MP3 Sound Quality Test - MP3-128 VS MP3-192 VS MP3-256 VS MP3-320
So which to use when importing your music into iTunes? My best advice is if you have tons of storage space on your computer hard drive then by all means go with the MP3-320 as that’s going to sound the best out of the four qualities listed above. It’s a given fact that when you import your music into your iTunes Music Library that when you import at the lowest quality say MP3-128 wont sound as good as if you import your music at MP3-320. But the higher that number is the larger the file size is too. The reason for this is because the mp3 file itself is holding on to lots of digital information compared to the lesser quality file like the MP3-128. My basic explanation for the sound quality between the MP3-128 to the MP3-320 is that the MP3-128 files usually sound hollow to me. Without having much oomph to them. Compared to the MP3-320 where they sound a lot beefier having so much more substance.
To start our test we will be using the song The Magnificent Seven by The Clash from their The Essential Clash album! See the beautiful album cover below.
First off pop the CD into iTunes until you see the window like above. Then to change the MP3 quality setting in your iTunes click the Import Settingss button in the far right bottom of the window. See picture below.
Once you click the Import Setting window you will then be taken to another window like you see below.
Once you are here you can select whether you want to import mp3s, AACs (Apple Lossless Encoder), AIFFs or more! See picture below.
From here you can select if you want to import MP3-128 or MP3-192 or MP3-256 or MP3-320. If you want to select higher quality bit rate like MP3-256 or MP3-320 then you will have to select Custom to choose MP3-256 or MP3-320. See picture below.
You can do this with any MP3s. You can decide which albums you want to import as MP3-128 versus the higher ones like MP3-320. Anything spoken word, books on tape I import at low quality. I really do not need to have those at high quality as there’s just not any music and I don’t have to have talking/speaking as a very high quality audio file/MP3. But when it comes to music I try and import all my albums at MP3-320. Nothing less. And with hard drives being so cheap these days I don’t want to take away the sound quality to enjoy the music more.
Just think about this too. When you sync the music to your iPhone or iPod or iPad obviously the larger files like the MP3-320s will fill up your devices much quicker compared to MP3-128s. See the files sizes for The Magnificent Seven for the different bit rate MP3s below. So always when you are considering buying an iPhone, iPod or iPad and you have all your music encoded and imported at the high quality MP3 birate then think about getting those devices that have more hard drive space so that you don’t run out of space when you are syncing your music to them.
So we have imported The Magnificent Seven by The Clash into iTunes 4 times. Once at MP3-128, once at MP3-192, once at MP3-256 and finally once at MP3-320.
MP3-128 – file size – 5.1 megabytes
MP3-192 – file size – 7.7 megabytes
MP3-256 – file size – 10.9 megabytes
MP3-320 – file size – 12.1 megabytes
After carefully listening to The Magnificent Seven MP3s the biggest noticeable differences are between the MP3-128 versus the MP3-320. The MP3-128 just sounds flat and there are smaller speaking voices within the song that are not as dominantly present in the MP3-128 versus the MP3-320. The instruments don’t come through as much either versus the larger quality file. The MP3-320 just sounds beefier overall and more vibrant. The MP3-128 just sounds flat as mentioned before and not very alive. Also with the MP3-128 there’s more of a hiss present that’s missing in the MP3-320 or not very present. The unfortunate thing with this test is that there isn’t much noticeable difference now going forward with comparing the MP3-192, MP3-256 with the MP3-320. If you were an audiophile you will certainly notice differences between these different sound quality bitrates for the MP3s. But for the average music fan most of the time the sound quality differences will not come through.
So my conclusion is that if you want all your music to be consistent and want your music to be at the highest quality mp3 file that takes the least amount of space then go with MP3-320 like me. I have started reimporting most of my music at MP3-320 and I have been noticing the difference between the MP3-128 and MP3-192. And I’m enjoying my music even more. Especially when I’m listening to the new music with my headphones that’s when I’m noticing the differences. But if you don’t care about quality but just want the music then just stick to MP3-192s and enjoy your music like. Just stay away from the MP3-128 as the noticeable difference is certainly there.
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