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What is MP3?



What is MP3?

MP3 has taken over as the most popular word inputted into a search engine window. It is an unavoidable factor on the internet and if you believe the major record labels, it is perhaps one of the most corrupting evils ever to descend upon the music industry. Well that may be a bit strong, but nevertheless it is here to stay and perhaps could be one of your greatest allies on the internet. That is if it doesn't revolutionise the way you value, listen to and receive the music of your choice.

So what is it?

MP3 is a compression format that reduces files up to about 12% of their original size. When you consider that a stereo CD quality track can weigh in at about 10 meg a minute, you can see why there is a need for such a compression format, especially when the internet is involved. It can take approx 50 minutes to download 10 meg file on a 28.8k modem.
The name MP3 stands for Mpeg 1 Audio Layer 3 and its compression algorithm is based on a complicated psycho-acoustic model. This model is based on the fact that the human ear cannot hear all the audio frequencies. The human hearing range is between 20Hz to 20Khz and it is most sensitive between 2 to 4 KHz. This MP3 model among other techniques tries to eliminate the frequencies which the human ear is unable to hear keeping all the hearing frequencies leaving intact the hearing experience. As a result the MP3 compression form is destructive. That means that the compression algorithm causes the file to lose some information so that it cannot be restored to its original content.
Note that what you end up with after encoding and decoding is not the same sound file anymore,  but it will sound the same - more or less, depending on how much compression has been performed on it.  

The quality of the file output from most 'encoders' would give the average CD a run for its money. In fact some tracks, especially some dance music, have actually improved their sound quality via this compression.

'Minidisc' also works on a similar principle.

So what does it mean for you?

1. You can create a CD that contains over 160 songs and can play for over 14 hours on a PC.

2. Those same tracks can be downloaded to the ever expanding range of standalone devices.

3. You can efficiently store songs on a hard disk and play them directly form there.

4. Companies are already designing home 'networking' systems to allow music play back in all rooms. MP3 or its descendent will be the format of choice as well as for 'music on demand' systems over the internet.

5. For Musicians, it is the perfect medium to air your music, there are also a whole range of MP3 community sites where artists can post and advertise their music; such as MP3.com and TraxinSpace.

So how can I play an MP3 file?

You just need an MP3 player. The two we recommend are either Winamp- possibly the most popular player or the new Destiny player, which also acts as a receiver for Destiny's propeitry broadcasting format. The options for a Mac also include the ubiquitous Quicktime 4 player. The Real Audio G2 player also plays MP3. The companies which have designed and developed these players have had the forethought to include play back facilities for other formats such as CD, wavs, video, real audio. The range is expanding and very soon you will find that only player will serve your needs.

Minimum computer requirement is probably a Pentium 75 or pre G2 mac.

Downloading any one of these players is simple and quick and you should be up and running in a very short space of time.

Where do I find my tracks?

In time more and more record labels and artists will be embracing the format - but so far such luminaries as Goldie, David Bowie and Alanis Morrisette have all been part of this revolution. Both MP3.com and TraxinSpace have literally hundreds of thousands of tracks on their server. There are also labels setting up which either release only on MP3 or have MP3 exclusive mixes- such as PiknMix. Check our extensive links sections.

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