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In: Computers and Technology

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MP3, is an audio coding format for digital audio which uses a form of lossy data compression. It is widely used for consumer audio streaming and music and has become the standard of digital audio compression for the transfer and playback of music on most digital audio players. The use of lossy compression 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.
The compression works by reducing the accuracy of certain parts of a sound that are considered to be beyond the auditory resolution ability of most people. By using MPEG audio coding, you may shrink down the original sound data from a CD by a factor of 12, without losing sound quality. In addition to the actual music files, the creator can also add important information about the music by using an ID3 tag. An ID3 tag is a metadata container most often used in conjunction with the MP3 audio file format. It allows information such as the title, artist, album, track number, and other information about the file to be stored in the file itself.

MP3 technology was created by several developers of the Moving Picture
Experts Group MPEG most notably, Karlheinz Brandenburg, a professor at Ilmenau Technical University at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media
Technology in Germany. The immediate predecessors of MP3 were
"Optimum Coding in the Frequency Domain" (OCF),and Perceptual
Transform Coding (PXFM). Brandenburg became an assistant professor at
Erlangen-Nuremberg where he continued to work on music compression with scientists at the Fraunhofer Society until the technology was finalized in 1994.

Although they are a huge technological advancement, MP3’s are not without limitations. When performing lossy audio encoding, there is a tradeoff between the amount of space used and the sound quality of the result.
Some audio is hard to compress because of its randomness and sharp attacks. When this type of audio is compressed, artifacts such as ringing or pre-echo are usually heard. The quality of MP3 files also depends on the quality of the encoder itself, and the difficulty of the signal being encoded.
As the MP3 standard allows quite a bit of freedom with encoding algorithms, different encoders may feature quite different quality, even with identical bit rates.

For many years, while under patent, a license was required to make, sell and/or distribute products using the MP3 standard. In September 1998, the
Fraunhofer Institute sent a letter to several developers of MP3 software stating that a license was required to distribute and/or sell decoders and/or encoders. The letter claimed that unlicensed products would infringe on the patent rights of Fraunhofer and Thomson. MP3 license revenues generated hundreds of millions of dollars for the Fraunhofer Society over the years but recently, their patents began to expire.

In recent years, other formats of music file compression have surfaced.
Among these, mp3PRO, AAC, and MP2 are all members of the same technological family as MP3 and depend on roughly similar psychoacoustic models. There are also open compression formats like Opus and Vorbis that are available free of charge and without any known patent restrictions.
Besides lossy compression methods, lossless formats are a significant alternative to MP3 because they provide unaltered audio content, though with an increased file size compared to lossy compression. Lossless formats include FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), Apple Lossless and many others.

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