February 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

How To Get Better Sound on YouTube

YouTube Preview Image

YouTube has become an increasingly powerful resource for listening to free, on-demand music.

If your ears are ever less than satisfied by the sound quality on YouTube, that could be due to excessively-compressed audio. What’s a music fan to do?

The answer, in this case, is simple: Maximize the video quality.

You can try this right now, in the video above for Mogwai’s “San Pedro” (or any video that was uploaded at a high quality). Listen to it for a little while on the normal setting, then click the video quality indicator at the bottom right of the player and toggle your video quality from 360p up to 720p HD (see image to the right).

After you make the switch, notice how much better the song sounds — especially the cymbals, which are usually the surest indicator of the degree to which an audio signal has been compressed. Hear what I mean?

Switching to 720p HD (or whatever the best video quality is for a given video) improves YouTube’s sound quality considerably, assuming your headphones or speakers are any good.

If YouTube is a big part of how you listen to music these days on blogs, Facebook, apps, Apple TV, or the YouTube website itself, this simple little tweak can improve your listening experience considerably.

Update: We’ve discovered another tip for this; you can force YouTube to play the best possible sound every time you switch to Full Screen mode, if you go to youtube.com/account_playback and check the “Always play HD on fullscreen (when available) option:


  • Dan Cullinan

    If u put it up to 720p and then download from YouTube converter will it come in 720p or just the original as it came ?

  • Antonio_fiorecamacho

     depends which downloader u use, i use aTube Catcher, check the option that says, allow youtubehd for download it with better definition, sorry my bad enlish

  • Andrew

    You can use TubeDown,it’s online and you can download even 1920×1080 mp4 format from youtube

  • Alex

    Does anyone know how to get better sound quality when uploading? I’ve never uploaded before and I wanna do some lyric vids for some songs but I don’t know how to get hd and hq sound.

  • Anonymous

    It shouldn’t require 720p to get at least 320kbps equivalent. It’s
    frightening to think how much filler is on the Youtube farm just to display 720-1080p JPGs for a 90 minute album someone posted just to avoid compression. Not to mention space for the downloaders or nightmare of conversion (for public domain audio, of course).

  • gong

    for listening to just audio the best quality is at 320…. anything above is just the video quality (the picture/video).

  • Thaveesha Suchinthaka

    If I download music vids in 720p and. then convert it into 192 bitrate mp3 will it be not in good quality to play in gigs in occasions???

  • http://www.alterpride.org/ Randall Krause

    I agree, but I suppose YT’s thought process is that people are supposed to use their service for videos not musical slideshows, so they give higher priority to the visual content.

  • http://www.alterpride.org/ Randall Krause

    I would never play a video downloaded from YT over a nightclub PA system except as a last resort. While it might be acceptable if you demux the original AAC with no recompression, even that is no guarantee of generational loss. A lot of music uploaded to YT is originally from an MP3 source (of which you have no way of even guaranteeing where it originated). Sending even the highest quality source through two lossy encoders is going to introduce a lot of distortion. I would rather pay $2 for an original 320kbps MP3 from Amazon or iTunes. At least then I know exactly what I’m getting.

  • http://www.alterpride.org/ Randall Krause

    YouTube always performs internal conversions of videos when they are uploaded to their service. There is no way to obtain the original source file. So if you are going to rip a video from YT, then you should use a downloader at the highest quality setting. Keep in mind, the audio will still be rather poor even at 720p. Do a listening test sometime of a music video, and notice how it compares to the 320kps track downloaded from a reputable source like Amazon.

  • anon

    Never play lower than 320 bitrate MP3′s.

  • Ikem Krueger

    Youtube should split video from audio quality.

    Low quality video doesn’t mean I want low quality audio.

  • Soegeng Ku

    DFX Audio Enhancer – Software, very better than manual sound!