What is an MP3?

What is an MP3?

Wow! I had no idea how hard it would be to figure out exactly what an MP3 is. It’s apparently not something many people have thought to write down and make understandable to the general public. And now, because of popular demand, I will try to explain it to you. I will have to first admit that I still don’t understand what most of the terms actually mean. Phrases such as “quantized and coded spectral coefficients” are still things I just nod at and mutter “Mmmm…” as if I completely follow the conversation. But…I still pretty much understand what an MP3 is and does. Ready?

An MP3 is a song or other recorded audio made or encoded using a perceptual audio coding algorithm, which put simply, means a program that “takes out” sounds from an audio recording that the human ear can not distinguish, including silent spaces. It also “knows” what frequencies the human ear hears best and what one’s are not so clear. It will encode the one’s we understand best in high quality, while encoding the one’s we don’t hear very well at a low quality and add what they call quantization noise to keep the audio sample at it’s proper length.

What all this does is compress the size of the file (how much space it takes on a CD) without losing practical sound quality. There is some loss of quality, of course, and if you listen really closely you’ll be able to hear it if you compare it side by side with the original. But, if you have a decent equalizer (which most MP3 players do) the loss isn’t really noticed. And when you compare how many MP3’s vs. how many standard format songs you can carry on a chip, there really is no comparison.

By the way, on a standard CD of your favorite band, you can fit about 15 songs on it. That same sized CD-R with the music converted into MP3’s will hold upwards of 160 full length songs. 15 songs or 160 songs, mmm…. I think I’ll take the loss.

Another benefit to converting all your music to MP3’s is convenience. I’ve seen people who have their CD collection scattered all over their house. They will hear something that reminds them of a song they have, and then spend an hour looking for the CD that has the song on it; many times finding just find the case but not the CD inside. What a pain! Instead, when you buy a CD, encode it right away into an MP3. That way, when you suddenly feel the urge to hear Bon Jovi, all you have to do is open your music folder, scroll down to the B’s, and double click the song you want to hear (provided you have your computer hooked up to your stereo system, like you should!).

Also, there are now many different websites, like eMusic, that offer single songs for sale. So, instead of having to buy a whole CD just so you can get the one song you like, you can download and pay for just the song that you want. And since MP3’s are so small, it only takes a minute to download (if you have high speed internet). Ah, modern technology, where would we be today without it.