Can You Hear The Difference Between A 128 And 320 kbps MP3 File?

I’ve just found a great page that plays an MP3 encoded at both 128kbps and 320kbps and challenges listeners to spot the better quality file. It’s an interesting test, and it’ll be interesting to see if Connected Internet readers can spot the difference. Don’t forget to come back and let other readers know how good your ‘ear’ is.

I could tell the difference, although I had to listen to the files on a decent set of speakers. Where you tend to listen to your files should determine how you encode your files. If disk space is at a premium and you only listen to your tracks on an MP3 player through a pair of generally poor speakers, then 128kbps files should be ok. However, if you listen to your files on a decent hifi, or intend to in the future, then you will benefit from the higher bit rates.

This is the situation I find myself in. When I got my first iPod back in 2003 I started encoding my files at 128kbps so that I could fit as many tracks as possible onto my 15GB iPod. However, I realised too late that in the future I would probably have a bigger device, so I should encode my files at the highest quality possible so that I wouldn’t have to spend many hours ripping my CDs again. So, I went back and re-ripped all my CDs at 320kbps.

This has served me well for 5 years, although I’m currently in the process of re-ripping my CDs in a loseless format (I’m using FLAC via MediaMonkey). I have a very good stereo system connected to main media center PC, where I can clearly hear the difference between even 320kbps and loseless files. Once I’ve completed this (it will take a few months…) I intend to put away my CDs forever and then turn my attention to ripping my LPs by purchasing a USB turntable.

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35 Responses to Can You Hear The Difference Between A 128 And 320 kbps MP3 File?

  1. Smith May 25, 2008 at 6:23 pm #

    well Everton I have listened to some mp3 files there and frankly I was not able to spot any huge difference. Irony is that I don’t even know which one is better. Everton You have a really cool theme here , which one is this ..

    Smith
    http://private-jets-rentals.blogspot.com/

    Read Smith’s latest blog post….Private Jet Recommendations is a must>>>

  2. Smith May 25, 2008 at 7:23 pm #

    well Everton I have listened to some mp3 files there and frankly I was not able to spot any huge difference. Irony is that I don’t even know which one is better. Everton You have a really cool theme here , which one is this ..

    Smith
    http://private-jets-rentals.blogspot.com/

    Read Smith’s latest blog post….Private Jet Recommendations is a must>>>

  3. Everton May 25, 2008 at 6:25 pm #

    @SmithWP-Magazine Theme – very easy to edit and customise.

  4. Avatar of Everton
    Everton May 25, 2008 at 7:25 pm #

    @Smith

    WP-Magazine Theme – very easy to edit and customise.

  5. Smith May 25, 2008 at 6:27 pm #

    is it free or have to purchase it ..

    Read Smith’s latest blog post….Private Jet Recommendations is a must>>>

  6. Smith May 25, 2008 at 7:27 pm #

    is it free or have to purchase it ..

    Read Smith’s latest blog post….Private Jet Recommendations is a must>>>

  7. Smith May 25, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    Nice and that was quick Everton | so is the WP-Magazine theme free or  ??????

    Read Smith’s latest blog post….Private Jet Recommendations is a must>>>

  8. Smith May 25, 2008 at 7:28 pm #

    Nice and that was quick Everton | so is the WP-Magazine theme free or  ??????

    Read Smith’s latest blog post….Private Jet Recommendations is a must>>>

  9. Everton May 25, 2008 at 6:31 pm #

    @SmithIt’s a premium theme – well worth the money

  10. Avatar of Everton
    Everton May 25, 2008 at 7:31 pm #

    @Smith

    It’s a premium theme – well worth the money

  11. Mark May 25, 2008 at 6:33 pm #

    Well Everton let me handle this one. Well Smith this is not a free theme if you click on the link which Everton has provided you in his reply .. you’ll be directed to the home page of the theme and the good thing about this particular theme is that this comes with really good supporting documentation, step by step guidence so ensuer that you make the most of it ..& easilyMarkEditor<b><a href=”http://www.212articles.com“>Submit Free Articles</a></b></p>

  12. Mark May 25, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    Well Everton let me handle this one. Well Smith this is not a free theme if you click on the link which Everton has provided you in his reply .. you’ll be directed to the home page of the theme and the good thing about this particular theme is that this comes with really good supporting documentation, step by step guidence so ensuer that you make the most of it ..& easilyMarkEditor<b><a href=”http://www.212articles.com“>Submit Free Articles</a></b></p>

  13. Michael Lankton May 25, 2008 at 11:32 pm #

    I find mp3s ok for sitting at the desk, but I never confuse them for uncompressed or lossless audio.  I think the law of diminishing returns kicks in around 192k for mp3s.

    Read mlankton’s latest blog post….Emotiva Audio ERM-1 Reference Monitor>>>

  14. mlankton May 26, 2008 at 12:32 am #

    I find mp3s ok for sitting at the desk, but I never confuse them for uncompressed or lossless audio.  I think the law of diminishing returns kicks in around 192k for mp3s.

    Read mlankton’s latest blog post….Emotiva Audio ERM-1 Reference Monitor>>>

  15. J Nandshore May 27, 2008 at 2:26 am #

    On crappy audio gear, I guess few people will tell the difference (but 128k vs 320k is certainly a lot).I did, however, a test with FLACs and 160k VBR MP3s on my average home AV receiver once (Samsung, not top quality or pro by any means). Everyone could tell the difference, everyone. Even people who are terrible with everything-audio/music got it right.

  16. J Nandshore May 27, 2008 at 3:26 am #

    On crappy audio gear, I guess few people will tell the difference (but 128k vs 320k is certainly a lot).I did, however, a test with FLACs and 160k VBR MP3s on my average home AV receiver once (Samsung, not top quality or pro by any means). Everyone could tell the difference, everyone. Even people who are terrible with everything-audio/music got it right.

  17. Tim May 27, 2008 at 2:55 am #

    I have my entire CD collection ripped to FLAC.  The lossy codecs have shown *dramatic* improvements over the years.  In fact, my ears can’t tell a difference all the way down to 80kbs.  My current process is to batch re-rip my collection every year or so to the “next lowest” bitrate to save space.  I’m working my way to getting my entire 250 CD collection on my 8GB iPhone.This is why the Amazon MP3 and iTunes AAC+ stores suck – they’re the worst compromise – not lossless archival format and not optimized for portable players.  I wish they’d give us the option to buy a lossless format!

  18. Tim May 27, 2008 at 3:55 am #

    I have my entire CD collection ripped to FLAC.  The lossy codecs have shown *dramatic* improvements over the years.  In fact, my ears can’t tell a difference all the way down to 80kbs.  My current process is to batch re-rip my collection every year or so to the “next lowest” bitrate to save space.  I’m working my way to getting my entire 250 CD collection on my 8GB iPhone.This is why the Amazon MP3 and iTunes AAC+ stores suck – they’re the worst compromise – not lossless archival format and not optimized for portable players.  I wish they’d give us the option to buy a lossless format!

  19. Everton May 27, 2008 at 5:43 am #

    @Tim
    Have you tried MediaMonkey? It automatically converts files to smaller formats for different devices for you e..g you could have everything in FLAC, but it will do the 80kbps for your iPhone automatically, and then say 320kbps for you iPod etc etc

  20. Avatar of Everton
    Everton May 27, 2008 at 6:43 am #

    @Tim
    Have you tried MediaMonkey? It automatically converts files to smaller formats for different devices for you e..g you could have everything in FLAC, but it will do the 80kbps for your iPhone automatically, and then say 320kbps for you iPod etc etc

  21. Rob O. May 29, 2008 at 10:18 am #

    With good earbuds, I can tell a diff.  I went with 192k on all of my MP3 files.  Like Michael, I think 192k is a very reasonable compromise.
    I do get a big kick outta guys who insist that they must have 320kbps and then do the vast majority of their listening in the car.  Road noise trumps audio fidelity any day of the week…

    Read Rob O.’s latest blog post….How Am I Unlike a Turnip?>>>

  22. Rob O. May 29, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    With good earbuds, I can tell a diff.  I went with 192k on all of my MP3 files.  Like Michael, I think 192k is a very reasonable compromise.
    I do get a big kick outta guys who insist that they must have 320kbps and then do the vast majority of their listening in the car.  Road noise trumps audio fidelity any day of the week…

    Read Rob O.’s latest blog post….How Am I Unlike a Turnip?>>>

  23. Mosey May 30, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    I can’t help but feel a wee bit chuffed that I did get it right ;) Am listening with ear phones although ideally I would have used my big speakers! I did have to listen to it a few times to be sure though (just in case) – now I try and rip everything to 320kbps. I’m using ‘Exact Audio Copy’ and despite whatever one says, am still using mp3 since it seems to be the most transferable.

  24. Mosey May 30, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    I can’t help but feel a wee bit chuffed that I did get it right ;) Am listening with ear phones although ideally I would have used my big speakers! I did have to listen to it a few times to be sure though (just in case) – now I try and rip everything to 320kbps. I’m using ‘Exact Audio Copy’ and despite whatever one says, am still using mp3 since it seems to be the most transferable.

  25. Komodo Dragon June 5, 2008 at 5:37 am #

    I think it also depends on the song you are playing. Some songs you can tell the difference more easily than others.

  26. Komodo Dragon June 5, 2008 at 6:37 am #

    I think it also depends on the song you are playing. Some songs you can tell the difference more easily than others.

  27. MB Web Design June 19, 2008 at 9:29 pm #

    To be frank, I can’t tell the difference in a regular setting, but if you turn on a vocal remover in Winamp the difference is clear – 128k mp3s will sound like they’re recorded underwater!

  28. MB Web Design June 19, 2008 at 10:29 pm #

    To be frank, I can’t tell the difference in a regular setting, but if you turn on a vocal remover in Winamp the difference is clear – 128k mp3s will sound like they’re recorded underwater!

  29. Zath July 6, 2008 at 7:23 pm #

    I can tell the difference between 128 and 192, but higher than that it pretty much all sounds the same to me…I think ;)

    Read Zath’s latest blog post….Football Manager 2008 – Cheap Bargain on PC!>>>

  30. Zath July 6, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    I can tell the difference between 128 and 192, but higher than that it pretty much all sounds the same to me…I think ;)

    Read Zath’s latest blog post….Football Manager 2008 – Cheap Bargain on PC!>>>

  31. Rob October 21, 2008 at 10:22 pm #

    Great link/test.

    Thank you (and yes, I could hear the difference).

  32. Rob October 21, 2008 at 11:22 pm #

    Great link/test.

    Thank you (and yes, I could hear the difference).

  33. Rory January 2, 2009 at 2:13 am #

    I have an 80gb ipod classic should i care what size my files are?

  34. Rory January 2, 2009 at 3:13 am #

    I have an 80gb ipod classic should i care what size my files are?

  35. Trev March 30, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    I was listening on a cheap $40 pair of Philips head phones and could easily tell the difference.