MP3 Export Options for Absolute Best Sound Quality not clear

Windows xp: I’m still not clear on what is the absolute best mp3 export option for absolute best [overall] sound quality per Audacity 2.0 – “Insane”, “Extreme”, or what?

That is my simple question, thank you, the rest is my rant.

I would think ‘Insane’ is the best choice if not for the [seemingly contradictory] info on the Audacity manual that describes variable bit rate as the best choice. Variable bit rate [mode] is used with the “Exteme” preset choice and constant bit rate [mode] is used with the “Insane” preset choice.

Sooooo [if ‘Insane’ is best quality] it must be that the bit rates [e.g., 320k] trump the bit rate modes [e.g., variable] per quality. Being variable bit rate mode does not have the option of a bit rate as high as 320k but average and constant modes do.

Also, average mode is described as better than constant [in the manual], so if 320k bit rate is the best regardless of other options you would think 320k bit rate/average bit rate mode would be the absolute best choice possible.

The absolute best is the highest bitrate. That also gives you the biggest files.
MP3 is a compressed format and it gets the small files by throwing away quality that you probably don’t need anyway. It always throws away quality and you can’t stop it. All you get is the “How Much” slider.

A mono show is barely acceptable to a lot of people at about 32. Stereo show at 64. A medium quality show enjoyable to almost everybody is 128, the Audacity default. If you intend to do post production, you need to go much higher, up in the 256 to 320 area, or best, never do post production in MP3, period. Always do production in WAV or AIFF or other uncompressed format. Uncompressed stereo shows go by in the 1400 range and has huge files. It’s also perfect quality.

Deliver in MP3 if you want.


One more. Variable Bitrate will allow you to do better quality at the same filesize by pushing bits into places that need them and taking them away when you don’t. Content can make a big difference here. Head-Banging Rock tends to benefit less from Variable than Classical with lots of silences does.

Variable Bitrate is less universally accepted than fixed. I wouldn’t dream of delivering Variable Bitrate to a client unless they demanded it or there just wasn’t any other way to fit the music in.

I appreciate your help Koz,

But I’m still not out of these woods :wink:

Next: Considering highest bit rate is best, then which mode is best? Preset (Insane), Variable (0, 220-260 k), Average (320 k), or Constant (320 k), for say, acoustic blues music?

I’m working with my own recorded acoustic blues music [mostly recording seperate guitar, vocal, etc, tracks - ‘dubbing’ I believe it’s called - then combining them into one song]. Then web sharing … and at certain sites like ReverbNation only mp3’s are accepted.

Maybe I misread, or are you conveying: “The absolute best is the highest bitrate that also gives you the biggest files” (One sentence)?

Which would be the preset “Insane”? right?, which is the same as Constant 320 k? right?

“Insane” is the same as Constant 320 kbps.


I don’t know that there is a good answer for you. Audacity uses the open source “lame” software product to do its work. We have to jump through hoops because MP3 is a registered, licensed, paid software product by Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. It’s not free. Lame was designed as a work-alike product without stepping on copyrights. Audacity’s implementation is abbreviated. The real lame software product instructions are here.

This is lame for Windows.

You can use lame by itself and change the settings to get what you want based on those instructions.