Understanding MP3 Technology and How it Can Help You.

What is an MP3?


The MP3 is without a doubt the most well-known audio format in use today.  Even if we don’t understand it, we all use it.  From iTunes to iPods, MP3 players in cars and home stereo systems, the MP3 format has invaded our lives.  Still there are many who don’t know what it is, or why they ought to use this particular format.


The letters and numbers in this format stand for MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Layer III audio.  It was actually developed first for use in video but since audio is part of the video process the audio format was developed as well.  Its namesake is the Motion Picture Entertainment Group. 


The magic of this format allows is that it allows an audio file compression down to about 1/11th of the original .Wav format used in traditional CD files.  In other words, a 32-megabyte sound file would be compressed down to 3 megabytes.  For this reason you can load many times more audio files on a CD in this format than the original format.


How is this possible?  The secret is in your ears.  While converting an audio format to MP3, bits of sound that are not heard by the human ear are eliminated by the software,  leaving only the parts that could be heard in the first place.  The human ear is an amazing instrument, but it does have limitations.  The MP3 algorithm capitalizes on those limitations


For example:

  • There are certain sounds the human ear cannot hear.
  • When two sounds are played simultaneously the human ear can only hear the louder of the two but not the softer.


The process of compressing a sound file into the MP3 format eliminates certain sounds that our ears cannot hear anyway, while preserving the overall sound of the file.  So by taking advantage of "auditory masking"[6649] the algorithm is able to compress the file with no noticeable difference to the listener.

Why Should I Use The MP3 Format?

Whether you are a music or podcast producer, using MP3's in your production will help you tremendously.  Here are just a couple of reasons why.

  • The MP3 format is the most popular audio format on the market today.  This makes your file available to more listeners.
  • Mp3's take up less space and have fewer bytes, which increase both the amount of data that can be stored in a given device, as well as the speed of downloading any given MP3 file.
  • Uploading sound files takes less time when they are in the MP3 format, which in turn decreases work time and increases productivity.  Time is money.

Which Programs Can Be Used to Produce MP3 Formated Files?

The following is a list of free software that can be used to convert or save sound files in MP3 format:

  • Itunes
  • Windows Media Player (This software can be set up to rip music from a CD into MP3 formated files.  Normal CD files are .WAV)
  • Audacity (Free Download on Cnet.com)