On Amazon I can buy "MP3s" of individual songs. Is that equivalent to buying a standard music CD, or am I getting lower quality if I buy an MP3 and I need to buy the CD if I want the highest quality of sound?

Not sure if this is a subjective question, but how much is the quality difference? For example, can an expert musician tell the difference between an MP3 and the same song being played from a CD?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it’s not about music practice or theory as outlined in the help center. – Todd Wilcox May 26 '18 at 2:27
  • musicfans.stackexchange.com/questions/21/… may be of interest. Note that if you want a download that's equivalent to CD in compression terms, look for services offering FLAC download (as FLAC is losslessly compressed). – topo Reinstate Monica May 26 '18 at 8:09

Despite this being off topic, I think that the question deserves an answer. MP3 files are compressed and so will not sound as good as WAV files. That said, there is no such thing as a standard mp3 file - it depends on the bitrate used in conversion. A low bitrate such as 128 kbps will sound demonstrably worse than the original, as the file will have been compressed to about 10% of its original size. A high bitrate such as 320 kbps will sound much better and will be difficult to differentiate from the original.

The ability to differentiate between uncompressed and compressed files also depends on the equipment used to play the files: the difference will be less apparent using a smartphone and earbuds, whereas it will be more apparent using a cd player, amplifier and good speakers.

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  • Other variables include the actual nature of the material being compressed (some things 'survive' high compression factors better than others) and the precise algorithm used when doing the compression. – topo Reinstate Monica May 26 '18 at 8:06

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