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Audio Bitrates: What Do They Mean?

Here at Bay Bloor Radio, we often encounter customers who are unaware of the proper format to encode music into their personal library. As importing, downloading and streaming audio files has become the norm for many people, we want to ensure that our customers are getting the best possible audio resolution for their needs. With the increasing amount of hard drive space on computers and devices these days, we always recommend choosing the best bit rate possible where convenient.

The Five Most Common Audio File Types:

  • MP3 – The most common type of file and also, the most widely compatible with digital music players.
  • WAV – A file type that was originally designed for usage with Microsoft Windows computers.
  • FLAC – A lossless quality attempt to retain as much information from the original source as possible (Free Lossless Audio Codec).
  • ALAC – Apple iTunes version of lossless files (Apple Lossless Audio Codec).
  • DSD – A proprietary file type created by Sony that was specifically created for their Super Audio CD formats.  Generally.  This type of file has recently resurfaced in the audio enthusiast world and is considered Sony’s version of a lossless quality file type.

Some file formats offer a high amount of compression, trading sound quality for small file size. Compression is the audio technique intended to save space on your digital music device. The raw musical data, as recorded by studio engineers, tend to be quite large. This means that they require a great deal of space depending on the size of the album. This songs are then processed through software and file size is reduced.

This compression value is measured as Bitrate: a term used to specify the quality of an audio file format. The lower the Bitrate (kilobytes per second) value, the less space there is available to retain detail in the audio source material. For example, .Mp3 formats offer a compression Bitrate value of 128kbps to 320kbps: The smaller the bitrate value, the smaller the file size and lower the quality of the track.

File types like as .FLAC and ALAC are specialized formats that are intended to retain all the detail from the original source material, but generally have a larger file size. The average .Mp3 file, on the other hand, may loom around 3 megabytes in file size on average, while a .FLAC version of the very same track may consist of 15 megabytes.

Unlike MP3, lossless files don’t filter out sound that’s beyond human hearing, or inaudible quiet sounds otherwise masked by louder sounds. Instead, lossless audio takes what it common between the left and right channels and consolidates that information in the file. These files depend on the music player’s software to unpack and play those common elements back out of the left and right channels.


Most commonly, .MP3 tracks are recorded in 44,100 Hz at 16bit, which is a fancy way of saying the original recordings were sampled by the audio recording device 44,100 times per second. This technique of recording audio data is called “sampling rate” and can be boosted to 96,000 Hz at 24bit and sometimes, even further. Simply put, these number values represent the amount of data that is being processed per second. Generally, the higher the value, the more likely it is to capture more information, the larger the file size, and the better the quality of the track can be.

When it comes down to it, most people will be satisfied with a high-quality MP3. However, we recommend lossless formats wherever possible, especially if you are using high quality audio equipment.



  Digital Audio  

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