When most people think of music playback, at least on portable devices, they think of mp3. The interesting thing about it, however, is that many people have absolutely no idea what an mp3 actually is! It is in fact a file format, but what does it stand for?
The Backstory on Mp3
Mp3 is a format designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group(MPEG) and started with the MPEG-2 format. Later, it would expand into MPEG-1 Part 3 which would include audio layer 1, 2, and of course, 3. This format, known as Mp3, would go on to become one of the most popular and compatible formats on the market, but it is by no means the only one. Let’s take a look at a few other popular ones.
mp3PRO: This is a proprietary codec which is able to combine the Mp3 audio format with SBR, or spectral band repication. The idea behind this format is to reduce the size of a stereo Mp3 by 50% while still maintaining both the integrity and the quality of the original file.
AAC: Also known as Advanced Audio Coding, AAC is another lossy format(meaning it does not maintain the full integrity of the original file) and it was designed to succeed the MP3 format. It is a common format, though it has not quite usurped the mp3 as of yet. AAC is standardized by ISO and IEC, and is a part of the MPEG-2/MPEG-4 specifications.
MP4: Much like the Mp3, this format is able to store forms of data other than audio. The Mp4 can easily store audio, video, and even still images. Additionally, just like any other format, it allows for streaming over the internet. Finally, most Mp3 players will easily support this format.
MP2: The MPGEG Layer 2 format is a great audio container, however it is dwarfed by the popularity of the Mp3, at least as far as the internet is concerned. The Mp2, however, is considered to be the preferred method for audio broadcasting.
FLAC: The Free Lossless Audio Codec is, as the name suggests, a lossless codec, meaning the full integrity of the audio file is kept intact. In addition to that, the audio can be compressed to 60% of its original size.
These are a few of the more common alternatives to the Mp3 format. There are of course other formats out there that you might consider taking advantage of, and soon enough the MP3 format might actually be phased out completely. It is difficult to say when that will be, but these alternatives, particularly AAC and Mp4 are serving as a gateway to the future. change is difficult, but sometimes it is for the better, especially if the size of the Mp3 can be decreased significantly during the next few years. As luck would have it, more devices are being outfitted with compatibility for different formats, giving you full reign to choose the format that you want in the future.
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