Home » Hardware » CD Quality vs MP3 Quality

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When I go to the mall I always see kids listening to their iPhones threw there Beats head phones. I watch TV ads and they brag about the quality of the headphones. I agree beats are great and iPhone ear buds are fun but what people do not realize is that the music sounds great but not as great as it could be if you were using cd quality.

CD audio is digitally sampled at 44kHz, which sampling theory says can capture any frequency up to 22kHz – the upper limit of human hearing. The volume levels are then quantized into 16-bit quantities, which can represent 65,536 discrete values for the loudness. 24-bit audio is often sampled at 96kHz or 192kHz; those 24 bits can represent 16.7m discrete loudness values. By contrast MP3s are compressed by an algorithm that throws away parts of the sound that long laborious testing determined could not actually be heard.

What was very apparent is just how bad a poor-quality MP3 sounded, how good a 320kbps MP3 and CD sounded. Hi-res music is currently available but it costs more than a standard MP3 file. The other issue is size for an album which takes up around 2 and 5GB of storage space. MP3 typically take up around 5MB per track.

More devices support hi-res music Samsung, Sony, LG and Apple already selling music players and smartphones capable of playing 24-bit music. Apple, Amazon and Spotify offer similar hidef-reserves that offer 320kbps but with caped data plans by phone carriers by default these options are not selected you have to go into settings and bump them up to 320 kbps.

After experimenting with both CDs and MP3 and reading about the Fletcher Munson Curve an MP3 played at 320kbps is about on par with CD Quality depending on studio production and the type of music played.

One thing I found while experimenting was certain genres of music sound better than others do in hi-res audio. Overall I think it depends on how you listen if you like to listen closely to music and want quality then this makes a difference to you. If you just want back ground noise while running the treadmill or are concerned about your data plan this probably does not concern you but it’s still fun to know how MP3s work I remember the old Winamp days.

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