Best bitrate for MP3. (Complete Checklist)

When it comes to different audio formats, MP3 is already in the lowest tier. Because it's the most lossless audio format as it is. However, there is no better option than MP3 when saving space on your device. This is why most online platforms use MP3 as their primary audio format.

So, if you want to publish anything online or want everyone to have access to your audio, you must use MP3. A question has to be asked: Are all MP3 files the same? The answer is no. Different bitrates bring about significant changes in the quality of an mp3 file.

Things bring us to the fact what the best bitrate is for MP3? Well, that's what I will be discussing here today. I will go through all the different bitrates you get to see in MP3 file format. Let's not waste any more time and get right into it.

Related: FLAC vs. Mp3

Bitrates for mp3 

Well, there are several bitrates in mp3 file format. It can go as low as 32kbps which isn't even considered to be audio these days. It's one of the lowest qualities you can get for your mp3 files. That's why I won't be going as low as this bitrate.

I will mainly talk about 128, 256, and 320 kbps here. These are three standard bitrates you get to see in mp3 files. Among these, 128kbps and 320kbps are considered to be the most common. The difference between 128 and 256 isn't that significant. It's the same with 256 and 320 as well.

Now, let's take a look at them individually, and then I will get you a deeper insight into the audio bitrate.

  • 128-bitrate

Usually, you get to see this audio in most videos on social networking sites or maybe even YouTube. Also, some music downloading sites use this compression format in their audio files. These aren't that large. Typically, a minute of audio on 128kbps takes up about 1MB of space on your device.

So, if you have 5-minute audio with the 128kbps format, you will have a file of 5 MB on your device. While it's great for saving up space on your device, it doesn't offer the best possible sound quality. At least for modern-day usage, you can't make do with 128-kbps.

Having said that, you can still get away with 128kbps if you don't use high-quality headphones. Or if you don't listen to music that often. Because a high-quality headphone will bring out all the loss in quality from a 128kbps file.

  • 256-bitrate 

This is a bit rare to see, but it's also quite suitable for use. With 256kbps mp3 files, you get the best of both worlds. While it's not as low quality as a 128kbps file yet, it's not quite large. So, you get CD-quality audio in your mp3 files with minimal size.

The difference in sound quality between 128kbps and 256kbps is huge. You can instantly point out the difference if you have good-quality headphones. So, getting 256 kbps is genuinely worth it if you have enough space in your device.

Usually, having 4GB storage in your device should be enough to keep plenty of songs with 256kbps quality. Or you can simply keep songs collectively based on your favorite albums.

  • 320-bitrate 

Well, when it comes to mp3 audio format, this is the best and highest bitrate you can get, at least for now. This gives you the best sound quality on your mp3 files, and you can't get better than this. It has the least loss of quality among any other bitrate of mp3 files.

Since it doesn't lose as much quality as other ones, it also has a larger file size. For 1-minute audio in 320kbps, you will need around 2.5MB of space in your storage. So, a 4-minute song will have a file size of about 10MB.

Now, the question is who should opt for this file type. If you care about the sound quality and own a high-end pair of headphones, then this format will work out the best for you. Also, many online platforms these days offer the 320kbps bitrate on their mp3 audio files.

Typically, these are the most popular and common bitrates that you get to see for mp3 files. Now, you might come across another comparison between 24-bit and 16-bit. Let's discuss that a little bit.

Related: 3D Audio

16-bit vs. 24-bit. What's the difference? 

Both 16-bit and 24-bit are related to bit depths and the concept of sample rates. Diving deep into that can get pretty technical and difficult to understand. So, to give you an easier understanding, I will try to keep things simple here.

The bit depth determines the number of bits the system can get for capturing sound. A higher bit depth means that there will be much better accuracy in the sound capture. More bits caught means more information stored; this results in better sound quality from your audio files.

When you have a 16-bit file, you can end up with 65,536 levels of capture while using the sample rate of 44.1khz. And if you are using the same sample rate with a bit depth of 24-bit, you will get 16,777,216 levels on the capture.

Simply put, with the same sample rate, 24-bit audio will bring out more detail than 16-bit audio. This also means the size of the 24-bit audio will be much larger than the 16-bit because it will have more information.

So, when choosing between these two, you have to think of whether you want to have all the details or you want a smaller size. Things like movies or tv shows usually use 24-bit because they want to add all the intricate sound details in their audio.

128kbps vs. 256kbps vs. 320kbps which one to pick 

Let's get real here, all of these bitrates have their benefits and drawbacks. When choosing one, you have to consider your needs and preferences for the file; also, what you will use the audio for plays a huge role here.

For example, when uploading music, you should always consider the highest possible quality for the mp3 file. To get the most out of your mp3 files, you should pick the 320kbps format for any music files. They can provide the best possible audio without losing too much quality.

Don't get me wrong, even with 320kbps; you will end up losing quality. But it is almost negligible and comparatively much lower than 128-kbps or 256-kbps. At the same time, it has a huge difference in size between other file formats like FLAC or WAV. So, for music, 320kbps works out the best.

Now, for any video or general purposes, you can use 256-kbps. This works well because you still get pretty decent quality sounds coming from the file. And you don't have to worry about humongous sizes on the files. Since it's not music, you don't need too much accuracy either.

Lastly, those who have an issue with the file's size can opt for 128-kbps. While the difference between 256kbps and 128kbps is pretty evident, it's also the case for the size. However, the difference in the size isn't noticeable if you are considering a small number of files.

Final thoughts 

Summing it up, in terms of sound quality, the best bitrate for mp3 is 320kbps. There is no question about that. Yes, you can use formats like WAV or FLAC. But they can get pretty large, which is why people opt for mp3 files.

As for the other bitrates, they also have their purpose of saving space in your device. So, it all comes down to your preferences at the end of the day. Any music producer or engineer should always export their audio files in 320kbps.

When you use the highest possible quality, there are ways to compress that to a lower quality to adjust the size. But if you are exporting the raw file into a lower bitrate, there is no way to convert it into a higher one.

This is why the 320kbps turns out to be the best bitrate for everyone to use. Later on, to save up space, you can always lean towards 128 or 256 kbps. Anything lower than that is just pure disgrace.

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