MP3 format

The MP3 format is a file format for audio files. It was developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) and is part of the MPEG standard (more precisely: MPEG 1).

MP3 format explained by Wylder

What does MP3 mean?

MP3 is a file format. To do this, audio files are reduced in size using a special form of compression so that they require less storage space. The transmission speed for online applications is also significantly shorter as a result. This is a circumstance that made the fast streaming of music possible in the first place.

How does MP3 work?

The compression of the audio files is based on psychoacoustics. Signal components that are inaudible to humans are removed from the file. The data rate ranges from eight to 320 kbit/s. The lower the data rate, the less storage space is required. The so-called free format mode allows data rates of up to 640 kbit/s. However, most MP3 players can only play audio up to 320 kbps.

From the hate object of the music industry to the established standard

The MP3 format gained great popularity through music sharing sites such as Napster. The development was initially received hostilely by the music industry, since the exchange behavior of the listeners brought them massive sales slumps. With the advent of streaming platforms like Spotify, music piracy on the internet has been significantly reduced. As a result, record companies and music publishers are now more positive about MP3 files. With iTunes, Apple has also made a massive contribution to turning the format from a “sales killer” into a revenue generator. In the meantime, however, Apple is also primarily focusing on streaming and is offering the Apple Music service.

Typical uses of MP3 files

MP3 is to audio files what JPEG is to digital images: a kind of standard for using music and sounds in a small storage space. In addition to the music industry, the gaming and film industries also use MP3 files.

criticism of the sound quality

Musicians and hi-fi fans complain that data compression degrades the sound quality. In fact, the much-cited lossless compression only works at higher data rates. Competing audio formats such as AAC offer significantly better results here. Since the transmission speed on the Internet is constantly increasing (and storage space is becoming cheaper and cheaper), the development is now moving towards higher data rates. This also enables a higher sound quality.

Alternative audio formats

Besides AAC, FLAC is an alternative because this format allows for lossless data compression. Other alternatives are WAV and AIFF. There is no compression here. Files with up to 32 bit and a sampling frequency beyond 300 khz can also be created. The sound quality is significantly higher in comparison. However, this is also associated with considerable file sizes, so that the normal music consumer prefers the MP3 format for their player (or smartphone).

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