A-101 answers all your questions on the AAC file format.Read More
Your Intro to all things audio.
Welcome to Audiophile 101. A-101 is an introduction to all things audio brought to you by Pocket Rock It Radio. From the simple to the more advanced we aim to give you answers to your audio related questions in simplistic and easy to understand terms. Whether you’re interested in diving deep into the world of audio, or are just looking for a simple answer to a not so simple question we hope Audiophile 101 will help answer all your music related questions quick and easy.
In this chapter we will answer the question, what is an MP3?
An MP3 is type of digital computer file that’s used for storing audio (ie. a song on your phone). The MP3 file type is used to compress (shrink) the size [amount of data] of the original audio file to make use, transfer or storage of the audio file more economic for your digital device, and is the most commonly used digital audio file type.
Due to the compression that takes place when the original audio file is convereted to MP3 it is classified as a ‘Lossy’ type audio file.
MP3 stands for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (quite a confusing mouthful isn’t it folks).
The industry standard for an MP3 is 128kbps [kilobits per second]. It is believed that at a bit rate of 128kbps you are hearing the same sound quality you would hear from a terrestrial radio signal [AM/FM radio]. Which is considered to be acceptable by most.
A MP3 is created by compressing [shrinking] a sound file, this is done by deleting parts of the audio file that are deemed unnecessary. When music or audio is originally recorded there is a depth in sound (sound waves/pitches) recording called bit depth. Bit depth is the dynamic range at which the original audio recoding is created, and in its uncompressed state is traditionally a very wide dynamic range.
So wide in fact it picks up many details that are not easily heard, or at times can be completely inaudible (unhearable) to the human ear. Especially when you’re listening with basic listening equipment. So when an audio file is compressed from it’s original form to an MP3 the computer uses rules created [algorithm] for the compression of the sound file that removes [deletes] the parts of the recording that are not so easily heard.
**For more on audio compression see A-101: Chapter 2 Lossy vs. Lossless Compression
Delicious and nutritious!
No, there is no way to reverse the process. During the conversion from the files original format to MP3 the information is removed (deleted) during compression in order to make the file size smaller. Since the information is deleted there is no information saved to aid in restoration [decompression] of the audio file.
While you can convert an MP3 to another file format you are not improving it’s sound quality.
Not all MP3s are created equal. How good an MP3 sounds comes down to the options that were selected at the time the original audio file is converted to an MP3. The amount an audio file is compressed when converting to a MP3 can vary greatly, and depends on what the desired end result for the audio file is. For instance when the original file was compressed to an MP3 was the intent to take up as little digital space as possible while still being able to hear the audio? Or to maintain as much of the original audio file sound quality while still saving some storage space in some regard?
The overall sound quality of any audio file comes down to the ‘Bit rate’ that the audio file is compressed to. An MP3 can be compressed in a wide range of bit rate options ; anywhere from 32 bits per second [pretty poor sounding] to 320 kbps per second [almost lossless in quality].
Confused? Just think of a ‘Bit’ as a tiny tasty cake crumb of digital information. The more crumbs (Bits) the digital device has to rebuild the cake (the audio file) the more it will resemble the original cake. In this situation remember no matter how many or how few crumbs you have the computer will still have to paint the same sound picture. So the more crumbs your device has to work with is the more clearly it will actually resemble the original cake (original recording).
So, the higher the bits per second is the better the overall sound quality will be of your audio file, and vice versa since the playback device has more information to work with.
At the turn of the millennium a large portions of the population began to share and transfer all types of digital files, and audio files were one of the most popular files to share. Back around the year 2000 the limitation of storage space on digital devices, and the slow internet speeds meant transferring a full sized audio file would take forever and once you received the uncompressed audio file you wouldn’t have a lot of digital storage space to keep them.
Enter the Mp3. The MP3 made it so you were able to compress a whole song down to a fraction of it’s original file size like witch-craft. Making file transfer, use, and storage mind bendingly economical.
Thus it allowed you to transfer files more quickly and store a more audio than ever before on you devices. Yes, it’s true that MP3 is considered a lossy form of audio compression but the fact the audio files fidelity (how good it sounds) was considered to be good enough made it a quick superstar in the computing crowd. And the rest as they say, is history.
Well, there you have MP3 in a nut shell. MP3s makes your audio files quicker to use, transfer, and makes it so you can store a lot more audio files in a lot less space. All perks that come at the cost of some loss (worsening) of the original sound recording. If you’ve listened to audio on a computing device you’ve more than likely listed listened to an MP3 audio file. They’ve always been there you just didn’t know it.
Unless of course you’ve always used Apple products. In that case you may have been using AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) audio format, but that’s a story for another Chapter. If you’d like to add something, or have a question as always hit us up in the comments section.
Until next time, Happy Listening.