MP3 is a digital music format for creating high-quality sound files. It has transformed the way people buy and listen to music. MP3 is an audio-specific format that was designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as part of its MPEG-1 standard and later extended in the MPEG-2 standard. The use in MP3 of a lossy compression algorithm is designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent the audio recording and still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio for most listeners. An MP3 file that is created using the setting of 128 kbit/s will result in a file that is about 1/11 the size of the CD file created from the original audio source. An MP3 file can also be constructed at higher or lower bit rates, with higher or lower resulting quality.
MP3 achieves its powerful compression by stripping out a lot of the sounds in a song which our ears cannot hear, and using complex mathematical algorithms to reduce file sizes further. The result is that MP3 files are around 11 times smaller than uncompressed music tracks.
Thanks to these impressive rates of compression a typical music track is reduced from about 50MB (megabytes) to around 4MB. You can fit more than 100 MP3 tracks on a typical audio CD instead of around 16 tracks in the old format (called .WAV) still used on commercial music CDs.
Because of the small file size you can easily download and email MP3s. There are numerous programs for playing MP3s available, such as Windows’ Media Player, Real Player, iTunes or WinAmp.
Many people upload (‘rip’) their CD collection to their computer. Once stored on your hard drive, you can play your music through the speakers on your computer or through headphones. You can also create your own compilation albums and playlists.
When you rip from a CD to your computer’s hard drive, you will be able to choose the levels of compression. The higher you set the compression rate (typically between 48 and 192 Kbps) the smaller the file will be, but with a resulting loss in audio quality.
You can copy MP3 files onto a portable MP3 player - or in the case of iTunes, an iPod or other Apple device. Portable radio/CD players now have the capability to play MP3s too. Another option is copying (‘burning’) music downloads from your computer to a blank CD.
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