Understanding Radio Streaming Formats & Bitrates

As a radio station owner, you’re faced with many choices, including what format and bitrate you want to stream in.

On one hand, the MP3 format is widely known and universally supported, but what about AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)? AAC is an audio coding standard for lossy digital audio compression, generally made for more complex audio. The successor of the MP3 format, it generally achieves the delivery of higher sound quality to listeners than MP3 at the same bitrate. Compared to its predecessors, the AAC format provides a strong combination of excellent sound quality, efficient compression, and broad compatibility.

As a broadcaster, you may want to stream using AAC format at a lower bitrate so that listeners experience higher quality audio no matter their location or network stability. Also, some directories only accept AAC streams – giving you no choice but to provide an AAC format stream to ensure your station is as widely accessible as possible.

You may choose to stream in MP3 or AAC, but you also have the option of the bitrate. A bitrate refers to the amount of audio data transferred each second, meaning a higher bitrate represents a better quality stream. You can stream from 32 kbps to 320 kbps – with 32 kbps being the lowest quality and 320 kbps being the highest quality, but requiring a much stronger listener connection. The bitrate directly impacts bandwidth consumption, requiring stronger network connections for higher bitrates. Since AAC generally achieves a higher sound quality, you can stream in AAC at a lower bitrate and still deliver a high-quality sound to your listeners (while transmitting less data).

Here are some examples of choosing your format to benefit both yourself and your listeners:

  • You have remote listeners that may have weaker network connections.
    Stream in AAC at a lower bitrate and deliver high-quality audio no matter your listeners’ location or network stability. You’ll be using less data to send that stream to our servers and your listeners with weaker connections will experience the highest quality audio possible.
  • You have a music library of more complex audio with an audience of audiophiles.
    Stream in AAC at a higher bitrate to deliver the most accurate, high-quality sound. Your listeners will have a comprehensive listening experience, hearing all the details of the tracks you play. Note though your listeners will need a stronger network connection as you increase the bitrate so make an informed decision on your bitrate based on your audience and specific needs.
  • You have a lofi or talk radio station.  
    Stream in MP3 or AAC at a lower bitrate and save bandwidth on both ends. Your listeners will enjoy your programming as it’s meant to be heard, without requiring a strong network connection with a lot of available bandwidth.

Customize your stream quality on any package.

*Non-copyright packages include same codecs/bitrates as Broadcast packages.

Within the Live365 dashboard, you have the selection of format for file upload (AutoDJ and cloud scheduling), stream ingest (GoLive, LiveDJ, and Relay), as well as stream outputs. Broadcasters on packages Broadcast 2/Non-copyright 2 or higher, will have 2 stream URLs that can be provided to listeners – the MP3 stream as well as your customized AAC stream.

Looking to stream at higher bitrates?

Upgrade to Broadcast 3 or higher to deliver the highest quality stream possible to your listeners.

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Article Image: A radio microphone in front of an 'On Air' sign with a range of file formats and bitrates written out.

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About Michelle Ruoff

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania