Electrocardiogram (ECG) compression finds wide application in various patient monitoring purposes. Quality control in ECG compression ensures reconstruction quality and its clinical acceptance for diagnostic decision making. In this paper, a quality aware compression method of single lead ECG is described using principal component analysis (PCA). After pre-processing, beat extraction and PCA decomposition, two independent quality criteria, namely, bit rate control (BRC) or error control (EC) criteria were set to select optimal principal components, eigenvectors and their quantization level to achieve desired bit rate or error measure. The selected principal components and eigenvectors were finally compressed using a modified delta and Huffman encoder. The algorithms were validated with 32 sets of MIT Arrhythmia data and 60 normal and 30 sets of diagnostic ECG data from PTB Diagnostic ECG data ptbdb, all at 1 kHz sampling. For BRC with a CR threshold of 40, an average Compression Ratio (CR), percentage root mean squared difference normalized (PRDN) and maximum absolute error (MAE) of 50.74, 16.22 and 0.243 mV respectively were obtained. For EC with an upper limit of 5 % PRDN and 0.1 mV MAE, the average CR, PRDN and MAE of 9.48, 4.13 and 0.049 mV respectively were obtained. For mitdb data 117, the reconstruction quality could be preserved up to CR of 68.96 by extending the BRC threshold. The proposed method yields better results than recently published works on quality controlled ECG compression. © 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.