Streaming Music, Podcasts, & Audio 289 289 people found this article helpful What Is the Best Format For Your Music: AAC or MP3? Which encoding format is best for the average listener? by Sam Costello Writer Sam Costello has been writing about tech since 2000. His writing has appeared in publications such as CNN.com, PC World, InfoWord, and many others. our editorial process Facebook Twitter Sam Costello Updated on March 06, 2020 Tweet Share Email Music, Podcasts, & Audio Audio Streaming Spotify Pandora Apple Music Prime Music Music For Your Life Podcasts Radio CDs, MP3s, & Other Media When ripping music from a CD, save your songs in either the AAC or MP3 format. In terms of audio quality, there is little difference between the two file types. The encoding speed has a greater impact on how the track ultimately sounds. Information in this article applies broadly to all devices capable of playing digital music files. Sound quality will vary depending on the device speakers. image credit: Aeriform & Maria Teijeiro/Ikon Images/Getty Images Do AAC and MP3 Files Work on All Devices? AAC is the preferred audio file format for iTunes and Apple Music, but it is possible to play ACC files on Android and Windows computers. Likewise, the MP3 format also works on any operating system. You should have no problem playing either file type on any device. AAC vs. MP3: Sound Quality and File Size To examine the differences between the formats, let's compare the song Wild Sage by The Mountain Goats encoded in each format at three different speeds: 128 Kbps, 192 Kbps, and 256 Kbps. The higher the Kbps, the bigger the file, but the better the quality. Format Encoding Rate File Size MP3 256K 7.8MB AAC 256K 9.0MB MP3 192K 5.8MB AAC 192K 6.7MB MP3 128K 3.9MB AAC 128K 4.0MB AAC vs. MP3 at 256 Kbps The MP3 and AAC versions sound nearly identical. The MP3 version is 1.2MB smaller. AAC vs. MP3 at 192 Kbps These versions sound a bit muddied compared to the 256 Kbps versions. However, there's no clear distinction between AAC and MP3. The MP3 is almost 1MB smaller. AAC vs. MP3 at 128 Kbps The AAC file is a bit clearer and brighter than the MP3, which suffers from slight muddiness and slurring some sounds together. The file sizes are almost exactly the same. AAC vs. MP3: Which Is Better? While there are differences in the sound waves of the files, they sound roughly equivalent to the ear. Though there may be a bit more detail in the 256 Kbps MP3, it's difficult for an untrained ear to discern. The only place you're likely to hear a difference is in the low-end 128 Kbps encodings, which aren't recommended. While MP3 files tend to be smaller than AAC files, the differences are not substantial. Audiophiles vs. Compressed Music Most audiophiles who place great value on the best possible sound quality tend to avoid MP3, AAC, and other digital audio formats because these formats use compression to create smaller files. The trade-off is that the highest and lowest ends of the sound range are lost. Most average listeners don't notice the loss, but it can be a deal-breaker for audio aficionados. If you're used to listening to music on an iPhone or Android device, then you'll probably be satisfied with either AAC or MP3. Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Get the Latest Tech News Delivered Every Day Email Address Sign up There was an error. Please try again. You're in! Thanks for signing up. There was an error. Please try again. Thank you for signing up. Tell us why! Other Not enough details Hard to understand Submit More from Lifewire How to Convert AAC to MP3 With iTunes CBR vs VBR Encoding What Makes an MP3 Different From an AAC? Use iTunes to Copy CDs to Your iPhone or iPod How Many Songs Does a Gigabyte of Storage Hold? AAC vs. MP3 How to Convert iTunes Songs to MP3 How to Use iTunes to Create MP3s, AACs, and More What Is an MP3 File? The 5 Best MP3 Players of 2021 How Audio File Formats Differ and What This Means for Listeners What Are RealTones? What Is the Best Audio Format for My Portable Device? How to Import Downloaded Music to iTunes How to Use Windows Media Player to Copy Music From CDs Why Doesn't the Music or Sound Play in My PowerPoint Presentation?