MP3 has changed the way people listen to music
on the Internet. It wasn't so long ago that the average pop song
converted into a Wav file took hours to download on a 28.8Kbs
modem connection and ate up around 50 megabytes of disc space.
With the same song converted into an MP3 file, download time
gets reduced dramatically to around one-tenth the original size
while sounding just as good as before.
Consequently, music has become really popular
on the Internet. While garage bands MP3 their demos, others are
grabbing their favourite albums, converting them to MP3 and
uploading them onto the Internet. This generally happens without
the consent or knowledge of the artists or record companies.
Call it what you will, but it's music piracy at the end of the
day. MP3s get traded online, posted to newsgroups and uploaded
to web servers simply because they generally lack any security
features or digital watermarks to prevent mass distribution. And
it's worthwhile to emphasize that MP3 is not an illegal file
format, but the unauthorized compression and distribution of
copyright material is illegal. It's the content of a file which
may breach copyright, not it's file type.
Despite opposition from certain elements of the
music recording industry, MP3 is extremely popular as a file
format. MP3 isn't much of a bandwidth choker, the sound quality
is generally quite good and just about every major artist's
music has been pirated and put online. It's no wonder that
Searchterms.com claim that MP3 is one of the most popular search
terms, second only to sex.
What is MP3 and what does it stand for?
MP3 is a form of compression. It's an acronym
which stands for Mpeg 1 Audio Layer 3.
How does MP3 work?
As a form of compression, MP3 is based on a
psycho-acoustic model which recognizes that the human ear cannot
hear all the audio frequencies on a recording. The human hearing
range is between 20Hz to 20Khz and it is most sensitive between
2 to 4 KHz. When sound is compressed into an MP3 file, an
attempt is made to get rid of the frequencies that can't be
heard. As such, this is known as 'destructive' compression.
After a file is compressed, the data that is eliminated in the
creation of the MP3 cannot be replaced.
When encoding a file into MP3, a variety of
compression levels can be set. For instance, an MP3 created with
128 Kbit compression will be of a greater quality and larger
file size than that of a 56 Kbit compression. The more the
compression level decreases, the lesser the sound quality.
Ultimately, the benefits of MP3 compression mean that people can
back up their music collection onto hard disc or burn their own
music selections onto CDs which hold over 100 songs.
What's the best software for listening to
Before you download any software, you will want
to have at least a Pentium 75, Mac PPC or a similar processor.
Don't forget that you need a soundcard and speakers. When it
comes to MP3 players, to each their own. However, Winamp is
widely regarded as being the most popular MP3 player for Windows
users. It features a wide variety of plug-ins and can be
customized to the user's requirements. Winamp can also be used
to tune into SHOUTcast broadcasts. Check out the
SHOUTcast article for more details on some of the coolest
'radio stations' run out of a bedroom. Macintosh users might
want to try out MacAmp. You can explore the
MPEG section for a variety of MP3-related programs across
several operating systems.
Finally, if you're looking for some quality,
legal MP3s head to
MP3.com's Top Forty
Reproduced under license from Shareware
Music Machine - the world's biggest music software web site.
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