The audio bitrate of your beats is something that definitely needs your attention. For some, the quality needs to be super duper fantastic, and if it were up to them they would offer uncompressed versions of all their beats.
However, the bitrate might not be as important as you might think. It’s true that if you offer a higher bitrate to your listeners, they will prefer it over a lower quality bitrate, but a lot of it has to do with marketing. You see, back in the day, audio bitrate was nowhere near as it is today, yet music was fantastic. No matter what song you heard, it sounded great. Why is that? Probably because they used the best bitrate at the time, something that sounded perfect to the human ear.
Today’s Bitrate Might Be Too High
Today’s music is completely different. Recording studios are constantly trying to push out the highest quality music no matter what the cost, and that is why all the music we hear today sounds so damn loud!
A few years ago, I posted online about how you should keep your mixes to around 128kbps and 192kbps. There were lots of responses, and one of them mentioned that there’s a big difference between 128 and 192, and an even bigger difference between 192 and 256 or 320kbps. He was right – but also wrong.
If you mix your beat down to 128kbps and listen to it compared to a 320kbps version, there is obviously a huge difference. Even though 320 sounds great, it’s not necessarily the bitrate you want to use all the time.
Why? Because you might not even notice the difference. Allow me to explain.
KBPS stands for kilo bits per second. This means that if you have your mix at 192kbps, it’s 192kbps of data per second in your beat. One of the issues with mixing down to a very high bitrate like 320 or uncompressed like FLAC is that it takes up a huge amount of space on your computer’s hard drive. Also, you might not even notice a big difference in the quality of the music, just like you can’t hear very high or very low frequencies.
It’s great if you want to use an instrument at a very high frequency, something ridiculous like 100kHz, but you won’t even hear it. The same thing applies to audio bitrates. Normally, when I mix, I aim for 192kbps. The reason why I don’t go with 320 is as I mentioned, it takes up an enormous amount of space, same as a WAV file. Second, 192 is fine for me and I think it’s the best bitrate for anyone, as 320 is just going overboard excessive.
The Bitrate Is More Than Just The Size
One of the other main issues is that you probably won’t even get to experience a very high quality sound anyway, depending on what listening device you’re using. For example, if you listen to music with a pair of high quality headphones, you will be able to hear a wide range of audio, from subtle background tracks to high pitched instruments. If you are using earbuds, not so much. Since earbuds are small and have tiny speakers with thin wires, it can’t handle a big audio response such as studio-quality headphones. Thus, you will be able to hear the song no problem, but 192 vs 320 won’t be an issue for you.
If you are using studio monitors at home and listen to your music through there, then you will notice a difference (so long as your room is somewhat sound treated).
The main point to consider is that just because mixing down to 320kbps or a lossy format is what most people are doing, it may not even benefit you. If you make dark style beats, or 90s boom bap, 320kbps will actually sound bad for the sound you are trying to achieve. On the other hand, if you’re producing a Pop song for Rihanna, then top quality is what you need because that is what they want.
Lossy format is actually very good too, and it serves a very good purpose. If you have a lossy format of your beats, then it’s always there sort of like the original version of something, so you can compress it down to whatever bitrate you need to, later on down the road. Also, if you plan on uploading your music to certain websites, such as Bandcamp, they insist that your quality be at 320kbps or better because they want to offer people the best quality, plus they can compress it down as needed.
The Bitrate Is Really Up To You And Your Needs
Should you compress your beats? If so, by how much? Is lossy format the way to go? These are all questions you have to answer yourself, but just remember that bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Some online services will market themselves as having the highest quality music around, and even if that were true, it’s a marketing ploy. People will flock to the websites that offer super ginormous awesome quality, better than the rest.
But you don’t have to fall for that scheme.
If you prefer to work with 192kbps, then stick with that. Although 192 is a good choice, anything below that DOES sound like a lower quality, so just remember that. 320 is the optimal choice for most people, but again, there are tradeoffs. Quality is key, but the tradeoff is that you could be losing hard drive space.