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Well, if you are asking the above question, then you probably lived on a different planet for the past years... MP3 characterizes a complex sound compression algorithm (otherwise called MPEG layer III) and is also the usual extension for the sound files that are produced via this algorithm. So, what? Who cares about an "algorithm" other than computer or math experts?

Well, the fact is that MP3 (and other MPEG standards) started a revolution in the music industry which has not yet come to a conclusion. To take things from the start, almost every consumer disaproves of the high prices for low quality products that the music industry poses. So, for some time internet users have dreamt of exchanging songs through the net. Was this possible? No, it wasn't possible for many years. This is because CD-music has a 44.1kHz 16bit stereo signal which requires about 1410kbps transfer rate. Considering modems (at the time) offered about 28.8kbps, 40MB songs were not an easy thing to download. Later on, while internet connections did not speed up much, scientists (in the Fraunhofer institute) after many years of studies created sound compression algorithms which could considerably minimize file sizes while slightly degrading the sound quality. The compression is based on the psychoacoustic model of the human ear and the algorithm removes from the sound all that would not be heard anyway.

This is how "MP3" compression started. Although newer algorithms have been introduced (AAC, MP3pro, WMA), the MP3 still remains the standard for internet-distribued audio. To create and play an MP3 you will need an audio-CD ripper, an MPEG encoder and an MP3 player, alternatively you can download an mp3 from the internet.

Last Update:
Mar 10 2002