/ #Music #Youtube 

Is YouTube audio really that poor?

YouTube is a worldwide popular network for video recording and sharing. It was created in 2005 (1) and since then it has created bridges between people through videos about science, fitness and entertainment. One would assume that, since its function is to share videos, it has great audio quality. But is that really the case? Is YouTube audio quality good enough, compared to other sources for videos? Or is it surprisingly poor?

In this article, these questions will be answered by comparing YouTube’s audio quality to several other networks and to the optimum audio quality for the quality to be considered “good”.

High resolution of sound is important especially for people who are interested in music. The quality is defined in terms of bitrates, which is the number of bits processed per unit time. To understand this concept better, the bitrates of each music source are compared:

For a music CD, the bitrate is 1411 kbps and for online sites, such as Spotify and iTunes, the bitrates are lower, 320 kbps and 256 kbps respectively. The reason for decreasing the sound quality stems from the fact that compressed versions of sound is easier to download and achieve, wherever you are (2). Even though these companies decide to decrease the quality of the audio for the sake of accessibility, this results in dissatisfaction from certain customers.

For YouTube, this sound quality is even lower compared to the other online music streamers. YouTube used to stream audio and videos all together, which would result in lower audio quality as the video quality becomes worse. For example, in 2012-2013, YouTube used 192 kbps audio bitrate for videos with resolutions higher than 720p, but the audio bitrate decreased down to 64 kbps, for videos with 240p resolution.

Nowadays, YouTube streams the audio and the videos separately, and so that the audio quality is not affected from the change in video resolution. Now, this quality depends on the device and its connection performance. The audio bitrate is around 126 kbps, which is considerably poor compared to the other sources of audio. (3)

“Why does this matter?”

The change in sound quality matters since when the audio is compressed, the important details of the music, such as a guitar solo with high notes, will be lost or will not be audible compared to high resolution sound from a music CD. This prevents the audience from being emotionally engaged with the music, which gives a satisfactory feeling and feeds the brain. By listening to a high-quality sound from a proper device, one can get more satisfaction and content compared to a low-quality sound device. Music from YouTube is like fast food (4). It’s accessible, fast and compensates ones need for music but it is a short-term solution to get satisfaction.

In conclusion, YouTube is an online video streamer, which functions as a short-term satisfaction network. Its audio quality is extremely poor compared to high quality sound devices such as CDs and it has poorer quality compared to other online sources. That’s why, to get more quality sound and more satisfaction, one should prefer sources with greater audio quality compared to YouTube.


[1]: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube

[2]: V. Burns, B Roberts, “High-resolution audio:everything you need to know” https://www.whathifi.com/advice/high-resolution-audio-everything-you-need-to-know

[3]: N. Vogt, “Youtube Audio Quality Bitrate” https://www.h3xed.com/web-and-internet/youtube-audio-quality-bitrate-240p-360p-480p-720p-1080p

[4]: M. Henshall, “ Stop listening to Music on Youtube- seriously” https://www.yoursoundmatters.com/stop-listening-to-music-on-youtube/