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Audio bitrate

What is audio bitrate?

Audio bitrate is the measure of audio data (called “bits”) processed over a given period of time. It’s represented in kilobits per second, or Kbps. By contrast, video bitrate is usually represented by Megabits per second (Mbps). A Megabit is equal to 1,000 kilobits. Why are the two measured differently? Audio data can be processed much more quickly than video data; you can send more audio bits in one second than you can video bits. Audio also takes up less space than video.

Generally, the higher your audio bitrate, the better the quality of your sound. To help you understand audio bitrate and sound quality, here are some examples of bitrates:

  • Audio CD: 1,411 Kbps
  • MP3 files: 96-320 Kbps
  • Streaming services (e.g., Spotify): 96-160 Kbps

If you’re using high-resolution audio, the audio bitrate is 9,216 — which is nearly seven times higher than that of audio CDs. Higher quality is nice, but when you’re sending audio and video data over the internet, high-quality audio takes longer to send. That’s why Spotify and other audio streaming platforms have a lower audio bitrate than CDs. The same idea applies to live streaming.

What audio bitrate do you need for live streaming?

The best audio bitrate for your live stream depends on the resolution of your video, the platform you’re streaming to, and your internet bandwidth. You also have to factor in the type of audio you’re using on your live stream. Spoken-word audio requires a lower audio bitrate than music, for example. Let’s look at each factor in more detail:

  • Video quality: High-quality video requires high-quality audio as well. For a video at 1080p, use a 256 Kbps audio bitrate. For 720p and lower, use a 128 Kbps audio bitrate.
  • Platform: Check the recommended standards for the platform you’re broadcasting on. YouTube recommends using AAC or MP3 files and an audio bitrate of 128 Kbps. The maximum audio bitrate allowed on Twitch is 160 Kbps. To find the recommended settings for your streaming platform, do a Google search for “encoder settings” plus the platform’s name.
  • Bandwidth: If you have lower bandwidth, you have to use a lower bitrate. To stream in 1080p with an audio bitrate of 256 Kbps, you need bandwidth of at least 5 Mbps.

The audio bitrate of your live stream can be anywhere from 64 Kbps to 320 Kbps, depending on your needs and the content you’re streaming. Use the three bullets above as a checklist to help you determine what the best audio bitrate for your live broadcast is.