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Guide to MP3 Guide to MP3
       More about MP3

MP3 stands for MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group) 1 Layer 3.
In brief, MP3 is a way of compressing audio files to make them smaller.
If you're familiar with file compression such as zip which reduces the file size in order to exchange data, you'll understand mp3 compression. One problem with traditional audio formats such as WAV or any other is file size. A single track of 3-4 min would take more than 20MB of disc space, which is a huge file to share across the Internet.

Compared to traditional audio formats, MP3 compression ratio is about 12:1, which means that the size of an MP3 clip is one-twelfth the size of an uncompressed audio file.
MP3 allows you to compress audio clips without sacrificing much quality, the same 20MB clip would take less than 2MB using MP3 compression.

With MP3 you can now share your files across the Internet and put a larger number of tracks on a single CD.
To understand MP3 compression consider the following:
A normal CD can hold about 650MB of data, which translates into 130 clips ! if we consider an average size of 5MB.
High compression is the main reason behind MP3 popularity.
Another interesting fact about MP3 is being a headerless file format.
This feature enables you to cut an MP3 clip into pieces and resample them without loosing data, even play individual pieces. To understand this, try to split a wav file into pieces using any Split software such as Split and Join (30K). When you try to play an individual file you get an error. With MP3 you can cut sections of the clip and still play every one of them.
One feature called "Streaming" allows you to play an MP3 clip in real-time across the Internet. Of course you'd have to use some special software to do that. With MP3, digital artists can now have their own concerts !

But how can MP3 compress audio files without losing quality

MP3 does a great job in compressing audio files but in reality you are loosing quality, only the loss is not perceived by the human hear.
This is where the strength of MP3 compression lies. Technically MP3 is called a perceptual audio coding scheme which as mentioned above relies on the property of the human hear to discard the weakest sounds. All MP3 encoders rely on this property to compress audio clips.
If you convert a WAV file to MP3 and then convert the resulting MP3 back to WAV and analyse both WAV files you will notice that they are not the same. The difference can only be detected by technical means and is not perceived by the human ear.

Today you can download tons of MP3s - some are free of charge - and enjoy digital music. Many independent artists offer free MP3 clips as a way to promote their music, even top artists such as Sting, Rolling Stones are using this technology to play their music in cyberspace.

After reading the introduction you got excited and began to wonder:

  • How can I listen to MP3 ?
  • Where can I find MP3 clips ?
  • Can I create my own MP3s ?

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