Audio Quality and Data Use

The internet data you use streaming audio online can vary a lot based on sound quality. A very high-quality audio stream can use as much as 15 times more data than a low-quality stream, for example. To reduce the data, you use listening to music or podcasts, lower your audio quality.

Audio quality is measured in bitrate, which is the sample rate (number of individual audio “snapshots” per second) multiplied by the bit depth (the number of bits in each sample) of the stream. We’ll use Spotify’s streaming settings to look at audio quality and data use, although there aren’t really standard options for audio quality like there are for video quality.

Low quality audio

Low quality audio has a bit rate of 24 kbit/s. A bitrate this low is typically only used for voice recording and isn’t available on all music platforms.

Normal Quality Audio

Normal quality audio has a bit rate of 96 kbit/s. “Normal” quality audio is actually less common in media than high quality audio, so music streamed at this bitrate will still sound fuzzy.

High Quality Audio

High quality audio has a bit rate of 160 kbit/s. This option has the same sound quality as a CD.

Very High-Quality Audio

Very high-quality audio has a bit rate of 320 kbit/s, which is actually the maximum bitrate for most wireless devices. Some older devices can’t play very high-quality audio because they have a maximum bit rate of just 256 kbit/s.

Data Use by Audio Quality

Here’s how much data streaming Spotify uses per minute and hour, based on audio quality:

24kbit/s 96kbit/s 160kbit/s 320kbit/s
Per minute 200 KB 700 KB 1.2 MB 2.4 MB
Per Hour 10 MB 45 MB 75 MB 145 MB

While audio quality options vary from service to service, you can estimate an option’s data use by multiplying bitrate (in kbit/s) by 7.5 to determine KB used per minute. Divide KB by 1000 to get MB.

Because different streaming services use different audio protocols, you’ll use data at slightly different rates on each service – even if you’re streaming at the same bitrate on everyone.

How to Adjust Audio Quality

To save data, listen to audio at a lower bitrate. Here’s how to determine and change the playback quality on these popular music streaming platforms:

Upgrade to Unlimited Data

If you spend a lot of time streaming music, consider upgrading to an unlimited fixed wireless internet (Wi-Fi) plan with fast speeds and great rural coverage. With unlimited data, you can listen to hours of music on multiple devices in your home without worrying about how much data you’re using.

Stephen Kota

About Stephen Kota

Founder & Primary Author

Stephen enjoys photography, boating and gardening. He cares for pet Kois in his water garden.

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