Musicians and recording artists have been recording music over the years to be able to share their music with the world with the best audio quality.
I’m a guitarist for a four-piece acoustic rock band and we’ve recently decided to record our first single. I’ve recorded myself over the past and have come to understand the importance of audio quality and how much of a big difference it makes to the listener.
In this article, I’m going to help you understand the different formats and quality available and help you understand how to render your music in the highest quality. Even if your not a musician but love to indulge in high-quality music, this article will help you understand the best format and quality for you to download your favorite music.
So let’s get started with understanding the different audio qualities available to ultimately determine which is the best audio quality Kbps.
Best Audio Quality Kbps
Size is all that matters with audio bitrate, more kilobits per second means better audio quality. For the common man who likes listening to music when he works out and drives 320 kbps is perfect as it doesn’t take too much storage on your phone and provides decent clarity to enjoy that song.
Did you know any music you’ve streamed online on YouTube and Spotify is no more than 126 kbps quality, and here you thought that was good quality sound! If you listen to a CD quality is provides 1,411kbps which will sound so much better.
To understand the best audio bitrate you need to analyze where and for what it’s going to be used. By now you’ve understood more storage means better sampling rate which means better sound.
- 128 kbps MP3 – Requires 1MB for storage per minute of the song.
- 320 kbps MP3 – Requires 2.5-3MB of storage per minute of the song.
- CD 1,411 kbps – Uncompressed 10MB per second for storage.
So there is no best audio bitrate, it all depends on you and how you’d like to enjoy your music. What we’re going to do now is cover what audio bitrate represents and what the main differences are between the types of bitrates.
What are Audio Kbps and Bitrate?
Kbps (Kilobits Per Second) has come to light over the years from the time recording engineers have started to digitally render sound. It defines the number of sound data present in the sound file or song per second. Bitrate is used to calculate the number of kilobits of sound data per second. For example, a 320 kbps audio file will have 320 kilobits of sound data stored in every second of the audio file. So the bitrate of the particular song is 320 kbps.
So naturally higher the kbps or bitrate, the higher the sound quality you will hear from your headphones or speakers.
Now that you’ve understood what kbps and bitrate mean, let’s look at how the different bitrates available to us and the different forms it is available to us in.
Compact Disc Audio Bitrate
CD, in short, had taken the world by storm in the ’80s and was established by Sony and Philips. CD had to become the new standard replacing cassettes as they had a higher bitrate of 1,411 kbps at 16-bit becoming the standard for audio distribution.
CDs had a good run for a decade and have now become obsolete as the trend of getting new music is leaning towards internet-based distribution agencies.
Waveform Audio File Format (WAV) Audio Bitrate
WAV format was developed by IBM and Microsoft to provide listeners a great musical experience by not compressing the sound which leads to loss of musical data. All high-quality WAV audio files have a bitrate of 1,411 kbps at 16 bits the same as a CD. Which opened doors to multiple the sample rate providing bit depth and an additional number of channels.
That is why you might have noticed a CD in WAV format can hold a limited amount of songs but does not compromise on the quality because the song is uncompressed and the sample rate is multiplied providing excellent audio clarity.
A similar format is provided by Apple known as AIFF that provides the same uncompressed top quality. Since the use of CD has declined, you can download audio files in WAV form.
MP3 Audio Quality Kbps
MP3 was the answer to the WAV format principle of “less is more”. The format compressed the original WAV using a compression codec that basically removes frequencies of the song while still trying to save the original recording.
MP3 audio files can provide their highest rate of 320 kbps at 16 bit and can go down to 92 kbps this definitely reduces sound quality but is mainly done to reduce the size of the audio file.
For example: A WAV audio file of a song of three mins is around 80MB, It can be compressed to 320 kbps that reduced the storage amount to 15MB, it can be further compressed to 256kbps reducing the file size to 8MB, it can further be reduced to 128kbps that can shrink the file size to 4-5MB. 92kbps is the lowest conversion rate to MP3 that sounds horribly over-compressed.
Difference Between 16 bit and 24 bit
If you’ve noticed all the above bitrates fall under the category of 16 bits as this is the most common bitrate music is put out for download. But for people who don’t compromise on sound, the 24-bit variant is available for high-res audio quality.
To understand the difference between both the bitrates you will first need to understand how sound works and how we perceive that sound.
Bitrate is the way you can define sound quality but that’s not all, Bitrate also determines the bit depth of the audio file and sampling rate.
Sample rate defines the number of samples used in a second. Studio Engineers using Nyquist-Shannon theorem have doubled the frequency so they can capture the sample accurately. This is done because the human hearing range cuts off at 20kHz so by doubling the frequency into 24bits none of the original recording quality is lost.
This is usually an option that comes up as a choice when rendering your project file where you have the option to choose the sample rate and bit rate. The sample rate you can choose is limitless it depends on you how far you want to take it.
The second part of understanding the difference is in the bit depth. Bit depth is the number of bits available to store that sound. Every single bit is a sliver of sound that is being heard by you, more amount bits provide better options for data to be stored.
By doing this you receive amazing detailed sound, a 24-bit rendering can capture 16,777,216 possibilities and a 16-bit rendering provides 65,536. As you see the capturing difference itself explains the quality difference.
Different Types of Audio Formats
There are many formats available today but they all fall under two categories that ideally define them. The two categories are Compressed and Uncompressed audio formats.
Uncompressed Audio Formats
This format is the original final recording after mastering the song. The raw audio files are converted into a digital uncompressed format without losing any of the frequencies this in return results in large file size. This is the ideal format for music distribution to DJs and Live music clubs as they have the right equipment to do justice to the Audio Forma.
- PCM – Pulse Code Modification – PCM converts the raw analog recorded file into digital format by sampling it into data. Which is made readable by a data container that is WAV and AIFF.
- WAV – Uncompressed format developed by Microsoft and IBM, to basically stream high-quality music on their desktop later become the industry standard of high-quality audio.
- AIFF – The Same as WAV format but the difference is that it was developed by Apple for their computer and devices.
Compressed Audio Formats
Compressed Audio Formats fall under two categories. They both have their own benefits that stand out depending on how you use them.
- Lossless Audio Format – A lossless audio format preserves the original recording data and tries to compress the data as a whole into a smaller size. For example FLAC, ALAC, WMA Lossless
- Lossy Audio Formats – Lossy Audio Format aims to reduce the file size as much as possible by discarding data and consolidating the audio file. For Example MP3 or MPEG, Ogg Vorbis, ACC.
- What’s the best audio quality format to record my POD casts?
The whole point of a Podcast is to keep your listeners interested in the conversation if you get buffering errors in between. it wouldn’t exactly keep them in the loop.
My best suggestion would be to record your POD in WAV and convert it into 128 kbps MP3 format this will help remove buffer errors and still keep the quality of your voice in check.
- What’s the best format to store my favorite music in my smartphone for my gym workout?
I would say it’s a combination of two that can help you make this decision, a good pair of headphones can really help cover the removed samples in the compressed MP3 format as a phone has generally decent storage.
So 128 kbps or 320, if you have the space for it with the headphones, should be perfect. Even if you stream music through Spotify or any other online source, you are listening to the same compressed 128 kbps format.
Well, there you have it. There is no best audio quality Kbps, per se.
Rather it solely depends on the type of interface used to play the audio and how the audio file was created.