CD or MP3 – What’s the difference?

CD or MP3 – What’s the difference?

Despite only first appearing in 1982, the CD is now regarded as a little bit old hat and increasingly a rather old fashioned way of distributing music.  Despite this the majority of our recordings still include a number of CDs as part of the recording package.

When the original iPod was announced on October 23rd, 2001, it was revolutionary. Suddenly you would be able to carry your entire music collection around on a device no bigger than a Walkman, rather than being limited by the number of CDs or cassettes that you could fit in your bag. The CD was dead. Or so everyone thought. But the reality has been that sales of physical music, although declining steadily year on year, have thus far failed to be eclipsed by digital downloads or streaming in the way that many predicted.

CD vs MP3 – Audio Quality

Without wishing to get too techy, this bit involves some numbers.

Rather than talk about a listener’s perception of the audio quality, let’s just consider the actual question. Are CD’s better quality than MP3’s?

CD audio tracks use a technical standard called “red book” and are raw Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) digital audio files sampled at a rate of 44.1 KHz and a depth of 16 bits. The bit depth determines the dynamic range and signal to noise ratio, while the sample rate determines the frequency response.

MP3 files (MPEG I or II Audio Layer III files) generally start off as a red book audio track – as you would find on a CD. However the file size is vastly reduced which is why you can get so much music onto your iPod or MP3 player.   At 128k bits per second, a digital audio file will be about 1/11th the size of the original PCM file, with some noticeable loss.

Delivery Device

Ultimately today a CD is a means of delivering high quality audio.  All our recordings are captured at a resolution of 96/24 which is considerably higher than the quality you get on CD so even a CD is slightly compressed.  IF you think about it in terms of video then you could argue that we capture in 4K.  A CD is the equivalent of HD and an MP3 is the equivalent of watching a movie on an iPhone.

A lot of people would argue they cannot notice a significant difference between CD and MP3.  However for our clients a CD is not just about the audio quality but more as a means of getting the audio to the end user.

When we record in a school it is more than just capturing audio. We are there to capture memories and a CD is a physical product that pupils can keep for the rest of their lives.  Even if in years to come the pupil doesnt have a means of playing an actual CD, the artwork and the associated booklet will remind them of the recording they made at school.

Physical Product

If your son or daughter features on a school CD, it’s understandable that most parents want to buy a copy.  For a school, its much easier to sell a physical product than a download.   Having a CD is more than just the music.  All the artwork is customised to your school. Most primary schools will run a competition for pupils to design the front cover and names of everyone who took part will be inside the CD booklet.  A CD is therefore a memory which can be kept forever.

Imagine if you’re holding a school fete.  If you have physical CD’s on the table parents will most likely stop and by one.  If all you have is a link to a website to download an MP3 file the take up is likely to be a lot less.  For now therefore, the CD is still a valid means of delivering audio and we believe will remain so for a few years to come.


The most important thing to remember that a CD is a means of delivering music.  With a CD you can convert the music there on to an MP3 and upload on your iPod to listen anywhere. But you cannot go the other way.  Having a physical CD is a bit like having a backup.  Digital files are all well and good but one click of the mouse and they can potentially be lost forever.  If you have a CD you can always keep the music and re-upload it to your iTunes library at any point in the future.

To find out more about Recording in your school please call us today on 01225 302143 or click here to email us

About the author

Jules Addison administrator

Jules Addison is a Director of Record My School and also runs a number of Community Choirs in Wiltshire.

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