Over To You: Are 192 kbps MP3s Acceptable For Club Play?

Last updated 30 August, 2017

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Not sure of the quality of your MP3s? Run an experiment against an uncompressed format. Pic: mp3exp
Not sure of the quality of your MP3s? Run an experiment against an uncompressed format.
Pic from: mp3exp

Digital DJ Tips reader Christoph from Germany writes with a question that we are constantly asked by DJs switching to digital, or lucky enough to shortly be playing their first digital DJ sets in “real” clubs.

He says the following: “I have a little question to you. How will 192kbps songs sound on big speakers in clubs? I have tons of music, but only in 192. Will it sound very distorted or is it OK to run a gig with these songs?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Our best practice advice is to only use 320kbps MP3s (or 256 kbps AACs, AAC files being Apple’s equivalent, which sound the same as 320kbps MP3s at 256kbps). This give you most of the benefits of compressed, music library-friendly formats (much smaller files than uncompressed, and metadata) while sounding indistinguisable from uncompressed audio in most people’s view.

As far as 192s go, no lesser a DJ/producer than Armin Van Buuren has stated he can’t hear any difference between 192s and WAV files, and frankly clubs are few and far between where their sound systems are so finely tuned and maintained that any tiny sound differences between 192, 256 and 320kbps MP3s and uncompressed audio will become deal-breakers. It’s only when you hit 160kbps and 128kbps that you can easily hear big differences.

As always, though, use your ears. Good headphones will help you get a feeling for how good or bad your 192s sound. Buy a couple of 320s or WAVs of the same tunes and do a straight comparison. And as with all digital music, always treat it on a case-by-case basis: If it sounds a bit ropey, then it definitely is – whatever the bitrate.

So, over to you. Do you DJ with 192kbps MP3s (or even lower)? Are you a “strictly 320” person? Or do you swear you can hear the fifference between any type of compressed file and WAVs? Please share your experiences and advice in the comments.