Are you tired of dealing with large audio files that take too much space on your device or take too long to upload or download? Whether you are a podcaster, musician, or just someone who enjoys listening to high-quality audio – optimizing audio file size can make a significant difference. If you are looking to compress your audio files, but are not sure how to do that without compromising the quality, you have come to the right place! From understanding the impact of sample rate and bitrate to selecting the right audio format, we will cover everything you need to know to optimize your audio file size with ease!
So let’s dive in.
1 Sample Rate
Sample rate, also known as the sampling frequency, refers to the number of samples of audio taken per second to represent a continuous audio signal. It’s measured in Hertz (Hz).
For example, a sample rate of 44.1 kHz (CD quality) means that 44,100 samples are taken per second to represent the audio signal. The higher the sample rate, the more accurately the audio signal can be represented.
Depending on the purpose of the audio, you should choose a certain sample rate. When, for example, recording audio for a podcast, a sample rate of 44.1 kHz is generally considered standard and is widely used. It provides high-quality audio while keeping the file size manageable. However, some podcasters may choose to use a higher sample rate such as 48 kHz for even better sound quality, especially if their content involves music or other high-fidelity audio.
Note that higher sample rates result in larger file sizes, so it’s important to strike a balance between audio quality and file size. As an example: For a 15-minute uncompressed mono audio recording, the file size would be approximately 75.75 MB for 44.1 kHz and 82.42 MB for 48 kHz, assuming a bit depth of 16 bits.
Bitrate refers to the amount of data used to represent one second of audio. It’s typically measured in kilobits per second (kbps) and determines the overall quality of the audio recording. A higher bitrate means more data is used to represent the audio signal, resulting in a higher-quality recording. Conversely, a lower bitrate means – less data is used, resulting in a lower-quality recording.
It’s important to understand that sample rate and bitrate are two different things, although many people tend to use these terms interchangeably. Essentially, sample rate determines how often snapshots of sound are taken, while bit depth determines how much data is recorded during each snapshot. Bitrate represents how much actual sound data is processed. To get the bitrate, multiply the sample rate by the bit depth.
In general, 16-bit depth is sufficient for most day-to-day uses, while 24-bit and 32-bit depths are recommended for professional use cases where maximum audio quality is desired.
The bitrate you choose should be based on the intended use of the audio. For instance, a lower bitrate may be acceptable for podcasts or audiobooks, where speech is the primary focus. However, for music or other types of audio that require a high level of fidelity, a higher bitrate is typically necessary to capture all the nuances of the sound.
When compressing audio files, choosing the appropriate bitrate is crucial as it affects both the quality of the recording and the file size. The higher the bitrate, the larger the file size will be.
Let’s say you have recorded a 10-minute song in stereo with an uncompressed audio file format. The sample rate and bit depth you choose for your audio file will have a significant impact on the resulting file size. For instance:
- A 44.1 kHz/16-bit audio file would have an uncompressed bitrate of 1411200 bits per second (1.4 Mbps).
- A 48 kHz/24-bit audio file would have an uncompressed bitrate of 2304000 bits per second (2.3 Mbps).
To calculate the resulting file sizes, multiply the bitrate by the length of the recording:
- 1.4*600 = 840 Mb or 105 MB for the 44.1 kHz/16-bit file.
- 2.3*600 = 1380 Mb or 173 MB for the 48 kHz/24-bit file.
As you can see, the difference in file size is significant, with the 24-bit file taking up almost twice as much space as the 16-bit file. As mentioned, the higher bit depth can result in a higher-quality recording, with more detail and dynamic range.
If you want to save space but still maintain good quality, you can also use variable bitrate (VBR) compression, which adjusts the bitrate on a frame-by-frame basis depending on the complexity of the audio. This is supported by many popular file formats (e.g. MP3, OGG, AAC, WMA).
3 Choose the Right Audio Format
One of the most crucial factors in optimizing audio file sizes is selecting the right audio format. Audio formats can vary in terms of compression and quality, which can significantly affect the file size.
As an example, lossless audio formats like WAV and AIFF offer high quality but larger file sizes, while lossy audio formats like MP3 and AAC offer smaller file sizes but, you guessed it – lower quality.
When it comes to compressing your audio files, regardless of the format you choose, you will need to decide on a target bitrate. Generally, the lower the bitrate, the smaller the file size, but also the lower the quality of the audio.
Convert to MP3
If you opt for the MP3 format, there are five common bitrates that you can choose from depending on your needs.
- At 64 kbps, the audio quality is similar to that of AM radio. This bitrate is suitable for talk-only podcasts.
- For FM radio quality, a bitrate of 96 kbps is sufficient.
- If you want CD-quality audio, then 128 kbps is the standard bitrate.
- For high-quality audio, a bitrate of 256 kbps is a good choice. You may be able to detect sounds and instruments that were not detectable at lower bitrates.
- Finally, if you are an audiophile and want the best possible audio quality, then a bitrate of 320 kbps is the way to go.
Compressing an audio file into MP3 format at lower bitrates, such as 128 kbps, can result in a significant loss of sound data compared to the original uncompressed file. It’s estimated that the compression at this rate can discard up to 90% of the data. However, by compressing an audio file at a higher bit rate, such as 320 kbps, the loss of data is reduced, and it’s estimated that only about 60% of the original sound data is lost.
If you need higher-quality audio, consider using a lossless format like FLAC.
4 Audio channels: Stereo and Mono
Stereo audio contains two channels, left and right, which can create a sense of depth and space in the audio recording. Mono audio only has one channel, which means it plays the same audio signal through both speakers or headphones.
In terms of file size, mono audio files are typically smaller than stereo audio files because they only contain one channel of audio data. However, whether to use stereo or mono largely depends on the intended use of the audio recording.
For example, if you are recording a podcast or a speech, using a mono audio file would be sufficient as it only requires one audio channel. This will result in a smaller file size and faster upload and download times. However, if you are recording music or sound effects, stereo audio would be more appropriate as it can create a richer and more immersive audio experience. While stereo audio files are larger than mono audio files, reducing the bitrate and sample rate can help optimize the file size without significantly impacting the audio quality.
When it comes to reducing the file size of audio files, compression is the most important factor. There are two types of compression:
Lossy compression removes data from the audio that is deemed “unnecessary” by the algorithm used. Once this data is removed, it cannot be recovered, which is why lossy compression is not recommended if you want to preserve the highest possible quality of your audio.
Lossless compression algorithms pack down the audio data as much as possible without removing any data. However, decompressing the file at the time of playback requires more processing power. The benefit of lossless compression is that no data is lost, ensuring that you have a near-perfect copy of the original source material.
The compression mode you choose should depend on your intended use of the audio file. For archival purposes or for music professionals who need to preserve the highest possible quality, lossless compressions like FLAC or ALAC are recommended.
For everyday use, such as listening to music on your phone or computer, lossy compressions like MP3 or AAC are sufficient and will significantly reduce the file size. The more you compress a file, the more data you will lose, so it’s important to find a balance between file size and quality that meets your needs.
In Conclusion – Optimize Your Audio File Size
Optimizing audio file size is crucial in ensuring efficient storage and smooth playback of audio files. Sample rate, bitrate, compression, file format, and audio channels are the five key factors to consider. Understanding these factors will help you make informed decisions about recording and compressing audio files.
Don’t forget that you can use Online-Convert for all your file conversion needs, including conversion to various audio formats. By choosing the right settings and formats, achieve the perfect balance between audio quality and file size!