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Youtube audio quality explained: All you need to know

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  • 6 min read

If you are a YouTube creator, a music lover, or just curious about how sound works on the internet, you might have wondered about YouTube audio quality. How does YouTube compress and stream audio files? What are the best settings to upload your video for optimal sound quality?

Many new streamers and content creators have these questions in mind. In this article, we’ll try to answer some of these questions so you can upload videos with the best sound quality on YouTube.

What is YouTube audio quality?

YouTube audio quality refers to the clarity and fidelity of the sound that you hear when you play music or video on YouTube.

The audio quality may depend on various factors, including the file’s original format, the encoding and compression methods used by the platform (which, in this case, is YouTube), playback device and settings, and the speed of the internet.

Of these, the most important factor is the original format of the audio file. The format consists of the following:

  • Codec (the algorithm that encodes and decodes the audio data)
  • Bitrate (the amount of data per second)
  • Sample rate (the number of times per second that the audio signal is measured)
  • Bit depth (the number of bits used to represent each sample)

Each variable affects the sound quality of the file and the sound quality of the YouTube video. For example, bitrate, sample rate and bit depth are directly proportional to the audio quality and file size. Simply put, the higher the bitrate, sample rate or bit depth, the better the audio quality and the larger the file size.

Usually, a CD audio file has a bit rate of 1411 kilobits per second (kbps), a sample rate of 44.1 kHz, and a bit depth of 16 bits. Low-quality MP3 audio files have a 96 kbps bit rate, while a high-resolution audio file can have a bitrate of up to 9216 kbps, a sample rate of up to 192 kHz, and a bit depth of up to 24 bits.

However, if your original file is a high-resolution audio file, uploading it will take a longer time and bandwidth. If you live in a country with higher data costs, you will have to watch out for internet costs.

To reduce the costs and time, YouTube uses encoding and compression techniques to reduce the file size. While encoding converts the audio from one format to another, compression, as the name suggests, reduces the size of the file by removing less important data.

YouTube prefers the original 1080p HD broadcast format for videos and DVD-compliant MPEG-2 program streams saved with a .MPG extension. If you cannot submit videos in MPEG-2 format, you should try MPEG-4 format.

You can visit the YouTube Help page here for more information on the YouTube uploading guidelines.

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How does YouTube compress and stream audio files?

YouTube uses different codecs and bitrates for different resolutions and devices. Depending on the quality of the originally uploaded video and when the video was uploaded, YouTube compressed and converted both video and audio to allow for faster streaming to viewers.

These are some of the current audio specifications for YouTube:

  • 240p – AAC @ 48 kbps
  • 360p – AAC @ 96 kbps
  • 480p – AAC @ 128 kbps
  • 720p – AAC @ 192 kbps
  • 1080p – AAC @ 192 kbps
  • 1440p – AAC @ 256 kbps
  • 2160p – AAC @ 384 kbps

These specifications apply to stereo (two channels) and mono (one-channel) audio files. Furthermore, YouTube also supports surround sound (multiple channels) for some videos. For instance, if you have uploaded a video with Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3) or Dolby Atmos (TrueHD) audio, YouTube will preserve the original codec and bitrate up to 640 kbps.

YouTube uses adaptive streaming, a technology that automatically adjusts the video’s streaming quality based on the user’s device and internet speed. This way, you don’t have to change the video quality every time you are on your mobile data.

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How can you improve your audio quality on YouTube?

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For creators as well as viewers, there are several ways by which you can enhance your YouTube experience. In this section, we’ll give some tips and tricks for creators and viewers to achieve crisp and clear audio on YouTube.

As a creator

As a content creator, you should focus on the audio quality and music, as it can affect the outcome of your video.

Here are some tips for content creators to achieve better audio results on YouTube:

  • Use a good microphone and recording device.
  • Use a pop filter and a windscreen.
  • Use headphones or monitors while recording.
  • Edit and enhance your audio to remove any unwanted noise.
  • Use noise reduction tools to reduce background noises like hiss, hum, buzz etc.
  • Use processes like normalisation, limiting and dithering.
  • Upload your videos on high-quality settings, as YouTube loves it.

As a viewer

If you are viewing on YouTube, there are a few things that you can also try to enhance your viewing experience:

  • Use a good playback device and speaker.
  • Adjust the playback speed.
  • Change the video quality to a better one.
  • Certain videos may support Spatial audio. Choose it for a more immersive experience.
  • Tweak the audio settings until you hit the right one.

In conclusion, YouTube audio quality depends on many factors, such as the bit rate, codec, sample rate and bit depth. For a better audio experience, select a file that has the maximum bit rate and other variables.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: