesize : 47231
modified : 2015-01-09T20:51:10-07:00
errors   : 
matches  :
  - ns      : 'pronom'
    id      : 'UNKNOWN'
    format  : 
    version : 
    mime    : 
    class   : 
    basis   : 
    warning : 'no match; possibilities based on extension are fmt/1736'

The RCA VOC file format seems to be undocumented, there isn’t much available. You can always download a copy of the RCA Digital Voice Manager software, which may or may not run on your current system, and convert the VOC files to WAV or you can use a piece of software coded in 2008 called “devoc“. The developer used to have an online website you could upload the VOC to and it would convert it automatically, but is not longer available. The code can also be found here.

Let’s take a look at the header of a couple of the files I have:

hexdump -C REC00001.VOC | head
00000000  56 43 50 31 36 32 5f 56  4f 43 5f 46 69 6c 65 0c  |VCP162_VOC_File.|
00000010  0f 01 09 14 32 1c 00 00  0b 44 03 00 00 00 00 00  |....2....D......|
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
000001b0  00 10 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 10 00 00 00 00  |................|
000001c0  00 00 00 00 00 10 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 10  |................|
000001d0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
000001e0  ef 11 14 d3 96 77 57 44  34 33 34 44 43 33 44 43  |.....wWD434DC3DC|
000001f0  43 34 44 34 43 43 34 44  43 43 33 35 43 33 43 34  |C4D4CC4DCC35C3C4|
00000200  34 43 43 24 34 43 43 33  44 51 33 42 14 44 32 43  |4CC$4CC3DQ3B.D2C|

hexdump -C A0000003.VOC | head
00000000  52 50 35 31 32 30 5f 56  4f 43 5f 46 69 6c 65 78  |RP5120_VOC_Filex|
00000010  08 06 16 0a 0f 20 00 04  17 01 03 00 00 00 00 00  |..... ..........|
00000020  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000180  00 03 b9 2f 00 07 62 af  00 0b 0c 2f 00 0e b5 af  |.../..b..../....|
00000190  00 12 5f 2f 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |.._/............|
000001a0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000fa0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 e1  |................|
00000fb0  ea eb ea fe df ae 4e a1  1d cd 1c cf 9f de cf 3b  |......N........;|

Most of samples I have show “VCP162_VOC_File” in the header, but I have one sample with “RP5120_VOC_File“. I have heard of others, one being “V432_Voice_File“. There could be more variations. One could assume the header is somehow associated with the model number of the device, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Although there is a device with the model number “RP 5120“. It might be that the older RP series get one header and the newer VR Series get VCP? I will need more samples to confirm, if you have any send them my way. Also, according to the manuals, there is a SP and LP mode to manage the bitrate of the file to squeeze more minutes on the built in memory of these devices. This doesn’t appear to affect identification, but might be good to differentiate in the future.

For now you can take a look at the signature on my GitHub page.


Before the days of streaming and devices likeSmart TVs, AppleTV and Fire sticks, a few companies tried their best to come up with ways to make viewing your media on your TV mainstream. In a previous blog post I touched on the Kodak PhotoCD method, but there is one you are probably even less familiar with. HighMAT. HighMAT, or High-Performance Media Access Technology was a technology co-developed by Microsoft and Panasonic. You may have at one point owned a DVD player which had the technology built-in, but may have never used it. It came on the scene around 2002, but was abandoned by 2008.

Panasonic DVD/CD Player with HighMAT playback.

There were quite a few devices stamped with the HighMAT logo. The technology allow you to playback any Audio and Images like a DVD, with a menu and everything.

There was three different types of HighMAT compatible devices, Audio, Audio-Image, and Audio-Image-Video.

Writing data to the HighMAT format could be done with a plugin for Windows which added the functionality to Windows Media Player for burning audio playlists to the HighMAT format or through the standard CD Writing Wizard built-in to Windows XP. An extra screen would come up asking if you would like to make the CD HighMAT compatible. Making video compatible HighMAT CDs could be done through Movie Maker.

When a HighMAT CD-R/CD-RW is authored we get an interesting CD. It appears to be a Mode 2 Form 1 format:

/dev/disk10 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:        CD_partition_scheme                        *846.4 MB   disk10
   1:       CD_ROM_Mode_2_Form_1 Highmat02               2.7 MB     disk10s0

If you would like to check out a sample disc, you can grab the ISO or BIN/CUE here.

tree /Volumes/Highmat02
├── Audio\ Samples
│   ├── 17\ [no\ artist]\ -\ Speaker\ Identification\ Test.wma
│   └── sine.wma
│   ├── AUTHOR.XML
│   ├── IMAGES
│   │   ├── T0.HMT
│   │   ├── T1.HMT
│   │   ├── T10.HMT
│   │   ├── T11.HMT
│   │   ├── T12.HMT
│   │   ├── T13.HMT
│   │   ├── T2.HMT
│   │   ├── T3.HMT
│   │   ├── T4.HMT
│   │   ├── T5.HMT
│   │   ├── T6.HMT
│   │   ├── T7.HMT
│   │   ├── T8.HMT
│   │   └── T9.HMT
│   ├── MENU.HMT
│   ├── PLAYLIST
│   │   ├── 00000001.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000002.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000003.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000004.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000005.HMT
│   │   ├── 00000006.HMT
│   │   └── 00000007.HMT
│   └── TEXT.HMT
└── My\ Pics
    ├── Blue\ hills.jpg
    ├── Sunset.jpg
    ├── Water\ lilies.jpg
    └── Winter.jpg

5 directories, 31 files

There is a lot going on here, lets take a look at a few of the formats we find in this disc structure. The files added to the CD are converted to WMA if you checked the “Convert Files” feature and are accessible like a normal data CD. The HighMAT folder is created to make a compatible HighMAT disc. Except for one XML file the rest of the files in the HighMAT folder all have an HMT extension. The author.xml file contains the root element <HMT> with some filenames indicating some of the HMT files may be thumbnails. If we open one of the HMT thumbnail files in a hex editor we can see:

Just a plain old JPG header. Exiftool tells us it is small 160×120 pixel image, must be a thumbnail. But lets take a look at another HMT file.

Even though the Menu.hmt file has the same extension as the thumbnails, this file is definitely not a JPG file with pixel data. Same goes for the Contents and Text files as well, unique formats.

The files in the playlist folder also have a unique format.

So it seems all the HighMAT folder really does is add compatibility for hardware to provide a menu to access the original data, providing playlists and thumbnails to navigate the data on your TV screen.

I came across one of these discs while processing a collection of CD-R discs donated to our library. Normally I would copy the images and other data off the disc to our preservation system, but this disc made me stop to think about the best way to preserve the data. Is a disc image appropriate or is the HighMAT folder even worth preserving if we have the original files from the disc? Finding hardware or a software player to present the disc as intended is getting harder to do. I am curious what others think of the value of this content.

I chose not to submit any signatures to PRONOM for the moment as we assess. It would be difficult to properly identify each format with all of them having the same extension, especially the JPG thumbnails as HMT is not a valid extension for the format. Take a look at my sample files and if you have come across this format before, let me know.

Shockwave Audio

Ok, confession time.

There is only a couple moments in my tech history which had a profound effect on me, enough to sear the memory of the moment into my brain. When I was in college around 1997 I had a decent CD collection and I had learned how to copy those AIFF files off the disc and use them on my trusty PowerCenter Pro. These files were huge, at the time. I knew a regular size song would take up around 50MB on my hard drive. This was a lot of space back in 1997, but I could then mix them with other songs, something I did sometimes for friends I had on the dance team. I didn’t have a CD burner at the time so I would transfer them to cassette tape. I know, but remember this was the 1990’s when everything was changing and expensive.

One night I was exploring the world wide web and I happened across someone sharing a few songs. I assumed they were just clips as they were only 5MB in size, a tenth the size they should be. I downloaded the song, which of course still took a few minutes back in those days. When I played the song, I was dumbfounded, it was the whole song. I was completely confused. How could they take a 4+ minute song and compress it down to under 5MB? This was amazing.

I started grabbing every song I could find. Before long I had quite the collection. And before you judge me for downloading music from the web, this was a couple years before the advertisement we all remember reminding us that we wouldn’t steal a car so why would we steal music.

The files I found on the internet were MP3 files, the same we are familiar with today. Back then creating MP3 files wasn’t easy. MP3 was actually a licensed product so you had to get a little creative in order to make them. On my Macintosh PowerCenter Pro, there were even fewer options. I was already familiar with the sound editing application from Macromedia called SoundEdit 16, it was the tool I used to do all my editing. I found there was a plugin you could add which allowed export to a format called Shockwave Audio. This was meant for use in Macromedia’s Director application to add sound to the growing Flash animation industry. Once I got the plugin and installed I couldn’t stop making files and I made them as fast as I could. For a whole album this could take over an hour on my hardware, but it was worth it. Before long I had a large collection of popular music ready to play at a moments notice. My player of choice was MacAMP, a sibling of the popular WinAMP. I even borrowed some equipment from a friend who DJ’d on the weekends and DJ’d a college dance. I lugged my whole PowerCenter Pro tower and 17in trinitron monitor over to the school. It was so much fun and folks didn’t understand when they asked to see my CD collection.

Enough about transgressions from my youth, lets talk about the Shockwave Audio format.

To create a SWA file you would first need SoundEdit 16 Version 2. Then the plugins to enable export. This would only run on PowerPC computers running Macintosh OS or Classic in Mac OS X. For this post I pulled out my trusty PowerBook G4 Titanium running MacOS 9 and MacOS X 10.2. Installed SoundEdit 16 and the plugins in the Xtras folder and we are good to go.

Before you export you need to set what bitrate you prefer for the final file, giving you the option of 8KBits up to 160KBits per second. The higher the bitrate the longer it took and made larger files.

SoundEdit 16 had a native audio format and also frequently used the SoundDesigner II format to save the uncompressed files. On a Macintosh you had to be careful as these formats did not travel well to other systems on account of the resource forks associated with the data.

Because these SWA files were meant to be used in websites and other non-Mac systems, they did not have a resource fork, but had the Creator/Type codes, SwaT/SHCK. An extension wasn’t necessary for use on your Macintosh, but it was best to use .swa.

Here is what the data looks like for a SWA file.

Even though the SWA format uses MPEG compression, this is not a typical header you might see in a MP3. There was no ID3 tags at the time so not much in terms of metadata.

Complete name                            : tone2.swa
Format                                   : MPEG Audio
File size                                : 80.7 KiB
Duration                                 : 5 s 166 ms
Overall bit rate mode                    : Constant
Overall bit rate                         : 128 kb/s
FileExtension_Invalid                    : m1a mpa mpa1 mp1 m2a mpa2 mp2 mp3

Format                                   : MPEG Audio
Format version                           : Version 1
Format profile                           : Layer 3
Format settings                          : Joint stereo / MS Stereo
Duration                                 : 5 s 172 ms
Bit rate mode                            : Constant
Bit rate                                 : 128 kb/s
Channel(s)                               : 2 channels
Sampling rate                            : 44.1 kHz
Frame rate                               : 38.281 FPS (1152 SPF)
Compression mode                         : Lossy
Stream size                              : 80.7 KiB (100%)
ffprobe -i tone2.swa 
[mp3 @ 0x155704a60] Format mp3 detected only with low score of 25, misdetection possible!
[mp3 @ 0x155704a60] Skipping 324 bytes of junk at 0.
[mp3 @ 0x155704a60] Estimating duration from bitrate, this may be inaccurate
Input #0, mp3, from 'tone2.swa':
Duration: 00:00:05.15, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 128 kb/s
Stream #0:0: Audio: mp3, 44100 Hz, stereo, fltp, 128 kb/s

There are a few consistencies among all my files. They all begin with the hex values “00000140000000030000” for the first 10 bytes and all of them seem to have the string “MACRZ” at offset 36. I haven’t been able to find a open specification for this file format, so we will have to go with what we can find in the samples. According to ffprobe from above, there is 324 bytes of a header before the first MP3 frame starts.

MPEG signatures are difficult, there are no headers, just a sequence of frames. This is why there are often so many identification conflicts with the MP3 format. These SWA files indeed identify as MP3 files, but with a mismatch extension.

filename : 'tone2.swa'
filesize : 82661
modified : 1970-01-01T00:00:00-07:00
errors   : 
matches  :
  - ns      : 'pronom'
    id      : 'fmt/134'
    format  : 'MPEG 1/2 Audio Layer 3'
    version : 
    mime    : 'audio/mpeg'
    class   : 'Audio'
    basis   : 'byte match at 0, 4088 (signature 5/9)'
    warning : 'extension mismatch'

If we wanted to distinguish an SWA from an MP3 we would need to create a new signature and give it priority over the MP3 signature. There is enough of a header this would be possible and easier, but since they are, in reality, just MP3 files does it matter? Trying to play a SWA on a modern computer is only possible if you change the extension to MP3.

If you want to take a look at some samples you can grab a couple I made on my GitHub page or check out some commercially made files for an awesome Star Trek Starship Creator game.

Sony Voice Recorder

Sony’s IC Recorders have been a popular small digital voice recorder for many consumers. The current models all use common recording formats like Linear PCM WAVE files or MP3, but it wasn’t always so. One of the first models ICD-R100 would record to the ICS audio format, which was Sony’s original sound formats used on the IC Recorders. I am still looking for samples of this format. If you do have a need to convert this format, Sony has free converter software.

The next generation of IC Recorders used a Memory Stick and therefore recorded audio to the MSV (Memory Stick Voice) format. There were actually two different types of MSV files, the first used the ADPCM codec and the next used the LPEC codec. Later IC Recorders would record to the DVF (Digital Voice Format) which also had a couple versions, one using the LPEC codec and the other the older TRC codec.

AFAIK, none of the codecs used in these file formats has been made public and these formats are not readable by tools such as MediaInfo. The only way to know details of a file and have the ability to play or convert is to use Sony software which has been discontinued and the replacement, Sound Organizer, can only recognize the LPEC codec versions of MSV and DVF. There is also a plugin for Windows Media Player available here, which is required even for Switch to work.

PRONOM currently has one signature for the LPEC versions of MSV and DVF, so lets look closer at the formats and see if we can determine what they are from the header.


ADPCM is an abbreviation for “Adaptive differential pulse-code modulation“. Appears to only have been used with the ICD-MS1 and possibly MS2 digital recorders.

TRC may be an abbreviation of Truespeech’s “Triple Rate CODER” or “Triple Rate Codec“, but not much info exists.

LPEC is a proprietary compression format. It is an abbreviation of “Long-term Predicated Excitation Coding“. It even had its own trademarked logo which was cancelled in 2015.

The Software

The first IC Recorders came with PCLINK software, then came with the “MemoryStick Voice Editor” software. List of compatible formats.

Digital Voice Editor came next. It could read and convert everything except “ICS” files. Click here to download the last version. Version 1 compatible formats. Version 2 compatible formats. Version 3 Compatible Formats. The software was officially retired in 2016.

The current software for managing audio files from IC Recorder is Sound Organizer. The software does open and convert some MSV/DVF files as long as they use the LPEC codec. Sound Organizer Compatible formats.

Also note, Sony made one ICD-CX series recorder which could also capture photos. It requires the Visual & Voice Player software. Audio is recorded in the DVF format.

Test Data Set

In order to explore the different formats I first needed to gather some samples. There are a few out there, but with the Digital Voice Editor 3 software, I was able to take a sample file and convert it to the many options available. You can see in the screenshot below, the different samples, their extension and the codec used. You can find my samples in GitHub here.

All MSV and DVF file have a similar pattern. The first 32 bytes have the text string “MS_VOICE SONY CORPORATION”. In between MS_VOICE and SONY, there is 4 bytes which vary slightly between the different formats. Here is a table of samples and the 4 bytes so we can see the differences.


There is an obvious pattern to the hex values as they increment 0100, 0101, 0102, and 0103. But there is some overlap between extension and codec, so probably more of a version number than specific to the codec. Currently the PRONOM signature for this format fmt/472, has the pattern for the 0102 version, but none of the others. We could simply add a variable in the signature for the different values and update the PRONOM signature so more samples would be identified. This would work well if there was a secondary characterization process to get technical metadata such as the codec and quality, but I am unaware of any tool to gather this information from the format, so I wonder if we can find any hints in the file to identify the codec so we have multiple PRONOM signatures to choose from. Also, you can see from the screenshot above that some of the LPEC formats have specific model numbers in the codec column, which could mean they may not be exactly the same. Each IC Recorder model has different quality settings and it appears, some settings may not be compatible with other models.

Looking beyond the first 16 bytes there is a lot of hex values which are unknown. A close comparison of all the samples leads me to the 4 bytes at offset 60. They seem to be the same for files with the same settings. Below is a chart of those values.

ExtensionCODECQualityOffset 60
DVFLPEC (ICD-BP-100/x20)SP00150001
DVFLPEC (ICD-BP-100/x20)LP00190001
MSV/DVFLPEC (ICD-SXx7/SXx8/SXxx0)ST00240002

Just to be sure this value at offset 60 was indeed an indication of codec and quality I manually switch out the 4 bytes from a LPEC ST file for a TRC HQ file. Sure enough, the software now saw the file as a TRC HQ audio file, even though the original is a Stereo file.

There is a very good chance this is not all the options. I only have one physical recorder which only records in Mono. But this gives us a really good idea of how to tell the difference between files. Below are the patterns I am submitting to PRONOM.







Perhaps we can alter the existing PRONOM signature for fmt/472 to catch all we may miss to:


This is one example of a file format which has a proprietary component which was never released from the vendor. When the vendor stopped supporting the software to open and read these formats, the risk increased for long-term preservation. It would be really nice when a vendor discontinues a technology, which was used by consumers, they would make the documentation for the format openly available. If you know more about the format, please reach out or if you have samples which don’t match the patterns mentioned here.