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What Is a Low Bit?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Low bit, also known as low bitrate and lobit, is an encoding method in which a small amount of bits is used; in the process, the compression is lossy and creates artifacts. This is used for videos, images and songs, and is generally considered to result in poor quality. Some artists, notably musicians, intentionally use low bit, because they believe their song can be appreciated despite its bitrate, which helps download rates. Another benefit of low bitrate is that the file will use considerably less memory than a high bitrate file, making it easier to store.

When a file is encoded, it uses a certain amount of bits depending on the medium, the size or duration of the file, and its quality. For optimal encoding, lossless compression is used, meaning no or little quality is lost to the compression. When someone hears crisp music, watches a high-quality movie or sees a clear digital image, this is an example of a high bitrate.

Low bit compression is the exact opposite. This is a lossy compression type, meaning quality will be lost. It also produces artifacts, meaning an image or movie will have pixelization, and a song will crackle or have areas where the music unexpectedly fades out. Artifacts are produced because the optimal number of bits, or memory, is not used during encryption, so the medium degrades to fit the specified amount of bits.

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Some musicians purposely make music with low bit compression, believing the song should be appreciated because it sounds good, not because it has a good compression rate. The most common genre of music that does this is punk, but other genres also use low bitrate compression. This musical form is not as popular as high bitrate music, so low bit albums are typically sold only online. The amount of memory needed for one low bitrate album is about the same amount of memory needed for one high bitrate song.

While there is a range of problems with using low bit compression, such as the files not being of optimal quality, there are a few advantages to this compression system. Downloading a low bitrate file takes much less time, because fewer bits are in the file. Storing the file also is easier, because fewer bits are used. The more bits in a file, the more memory is required, which may be hard to support on computers with a small hard drive or dialup networks that download at slow rates.

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