As the music industry continues to shift away from CD’s and toward compact MP3’s, AAC’s and other digital files, we can’t help but wonder what kind of quality is really associated with each file type. The way we store our music for future playback is also a big factor when it comes to how the music sounds when played through your car stereo. Has the goal of the industry been to deliver the best sounding music for the best price? Absolutely not, in reality consumers are trying to downgrade their music libraries into a workable solution that is the MP3 player.

File Types and Quality

A good knowledge of different song file types will aid you in deciding how you want to play your music. First and foremost, CD’s are one of the best ways to play music and maintain a great sampling rate, which is typically 1,411kbps. The only issues with CD’s are the durability of the disc, and the amount of storage space required to hold your library in comparison to the small size of an iPod or other small device. The standard for downloadable music is currently MP3’s. Some people love it, some people hate it, but most people choose to accept it.

Quality Pros Cons
CD 1,411kbps •High Quality Lossless Music
•Most Common Method of Playback
•Majority of Stereos Accept CD’s
•Average of 13 Songs
•Scratched Easily
•Bulky CD Wallets
•WAV Files Are Large in Size
MP3 128kbps
•Small Storage Size
•Fit More Onto Storage Device
•Higher Bit Rates Sound Comparable To a CD
•Loss of Audio Quality
AAC Variable •Standard Music Format of Apple Products •Loss of Audio Quality
WAV Uncompressed •High Quality Lossless Music •10mb Per 1 Minute of Audio
FLAC Variable •High Quality Lossless Music
•Slightly Compressed
•Large File Size
•Not Compatible With Many Devices
•Inconvenient For Playback

Devices and Quality

The device you choose to play your music from also has its own ups and downs. USB Thumb Drives are fantastic for conveniently loading your favorite music onto. You may plug it into a USB port in your car for playback directly off the drive, although you are typically limited to 4 GB of space. The iPod can store thousands of songs and give you access to hundreds of playlists in a single device. The downfall is that all music on an iPod is compressed, which results in bad quality. Whether you use an auxiliary input or a USB connection makes a difference as well. USB will digitally transfer your music from a portable device and process the music through your head-unit, while auxiliary connections are analog and will sound slightly diminished to that of USB devices. When using AUX, avoid turning the volume up too loud on your portable device to eliminate clipping.

Pros Cons
Flash Drive •No Need For 3rd Party Software
•Small and Compact
•Stereos Usually Limit at 4 GB
•Organization of Music Can Be Difficult
iPod / Zune •Convenient For Playback
•Easy Organization of Music
•Major Loss of Audio Quality
CD •High Quality Lossless Music •Average of 13 Songs
•Scratched Easily
•Bulky CD Wallets
•WAV Files Are Large in Size
Aux Input •Universal 3.5mm Input
•Control Through External Device
•Analog Connection
•Slight Loss in Quality
USB Connection •Digital Connection
•Charges Your Device
•Typically a Premium Feature

There is no wrong or right way to play your music in your car. Everyone has their own preference of devices, and some people much prefer the convenience of an iPod versus the bulkiness of a wallet of CD’s and vice versa. Let this guide help you to decide the best methods of playing your music, and to help you understand that there is a significant difference in quality and storage space when comparing different file types. Please share with us your opinions and methods of playing your music using the comment box below, we would all love to hear from you.