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.