It’s recommended that you should stream audio at a minimum of 90 kbps if you want to have access to the plethora of streaming platforms that exist. But if you want to give your listeners a good listening experience, try increasing it to 256 or 320 kbps.
Recommended Audio Bitrate for Streaming Quality
There is no such thing as recommended audio bitrate that would suit all streaming services equally. Before choosing one, you should be aware of the requirements of the service and know what your audio equipment is capable of producing and what would be an overkill.
If you’re an audiophile and own top-notch audio equipment, it’s likely that you’d be capable of producing hi-resolution audio so that you can aim at Qobuz, Tidal, and Amazon Music Unlimited. While not all of us, music producers, can constantly invest in gear, this still does not mean that you cannot try streaming. You shouldn’t aim at hi-resolution audio for sure, but you can be more than happy while streaming via Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, or Spotify.
What is an audio bitrate?
When we talk about audio bitrate, we mean the specific amount of data that is kept in every second of the audio file, which is measured in kbps. It is a common belief that the higher the bitrate is, the better sound quality you have. While it may be true for the majority of cases, when we talk about audio streaming, you may go with a lower bitrate so that your audio would stream better.
Audio bitrate and streaming
Human ears are capable of hearing the difference of the audio that has a bitrate lower than 90 kbps. So the lowest bitrate possible for streaming and then listening to music while it sounds somewhat nice is 96 or 128 kbps. You can still find some audio material that is recorded with such bitrate, and it’s used when the connection is really terrible.
An audio bitrate of 160 or 192 kbps is still low, but it’s satisfactory for the majority of people. You can use it as a marker for a minimum quality bitrate if you ever stream something. A solid medium when speaking about audio bitrate for streaming is 256 or 320 kbps. This bitrate is quite similar to the audio quality of CDs, though most people are not able to actually tell the difference.
Using 1000 kbps means that you get audio that has the quality of a CD, but you can stream it only if you have a decent connection.
If you plan to stream high-quality audio that can have a bitrate of a maximum of 9216 kbps, you should choose a streaming service that will allow you to do that. It is needless to say that audio with such a bitrate needs to have top-shelf mastering and suitable equipment so you would be able to hear the difference.
Standards of different streaming platforms
Luckily, the market of audio streaming services is rather wide, so you can choose a few options that would suit you the best.
While Apple Music does not provide a lot of audio streaming options to choose from, and it is nowhere near Tidal, Deezer, Amazon Music, or Qobuz. Still, you get to stream at 256 kbps through AAC.
Deezer is a competitive service that offers you an opportunity to stream high-quality audio. Deezer is offering you three options to choose from, such as 128 kbps through a free account using MP3 and 320 kbps if you have a premium+ account using MP3.
Spotify has a bigger range of bitrates to choose from, but there are some differences depending on the type of account that you have. If you have only a free account, then you can stream within the range of 24-160 kbps. But if you are an owner of a premium account, your options are a bit wider, and you are able to choose from 24-320 kbps. The audio formats that it uses are AAC and Ogg Vorbis.
There is YouTube Music which offers a free plan with a maximum of 128 kbps of audio streaming, and a paid plan goes as much as 256 kbps.
Amazon Music Unlimited is a relatively new service that offers two audio streaming options such as HD and Ultra HD, both of which run on FLAC. When you choose an HD audio streaming plan, you get a maximum of 850 kbps. Ultra HD gives you a maximum of 3730 kbps, which is more than enough.
What differentiates Qobuz from any other services that we have mentioned already is that Qobuz is loyal to the digital music business and has a great following from both music producers and audio engineers. Since the first day of the company, it has been focused on delivering hi-res audio and has already offered streaming services to all customers. You won’t find on Qobuz audio bitrate that is lower than 1411 kbps, and it’s its starting point. If you want more, you get 9216 kbps which is equal to high-res audio.
Lastly, Tidal, for quite some time, was in the leading position of high-quality audio streaming. The platform offers the customers a choice between 4 plans that differ not only in price but in bitrate that it offers. If you choose a HiFi Plus plan, you get your audio encoded to MQA and streamed your audio to about 9126 kbps. Another choice is the Tidal HiFi plan which lets you choose between standard 320 kbps and HiFi 1411 kbps and a range of formats, such as AAC, ALAC, and FLAC.