How Much Music in MP3 Format Can Be Put on a One Gigabyte MP3 Player?
By Andrew Tennyson
Since the late 1990s, MP3 or MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 has become one of the most popular and most well known audio file compression formats in the world. Because all songs are different lengths, and because MP3 files can be saved at a variety of different bit rates, the file size of each song will vary, and as a result so too will the amount of music you can fit on a 1Gigabyte (GB) MP3 player.
Bit Rates and Song Lengths
When a song is encoded in MP3 format, the size of the file depends on two factors - bit rate and song length. Bit rate represents the quality at which the music is encoded. This number is represented in kilobits per second (Kbps), with higher bit rates reflecting a higher-quality recording that will take up more storage room. Typical bit rates for MP3 files are 128Kbps, 160Kbps, 192Kbps, 256Kbps and 320Kbps. Different musical genres have different average lengths. The average length of a pop song is around three minutes. A three minute song recorded at 128Kbps will be substantially smaller than a three minute song recorded at 256Kbps.
About 1GB MP3 Players
In general, it is good to remember that a 1GB MP3 player won't necessarily have exactly 1GB of space available on it. 1GB is equal to 1024 MB. Keep in mind, however, the same manufacturers will market an MP3 player as holding 1GB of music, while the actual storage space will be slightly less. This holds true for all hard drive-based storage media. For the purpose of estimating how many songs can fit on a 1GB player, we will assume the player offers a full 1024MB of space.
Songs at 128Kbps
According to a calculation tool developed by the University of Leicester, one minute of MP3 music encoded at 128Kbps takes up 0.9375MB of disk space. Assuming that all of the songs you're putting on your 1GB MP3 player average three minutes per song, your average file size per song would be 2.8125MB. Therefore you would be able to put approximately 364 songs onto your 1GB MP3 player, if they were all encoded at 128Kbps.
Songs at 160Kbps
Encoding at 160Kbps results in slightly higher quality audio. According to the University of Leicester, one minute of MP3 music encoded at 160Kbps takes up 1.172MB of disk space. Assuming again that your songs average three minutes in length, the average size of a song encoded at 160Kbps would be 3.516MB. As a result, you would be able to fit 291 songs onto a 1GB MP3 player if the songs were all encoded at 160Kbps.
Songs at 192Kbps
160Kbps and 192Kbps are the most common bit rates for MP3 music destined for commercial radio. One minute of MP3 music encoded at 192Kbps takes up approximately 1.406MB of disk space. A three minute song would have a file size of 4.218 MB. Again assuming that your songs all average three minutes long, you would be able to fit 248 songs onto a 1GB MP3 player.
Songs at 256Kbps and 320Kbps
As the amount of available storage space on MP3 players has increased, artists, record companies and audiophiles have begun to encode MP3 files at higher bit rates like 256kbps. The verdict is still out on whether encoding this high makes a discernible difference in sound quality. Nevertheless, a piece of music encoded in MP3 at 256kbps takes up approximately 1.875MB per minute, meaning you could fit 182 three-minute songs onto a 1GB MP3 player. A song at 320Kbps takes up 2.344MB per minute, meaning you could fit 146 songs of the same length onto the same MP3 player.
Andrew Tennyson has been writing about culture, technology, health and a variety of other subjects since 2003. He has been published in The Gazette, DTR and ZCom. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Master of Fine Arts in writing.