Best Music File Format for Car Audio

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Many people enjoy listening to music while driving. When most of car head units are equipped with CD player, listening to high-quality music was a breeze. That era is behind us now. Most people these days store their favorite music on their phones or USB flash drive and that leaves them wanting more. The question they often ask is …


“What is the best music file format for car audio?”

Most people save their music as MP3, but only a few are aware that MP3’s quality depends a lot on the bit rate. In the olden days, people are satisfied with 64kb. Now, MP3s are usually encoded in 128kb and if your ears are not like the commoners, anything less than that will sound harsh.

That said, people who prefer to have the best for car audio should never settle for anything less than 320kb.The file size would be significantly larger compared to the lower bit rate files, but with the low price of storage these days, you shouldn’t even consider that as an issue.


“I played 320kb mp3 the other day and it still sounds harsh.”

If that is the case, then there is a possibility of the 320kb file was converted from a lower bitrate. Some people think that converting a 64kb mp3 to 320kb will improve its quality. That is not the case.

You cannot convert a lower quality file to a higher quality one. The lower quality file provides no data for the converter to improve upon.

If you want high-quality 320kb MP3, convert it directly from a WAV file or from a lossless format file.


“What’s a lossless format?”

Lossless format file allows you compress CD-quality music resulting in a file with reasonable size without any loss of details. They’re clear and crisp as if you’re listening directly from CD. One popular format is FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). Audiophiles agree that music files saved in FLAC format have similar quality as CD.

But before you get over excited, you better check if your car stereo is able to play that format. Not all car stereos can play lossless format especially if it’s factory stereo.


Why, you ask?

You see, car manufacturers love their profits. It’s no longer a secret that they also love to cut corners in order to maintain a healthy profit that their stockholders demand. One aspect that they tend to keep as cheap as possible is the audio system, more specifically the head unit and the speakers. If they can make do with low-quality head units, they will.

So, if you want to play lossless audio format check your head unit manual first. If it’s only capable of playing MP3 then it’s time to upgrade to something better. Go with high-end brands as they are usually packed with features true to their reputation.

When the budget allows it, be sure to upgrade your speakers too.

The next most affordable car audio upgrade after the head unit is the speakers. Even upgrading the door speakers to decent coaxial ones will do tremendous improvements on the overall audio quality of your car.


Okay, now that you know what the best music file format for car audio is, it’s time to revisit your music library. Rip your music CD collection and convert them to FLAC. If your old head unit cannot play FLAC, and you do not wish to upgrade, simply use the audio conversion tool so save your collection as 320kb MP3. The website provides easy conversion converting various audio file format, not just MP3 and FLAC. You can convert your whole library of favorite music easily with this online tool.

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