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320-kbps vs. Lossless Audio: Understanding the Difference

320-kbps vs. Lossless Audio

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These days, 320-kbps MP3 files are the most common audio files that people download on the web. This format is preferred because it works with many different devices without compatibility problems. 

The drawback with these files is that, because they’re compressed, you tend to miss out on some details you’d otherwise hear in a lossless audio file.

Yes, there are differences between 30-kbps and lossless audio!

And it’s totally okay if this is the first time you’re finding out about this. Not all audiophiles can distinguish between 320-kbps files and lossless audio files.

So I’ll be discussing their differences, how to identify them, and which of the two is the better choice. Let’s get straight to it!

320-kbps vs. Lossless Audio: How to Tell the Difference

The main distinction between 320-kbps files and lossless audio files is that the latter only shrinks the portions of the file that don’t impact sound quality. Meanwhile, 320-kbps shrinks the entire file. 

Lossless audio files typically use 5 MB per minute and utilize a bit rate of 1,411 kbps, while 320-kbps files use 2.4 MB per minute.

Most of the time, the distinction between these types of audio files is hardly noticeable to the average person. Even audiophiles have a hard time differentiating the two with absolute clarity.

By using the voice recorder software on your mobile to record the same audio in 320-kbps and lossless formats, you’d be able to tell the two types of audio files apart.  Here’s how to do this on an iPhone:

  1. Go to Voice Memos, then Setting, and then Audio Quality, and set it to Compressed.
  2. Open the Voice Memos application and record a little segment.
  3. Return to Settings and switch the Quality option to Lossless, then record another clip. 

When you keep playing both clips, one after the other, then you’ll be able to hear the difference, especially if you listen with a good pair of earbuds or headphones

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Main Differences Between 320-kbps And Lossless Audio

Now that you know how to tell 320-kbps files and lossless audio files apart upon downloading, you may be interested in knowing the main differences between these file types. 

Lossless audio does not need universal compression.

Silent spaces are removed from lossless audio recordings, resulting in smaller downloads. 

It concentrates on the silenced parts rather than compressing the entire file. These holes frequently take up a lot of space, increasing the download time and file size.

By classifying audio files into two groups, FLAC highlights them. This approach can distinguish between sound and silence.

It automatically sorts through the entire file, so you don’t have to. However, lossless compression may take a little longer than other techniques. 

The main drawback of universal audio compressing is the potential loss of sound quality. You might hear a noticeable difference if you reduce the speed to less than 192 kbps.

White noise frequently appears during the silence in audio samples, which is why people reduce the files. Both problems are addressed by lossless audio in one go.

320-kbps is typically smaller.

When it comes to how much storage space they take up, 320-kbps files are smaller. That’s because they are compressed using the 320 kilobytes per second protocol.

On the other hand, lossless audio doubles the amount of data required to condense itself to 1,411 kilobytes per second. Because of this, lossless audio may have higher quality but it also means they take a longer time to download and use up more storage space.

While this may not seem like a big problem, given how much storage most gadgets have, you may run into some issues if your song collection has many tracks.

320-kbps and lossless audio have different file formats.

Because they’re different types of audio and use different forms of compression, 320-kbps files and lossless audio files are available in various formats.

Lossless audio file formats include:

  • ALAC
  • WAV
  • AIFF
  • FLAC

320-kbps file formats include:

  • MP3
  • AAC
  • WAV
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320-kbps vs. Lossless Audio: Which One Should You Choose?

Because lossless audio preserves all of the original data during compression, these files have better quality so it is the clear winner.

Of course, you’d be able to enjoy the music if you’re listening to a high-quality audio file. But that doesn’t mean that 320-kbps has poor quality.

When choosing between 320-kbps files and lossless audio files, here are some things to consider.

  • Lossless audio should be your choice if you’re an audiophile. Every nuance of sound produced by a high-end system would be audible to you. Paired with high-quality headphones, you’d get a fantastic listening experience with this type of audio file.
  • If you only use your smartphone for listening to music, then 320-kbps is a great choice. It’s more than sufficient and would still sound good, plus you can’t really tell the difference. 
  • Consider choosing 320-kbps if you’re storing your music files on a smartphone, laptop, or other devices with limited capacity, especially if they have less than 100 GB). Compared to lossless audio, 320-kbps takes up only less than half the file size.

Final Thoughts

While lossless audio files have better quality, not everyone can benefit from them because they use up a lot of storage space and take a long time to download. I’d only recommend this if you’re an audiophile or a music professional, with devices that can support these large file formats.

Otherwise, 320-kbps files would be more than sufficient. The sound quality is still good and with a decent pair of headphones, you’d still be able to enjoy the music.

A passion for writing and ongoing research projects gives Catherine an incredibly broad knowledge of all things. She has authored an incredible number of articles and can be found in the wilderness when not attached to technology or listening to podcasts.


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