Posted in Off Topic

Bit-rate Dilemma

Recently scoured the web for thorough and in-depth info, analysis, and dissection of bit-rate and its effects on audio clarity and quality. That wasn’t the first time I went curious and deliberated on the issue – I just didn’t pay much of an attention the first time around. I was then looking for sort of an affirmation that 128kbps is a good enough quality for mp3. Based on several articles, it indeed sounds decent ergo boosted me to convert my music library to the said bit-rate to save up memory as well as cram as many songs into my quarter-gig mp3 player.

I’ve been fine and contented with my collection… until it dawns on me that most songs I’m eyeing are posted in 320kbps – my bandwidth ;’( – I feel chiseled to download them only to abridge them almost immediately. People privileged to enjoy broadband connection – up/downloading tens of minutes of HD videos regularly requires strong speedy bandwidth – would naturally opt to view/stream/sample higher quality of audio-video. Why wouldn’t you while you could? I know I would xp.

Anyway, I have to admit that it kinda pisses me off that the files are so big it will only hurt my internet capacity, especially when you’re running on a limited quota which pushes you to become an utmost bytes-conscious and your HD is running low, for the aforementioned reasons. However, this fact also got me thinking that there’s gotta be a reason why netizens treasure and/or share compressed audio files at such bit-rate. The next thing I know I was riffling through web pages after web pages flaunting info of the sought-after details.


  • Some called it crappy, but the consensus puts 128kbps as the least a piece of music should be compressed into. Go lower than that and be ready to receive a battering – which fell to youtube’s lap after the change of its policy allegedly lowers the audio quality of 360 and 480p to 96kbps so one needs to press 720p to listen to 128kbps of sound quality (many panned the move saying that it just wastes bandwidth, accentuating that majority prefers good audio to clear video.)
  • 192kbps clearly emits better sound quality compared to 128kbps, so unless one really couldn’t care less, didn’t find any difference, or bandwidth-restricted it’s advisable not to compress them to 128kbps – it’s unworthy compared to the amount of space saved.
  • Audiophile swears by CD-quality but testers are satisfied with 256-320kbps whose quality is indistinguishable from CD-quality. Nevertheless, many people cannot even differentiate 128 from 320/CD-quality, which depends largely on the encoder and types of stereo system used – it makes little difference when listened through computer’s lousy speakers or common mp3 players with cheap earplugs.
  • This page nicely lists the different qualities each bit-rate produces from 96 to 320 compared to that of CD-quality. Which is largely apparent with elements like cymbal, highs and lows, or piano tings. It then concludes that 256kbps is the one you may look for – no need to go as high as 320 as it’ll only multiply the file size.
  • Rule of thumb: 128 is bare-minimum; 192 is desirable; 256 is pristine, CD-like quality.

Thanks to them, I come to a conclusion that… I shouldn’t have done what I did months ago, when I happily adjusted my whole collection to the uniform 128kbps. How mind-bogging – half of them were originally 192kbps or higher. And NOW I’d like them to be uniformly 192kbps. I feel like plucking my hairs out.

With almost 800 songs (which may not seem a lot compared to music-crazed people out there), is it worth it to re-stock them at the bit-rate I now want them to be? They’ve been amassed slowly and selectively over the years, my prized favorite pieces of music. I have the time, but lack the motive to do it all over again. It’ll stretch my time, mental-eye-back-and-bottom health, and of course my bandwidth super thin.

Again, is it really worth the effort?

Okay, I won’t go that extreme. I’ve started ever-so-slowly re-dl-ing current faves and probably gonna sift through my collection, finding the still-shining gems after months or years being left untouched and covered by debris that deserve refurbishment.

Let me set this straight. I am no audiophile and I tend not be able to discern the 128 from 320 ones. Blame it on my poor ears, cheap earphones, or crappy built-in/external speakers. (Digressing a bit, the quality of 96kbps is bad and for good measure, the sound of some of my 128kbps songs cracks at high notes, becomes indistinct at low keys, and goes awry on blaring, synthesized parts it pisses me off to no end. Been wondering whether the problem lies in the source or my deteriorating built-in speakers…) 

Don’t think I’ll ever play them on a high-fidelity (hi-fi) sound system but my laptop/mp3 player either, BUT isn’t it always better to save something at a higher quality, just in case? I don’t plan to save them all up at 256kbps anyway. Not because I do not want to, but it’s just beyond my limit atm. Sad…



I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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