Sound Quality – 320Kbps vs 128Kbps vs 192Kbps

Great audio or sound quality helps enhance users’ viewing and listening experiences. Sound quality is based primarily on clarity, dynamics, envelopment, focus, and response, which is the ability of a user to understand dialogue and music in movies and lyrics and instrumentation in music.Therefore, how an audio file is formatted really matters. An audio file’s data can be stored as an uncompressed or compressed file.
audio quality

The most common audio format for audio streaming or storage is MP3, which uses a lossy data compression to prevent the audio file from taking up too much space. Kilobits per second (Kbps) is the term used to rate serial data transmission devices. Most audio encoding software will allow the user to choose the bit rate when converting audio files into a specialized format.

The lower the Kbps, the more data the encoder will eliminate when compressing an audio file; the range for bit rates is from 96 to 320 Kbps. 128 Kbps quality is typically considered radio quality, and a bit rate of 160 or higher is equivalent to CD sound quality. The music on iTunes is 256 kilobits per second. The higher the Kbps of an audio file, the more space it will consume on your computer. For example, a Kbps of 128 takes up very little space, but the sound quality is also lowered.

In less technical terms, subtle background instruments and vocals might be more difficult to hear, and the highs and lows will not be as vibrant. Whether you can hear the difference in the various bitrates also depends on the type of equipment or gear you use to play your audio files. Quality equipment makes a difference in eliminating the distortion, and it picks up on the lack of quality in music that was compressed using a lower bitrate. To maximize sound quality, 320 Kbps is the best choice. If storing audio files of this quality is an issue, storage options are as vast as they are affordable.


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6 thoughts on “Sound Quality – 320Kbps vs 128Kbps vs 192Kbps

  1. My LG DVD 132 seems like it doesn’t do 44.1khz ripping coz the finished product seems to sound a bit roll off on high frequencies.

  2. > 160 or higher is equivalent to CD sound quality

    Where does this information come from?

    An standard Audio CD does have 1440kbit/s, how does it come 160kbit/s which contains less than 10% of the information still sounds the same?

    I think this is far from real and is only true for very cheap audio setups like 10€ WalMart speakers or something like that.

    320kbit/s is the _minimum_ if you care about Audio Quality.

    The best choice for storing audio is and will always be FLAC

  3. Thanks for the article. However, there is no way 160 kbps is CD quality. Even 320kbps doesn’t quite hit the mark because audio integrity is reduced in order to compress the audio. Bass becomes woolly and the top end becomes less detailed.

  4. People online always complain about MP3 at 128kbps and the like and claim you need 320kbps etc, but in the real world, do a double blind listening test (with Foobar2000 with the ABX plugin comparing your original lossless file (FLAC) to your lossy file (MP3)) and I am confident most people will be happy even around V5 (130kbps average) using LAME encoder (although some people can hear a difference at V5 vs original lossless source, it’s not major). or let me put it this way… beyond LAME at V2 (190kbps average) is largely a waste of storage space. with AAC((standard AAC-LC)(using Apple AAC encoder)) 96kbps is considered a pretty good minimum that will easily please the majority of people. even better, Opus @ 96kbps as I think many will find even Opus at 64kbps is respectable.

    but to claim MP3 at 128kbps is ‘radio quality’ is a joke as if you make a MP3 around 128kbps from a AUDIO CD source, it’s unquestionably better than ‘radio quality’.

    or let me sum it up like this… pretty much any lossy encoder (MP3/AAC/Opus/OGG etc) around the 190kbps range (or so) is not far off from the lossless source to where your never going to notice the difference when just sitting back and enjoying your music (and I would even argue that V5 (130kbps) won’t be far off when your just sitting back and enjoying the music).

    but as a general rule AAC is superior to MP3 as this is common knowledge simply because it takes less bit rate to achieve a certain quality. but once your in the higher bit rates (say around 190kbps) it largely does not matter what lossy format you choose. but where AAC/Opus etc pull ahead of MP3 would be large around the 128kbps and lower ranges. because I would say a pretty good minimum guideline with MP3 is you don’t want to use lower than LAME V5 (130kbps average (this average is over a wide range of music)) and with AAC no lower than 96kbps. basically AAC @ 96kbps (at least the good encoders like Apple AAC or FhG) is better than MP3 @ 130kbps.

    one last thing… those above complaining that 160kbps is no where near CD quality are simply wrong (especially with AAC/Opus etc). it’s close enough as you can see listening tests online comparing different bit rates etc as these are not biased for or against anything.

    so if someone does not want to read all of that and just wants a simple answer for bitrates to use with MP3, ill say this… start off with LAME V5 (130kbps average) as that will likely please the majority of people and is quite efficient on bit rate. but if you want to be on the safe side of sound quality, while maintaining some level of efficiency, use LAME V2 (190kbps). those using 320kbps on MP3 is a waste of space as even the most picky people should not be using any higher than LAME V0 (245kbps average (this is the highest quality variable bit rate mode for MP3)) as that’s pretty much the same as 320kbps but clearly more efficient on bit rate.

    p.s. I use Foobar2000 and convert from my lossless audio (FLAC) to lossy audio (MP3/AAC/Opus etc) as this is basically the proper way to do it.

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