MP3's are without a doubt one of the most talked about subjects in the industry right now, from Napster vs. RIAA gossip to the latest portable hardware players. More and more of us are beginning to use them but don't know as much as we'd like to about this audio compression format. What exactly is an MP3? Where did they come from and how can I make my own? These questions and many more will be answered shortly as we explore the world of MP3 hardware and software.
What are MP3's?
MP3 stands for MPEG Layer-3 and is an audio compression format. This audio compression format allows high compression (small file sizes) without losing high quality sound. MP3's rely on something called perceptual coding to obtain small file sizes yet keep their excellent quality of sound. The goal of perceptual coding is to achieve fidelity perceivable by humans. Basically inaudible information is being removed. Why store data of things we can't hear?
So how efficient are we talking here? A normal CD-quality stereo signal will store 1.4Mbits of information per second. MP3 encoders can typically achieve a compression ratio of 1:12. This means a 5-minute song that would typically take up over 50 Mbytes could now be stored in a little over 4 Mbytes! That's what I call putting the squeeze on.
At this point you might be wondering where all of this advanced technology came from. I asked a few people myself and the most common answer was Winamp (one of the most popular software MP3 players). Many people don't realize that MP3's have been around since the late 80's when