Sounds unbelievable but it's
128 kb/s is better than 320 kb/s for backing
What's the best mp3
encoding rate for backing tracks? 128 Kb/s or 320Kb/s?
Right now I bet you're thinking.."Mmmm...well...let's see....320Kb/s
is a higher bit-rate than 128Kb/s so 320Kb/s must be a better
encoding rate for backing tracks, right?"
Using backing tracks
encoded at 128Kb/s is far, far better than using backing tracks
encoded at 320Kb/s! And here's why...
Recently I received
an email from a regular customer asking me if, instead of encoding
the backing tracks at 128Kb/s, we'd consider supplying them to
him at 320Kb/s which, he had been advised, would be "better
quality." I told him that we only produce backing tracks
at 128Kb/s, sorry...and we lost his business. However, a month
later he was back with us buying 128Kb/s tracks...
The whole story unfolded
when we discovered that a small recording studio just outside
Glasgow had decided to try to emulate our famous MP3 Backing Trax
business (hey, we don't mind - competition is good) and they were
trying to drum up some backing track sales to subsidise their
failing recording studio business. To be honest, they couldn't
really be called competition - just a bunch of cowboys with a
little studio in the attic of an old house trying to sell Pop
Idol packages to poor unsuspecting kids who think they're going
to be the next Will Young! Anyway, I digress....
They were not professional,
gigging musicians like us and knew little or nothing about the
backing track business, but that didn't stop them feeding some
poor advice to the customer in question. Turns out that, in an
attempt to talk our company down and talk their own company up,
they told the customer that backing tracks at 128Kb/s were not
good quality - but they could supply tracks to him at a
higher bit rate/quality (ie 320Kb/s).
The customer took a look at an mp3 spec sheet about mp3 encoding,
and it appeared to substantiate their claims that 320Kb/s is better
than 128Kb/s, so started doing business with them instead of us.
There was one major problem with the advice they'd given him though....the
320Kb/s versus 128Kb/s quality issue they used as an argument
appeared to be correct on paper and in theory but,
in everyday use, and by that I mean when using the encoded music
"live" on stage by a professional entertainer, the exact
Anyway, the customer
didn't know this at the time, and so, taking the bad advice, changed
over to using the "competitor". But a month later he
contacted us again to say he was in trouble and could we help
(which we did). You see,
the customer (and our rival) didn't know much about the whole
concept of mp3 encoding and how it affects backing tracks being
used in a "live" or on stage environment. Using backing
tracks on stage is very different to playing music on your home
hi-fi, believe me!
The first thing you
should know is that music encoded at 128Kb/s is generally described
and considered to be "near CD quality". That means that
most people agree that it is almost impossible to hear any difference
in quality. (see http://www.mp3backingtrax.co.uk/article4.htm
for more info on mp3 encoding). The only way to tell the difference
is perhaps to listen very intently through a very expensive and
sensitive pair of headphones (and even then, most folks can't
tell the difference). So, if you can hardly tell the difference
by using sensitive headphones, then it will be absolutely
impossible to hear the difference if the music is being
played in a venue where you're singing (ie a "live"
on stage environment). The burble of the crowd chatting, applauding,
chinking of glasses and general background noise etc in the venue
makes it impossible to hear any tiny differences that an increased
encode rate may give.
So, there are NO
advantages whatsoever to encoding backing tracks at 320 Kb/s rather
than 128Kb/s (which was the argument that our rival used to get
the customers business)!
Yes, technically speaking 320 Kb/s should be twice the
quality of 128Kb/s but as you can see from above, anyone with
any professional entertainer with experience of working "live"
on stage with backing tracks at different bit rates will know
that there is no difference whatsoever...and....surprise, surprise.....our
competitor had no experience of playing live gigs so didn't know
But there was even
worse to come. The poor customer (who by this time had spent ages
re-encoding all his backing tracks to 320Kb/s) found that some
of his tracks "skipped" when he used them on stage.
I explained to him that this was another reason why we use 128Kb/s
to encode our backing tracks.
You see a 3 minute pop song at 128Kb/s will be around 3 - 4Mb
in size whereas the same song at 320Kb/s will be 6 or 7Mb in size.
That means the processor in your laptop or mp3 player has to work
harder to produce the music because of the increased file size,
which can mean skipping or stuttering.
Now, if a song on your hi-fi skips or stutters it's not a major
problem, but if your backing track skips or stutters during a
performance it's a disaster - you don't know where you are in
the song, you miss a beat, you lose your place, the audience look
at you as if you are some stupid amateur who doesn't belong on
an entertainers professional stage - it's horrendous!
In effect, what the
customer had done was made his backing tracks twice the size,
used up twice as much hard disk space, put his mp3 player under
pressure by making it work twice as hard...and got no difference
in quality of sound.
The only thing he gained that he didn't have before was a load
of headaches and trouble brought about by skipping and stuttering
backing tracks all the way through his performance! A nightmare
if ever there was one!
The story however
has a happy ending - the customer is now "back in the fold"
so to speak and we continue to supply him with tracks and help
and advise him (just like we do with all our customers). He knows
that, not only does he get great backing
tracks from us, he can also relax in the confidence that we
don't just sell backing tracks...we are all gigging professional
musicians too so we know what it's like out there in the field...we
walk the walk, therefore we can talk the talk.
As for our competitor...well,
all is fair in business so I'm not complaining - anyway, professionalism
will always prevail.
However it makes me very sad to know that there are companies
out there run by people who know nothing about professional entertaining
and have never played a gig in their life who set up shop selling
musical services, and worse still, advise customers of "what's
best" etc. It's almost a crime! The poor customer ends up
paying thousands of pounds for musical instruments and equipment
that's just not right for him/her and ends up with backing tracks
that are in the wrong key or don't have arrangements which suit
Rest assured that
everyone who works here at MP3 Backing Trax are all currently
gigging singers. Every weekend our staff are all out there using
the same backing tracks at their gigs that you are buying from
us, so you know they're good, you know they are specially arranged
to give the best sound through a big PA and you know that if you
use our backing tracks, you'll be sounding as polished and giving
the best professional performance possible to your audience.
Article Written by Kenny Campbell
(This article cannot be reproduced without express
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