What is Sample rate/Bit depth/sound channel/320kb/CBR/VBR contains in an audio and what's the difference between lossless audio format like wav/ape and loss audio format like mp3/wma?

Many people are wondering if the higher the bit rate, the better the audio quality or if the 

lossless audio files truly come with the best sound quality. In the following, we’ll find out. 

Let’s start with the audio collection.


Sample rate: it defines the number of audio samples per second captured from a 

continuous signal, and it is measured in Hz or kHz. 

Bit depth: it determines the dynamic range of the audio collection in bit. 

Sound channels: the number of audio channels (1 to 8).

Based on different types of usage, sample rate can be divided into (1 kHz = 1000 Hz):

8 kHz: it is for the equipment like telephone and etc., and is enough for recording human 

voice

22.05 kHz:  for broadcasts 

44.1 kHz: audio CD play

48 kHz: DVD, digital television and etc.

96 kHz – 192 kHz: DVD-Audio, Blu-ray, HD and so on

The common range for bit depth is between 8 bit to 32 bit, and CD uses 16 bit bit-depth. 

Saying this, you may be confused that why do many people think 320kb ensures better 

sound quality than 128kb file, since the sound quality is not determined by bit rate. 

This is because it has audio compression factor involved. Currently, most of the audio 

formats are based on the original WAV files of audio CDs. The raw audio data is stored in 

an array, and the array is the PCM format. As for WAV format, it is an encoding format 

developed by Microsoft, and it is used for encoding and performing PCM format’s data. 

WAV can completely restore PCM’ data, besides, other formats like MP3, AAC are based 

on WAV file and then compressed. So, we can simply believe that WAV is the original 

audio format, and others are compressed formats. 


Bit rate is actually the compression ratio, and it defines the file size. In a normal state, the 

larger the file, the less the lost data, so it ensures better sound quality. Bit rate itself has no 

direct impact on the file quality. For example, we convert a 128kb original file to 320kb, the 

new file still won’t offer better sound quality than the 128kb file. 

As a result, no all 32kb audio files can ensure better sound quality than 128kb files, 

because there are some other factors we have to take into consideration. 


So what's the difference between lossless audio format like wav/ape and loss audio 

format like mp3/wma?

Compared with lossless audio, lossy audio has lost part of information in order to guarantee 

high compression ratio. The lost part mainly refers to high frequency component in lossy audio.

Let’s see a spectrum of lossless audio first.

1.jpg

Then it’s another spectrum of converted mp3.

2.jpg

As a result, we can easily find out that as for mp3, its lost information is mainly related to the 

high frequency part.Since lossy audio has lost information about high frequency part, what’s 

the difference between lossless audio and lossy audio for common people?

In fact, due to the specific function of our ears, there is almost no difference between the two 

audios.The reasons are related to frequency, high frequency and low frequency which can 

be shown in the following sentences. I will not explain the physical meaning of the three factors 

but to show you with examples.


For instance, when you sing songs in KTV, what’s your feeling of singing Qinghai - Tibet Plateau? 

You may fail to achieve the effect of the original one because it’s too high. On the contrary, you 

may trouble to get satisfying result by singing the song Rolling east of the Yangtze River because 

it’s too low. Why common people always fail to sing the two songs perfectly? For the frequency of 

our voice is limited. Meanwhile, it’s the same with our ears. We have learned from the text that the 

auditory range of our ears is 20-20kHZ. Conclusions can be drawn according to the spectrum that 

ears are not sensitive to high frequency sounds. After a certain level, we will hear nothing. So 

common people can hardly distinguish the difference between lossy audio and lossless one.

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