MP4 vs MP3

According to one study, about 90% of the population listens to music. If you’re part of that population, chances are that you’ve listened to an MP3 or MP4 file. But what’s the difference? Keep reading to find out more about MP4 vs MP3 and which one you should choose!

What is MP3

The developers made MP3 files to store audio information in a digital form. However, it’s a smaller file size that could be put onto a CD.

This works with a little bit of psychological magic. They will take an uncompressed digital audio file and remove large parts of data that the human ear probably won’t even be able to pick up. This process is called lossy compression.

It’s the same thing that happens when you have a JPEG file; it will sharing your photos without affecting the main details. This way, you can fit more songs on them on a CD to have a better listening experience.

Most MP3s will have a 44.1 kHz sample rate. However, the bit rate can range anywhere from 8kbps to 320 kbps.

If you listen to an MP3 file with an 8kbps rate, you’ll feel like you’re listening to a really bad AM radio. However, 320kbps is as high of a quality as you’d hear on any CD.

What is MP4

MP4, on the other hand, stands for MEPG-4 Part 14. This is different from the MP3 because even though it can be used for audio, it can also store videos, audio, and data.


However, this can make it confusing when you’re looking at files on your computer. If you see something that has an extension of .mp4, you may be wondering whether it’s a movie or the theme song.

To help prevent some confusion, Mac computers call MP4 a .m4a file if it’s only audio. If there’s a video, they’ll use the file extension .m4v.

Unlike MP3 files, MP4 files are just a container for the information. Then you can choose different codecs to fit your need. Most people will use an Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) codec. This type of codec is a lossy compression just like the MP3, but it preserves the sound quality.

There are also different types of containers that you’ll see with MP4. An M4V file extension is for MPEG-4 Visual bitstreams. MP4B means that it’s a podcast or an audiobook. And M4P holds audio that’s encrypted by the FairPlay Digital Rights Management.

However, if you’d rather have your file in an MP3 format, click here to learn how to convert M4A to MP3 on Mac.

1. Quality

While both formats can hold audio, there are still a few main differences between the two. And one of those differences is the MP3 vs MP4 sound quality.

We already mentioned that MP3 cuts out parts of the audio. Even if you can’t hear it or don’t realize it, MP4 leaves all of the audio in it. That means the quality is higher with MP4.

In addition to the difference in quality, MP3 still has a lower file size, meaning that you’ll be able to fit more of these files onto your device.

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2. Format

The format is also different because an MP3 is an audio coding format. On the other hand, MP4 is in a digital multimedia container type of format.

3. Extended Formats

These formats were extended from previous formats. For example, MP3 was extended from MP2.

However, MP4 was actually derived from the MPEG-4 Part 12. It also came from the Apple QuickTime .mov file format.

4. Development

A group of engineers that came from Philips, IRT, CCETT, MPEG, and the Fraunhofer society developed this format.

On the other hand, the MP4 format was designed by the International Organization for Standardization program.

5. Playback

The MP3 players will let you play back songs, record, replay recordings, and listen to the radio.

However, if you have an MP4 player, you’ll have a 65,000 or 256,000 color display that will let you play back video, audio, pictures, web browsing, instant messaging, or recordings.

6. Capability

An MP3 file can only handle one type of media file, and that’s the audio file.

The MP4 file can handle audio, but it can also handle other files such as video, audio, and text.

7. Compression Technology

While MP3 uses a lossy compression algorithm to compress the files, MP4 uses two other types of technology.

It’s a mixture of Advanced Audio Coding and Advanced Video Coding.

8. Acronym

MP3 stands for MPEG-Audio Layer 3 format. MP4 stands for MPEG-4 Part 14.

Which One Should You Use?

If you already have a lot of MP3 files that are above 256kbps, just keep using that. They’re probably a high-enough quality that you wouldn’t notice the difference if you converted them into MP4.

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However, if you want to create some new CDs, you may want to get some MP4 files to have higher sound quality. While the MP4 might take up more space, you’ll have a higher sound quality, which can make a difference if you’re listening to it on expensive headphones.

Discover More of the Differences Between MP4 vs MP3

These are only a few of the differences between MP4 vs MP3, but there are many more differences.

We know that it can be difficult to keep up with all of the latest technology, but we’re here to help you out.

If you enjoyed this article, make sure that you explore our website to find more articles just like this one!


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