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When you rip MP3s, should you rip them at 160, 128, 96 or 64 for the best sounding file that is still small? Just what are the differences in sounds? Hear for yourself with clips from the Gladiator soundtrack.
Be sure to understand the Basics of MP3s to understand just what bitrates are and how music file formats vary from each other first!
These sound files were all created with MusicMatch version 7. Remember, the MP3 player you use to play these files will actually affect the quality of what you hear! Try playing them back with 2 or 3 different MP3 jukebox software programs, to hear the differences. MP3 Jukebox Software Listing
The Battle Original WAV file - 1038kb
This is the original file for our test case. It is only 6 seconds long, and is a clip from The Battle song off the Gladiator soundtrack. Those 6 seconds take up over 1mb of disk space. A WAV file is about as high a quality recording as you can get, but they are huge. Use this to compare to the others. A great comparison is to play this one, then to play the smallest file and see just how much was lost.
The Battle 160 MP3 - 121kb
The MP3 coded version of the same 6 seconds of song drops down by a full 10 times!! It is only 121k even though it's at a super high quality rate of 160. Most people cannot hear any difference between the WAV version and the 160 MP3 verison. Can you?
The Battle 128 MP3 - 97kb
Now we're down to 128 and the file size is just a bit smaller. Most people rip their CDs at 128 because the quality level is still indistinguishable from the original sound file. Read more about Human Ear Frequency Range to see why this is so.
The Battle 96 MP3 - 74kb
The sound file is smaller, but now we're losing quality. We're still over the quality of FM radio transmissions, but we've lost some of the depth here. This is where most people can start to hear the loss.
The Battle 64 MP3 - 50kb
This is FM quality and we're now at under half the file size as with the CD quality file. You can really hear the change in the music, though. You are making some serious trade-offs here. Why not just buy a larger hard drive?
The Battle 48 MP3 - 38kb
Now you're almost at AM radio quality, and the file is tiny. You could put hundreds of these onto any hard drive! But really, play this version and then play the WAV file version. If you enjoy music, this is too much of a loss to really enjoy. Play this and the 160 file one after the other. Hear how the 160 file has the brassiness of the horns? This 48 version is completely flat.
Remember, too, that the quality of your speakers is going to have a huge effect on your music! If you have $5 cheap speakers, then even the WAV version is going to sound tinny and scratchy. With high quality speakers going for only $30, it's really worth it to invest in a pair. Your ears are keenest when you're young - don't waste the best years of your listening lifetime with bad quality speakers. You'll have bad quality ears soon enough!
MP3 Comparison using Santana's Song Smooth
WMA Comparison using Gladiator