Mp3 bit-rates question

A backing track user called Paul contacted me about mp3 encoding for backing tracks:

Hi Kenny
Can you please give me some advice on what settings to
save my tracks as files i.e Mpeg Audio(*mp3). or wave (wav)
etc and what attributes – LAYER 3 acm 44100Hz 128 kbs.etc
so as to attain max quality playback sound due to the fact
my tracks have lost some of their oomph since using mp3
on laptop
Cheers Mate

Hi Paul

Encoding to mp3 only compresses the size of an already existing music file, so, if the existing music file is already poor sonic quality, no matter which bit-rate you use to encode that file, it’s still going to sound just as poor as the original file you encoded it from.

It’s a bit like baking a cake and starting with poor quality ingredients. Yes, you could use the very best stove or oven money can buy to bake it, You could even have the ingredients mixed and cooked to perfection by the best chef in the world. But it’s still going to taste awful because it started it’s life with poor quality ingredients (it’s the old saying, rubbish in, rubbish out).

In normal mp3 music encoding, the higher the bit-rate, the better the sonic quality (so 320 kb/s will give you better quality sound than 128 kb/s).

However if you are using backing tracks in a live gigging situation 128 kb/s will produce much better results for you.

My article about mp3 encoding explains this paradox in more detail.