MP3

MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a popular digital audio encoding, lossy compression format, an algorithm designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent audio.

It was invented by a team of European engineers of Philips, CCETT (Centre commun d'études de télévision et télécommunications), IRT and Fraunhofer Society, who worked in the framework of the EUREKA 147 DAB digital radio research program, and it became an ISO/IEC standard in 1991.

 

Several bit rates are specified in the MPEG-1 Layer 3 standard: 32, 40, 48, 56, 64, 80, 96, 112, 128, 144, 160, 192, 224, 256 and 320 Kbit/s, and the available sampling frequencies are 32, 44.1 and 48 kHz.

Higher rates then 320 don't make sense; the file size will equal those of lossless compression.

MP3

Pro:

Cons:

Question: from what I read it seems FLAC is better than mp3. Can I change all my itune mp3's to FLAC?
Answer: technically this is possible but it won’t help you. What is lost in the lossy compression to mp3 is lost forever.

 

In the 90’s storage was expensive and bandwidth limited.
MP3 was the perfect answer to this problem.
Today we don’t have this problem anymore so choose lossless if you can.

On portables storage is still limited. It will take a couple of years before the 1 TB SD-cards will become available. Here MP3 still fills the bill.

 

Playing CD quality has a bit rate of 1411 kbs
High bit rate MP3 e.g. 320 kbs reduces the bit rate by more than 4.
Still many people struggle to hear the difference between high bitrate MP3 and the original CD quality.
MP3 is like magic indeed.
However although it sounds transparent to many, it is not without its artifacts.
This are the famous 'killer' samples  demonstrating the limitations of MP3.

 

Per 2017 the last MP3 patent expired.

References

  1. MP3 - Wikipedia
  2. The Theory Behind Mp3 - Rassol Raissi - December 2002
  3. MP3' Tech - Gabriel Bouvigne
  4. ID3 tags
  5. Licensing - mp3licensing.com