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Tech Info

Inside the MP3 Codec

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MP3 Glossary

  • AAC (.aac) - "Advanced Audio Coding", next generation audio codec developed by Fraunhofer that seeks to preserve audio quality at lower bitrates. High licensing costs have kept this audio codec from the mainstream
  • AIFF (.aiff) - default sound file on Macintosh computers
  • audiophile - one with extreme interest in high quality sound
  • bitrates - speed at which audio data travels per second
  • BURN-Proof - short for "Buffer Underrun Proof", this technology was developed by Sanyo to combat the most common problem in burning CDs. If a data stream is interrupted while burning, the cd creation process is often ruined. BURN-Proof combats this by connecting the data seamlessly between the recorded point and the recording start point
  • burning - term for writing data to a cd
  • codec - short for "compression/decompression", basically an algorithm or system of rules to transform a file.  For more, see our MP3 codec section.
  • .cda - not a file format but a way of displaying audio tracks, much like a menu
  • CDDB - "Compact Disc Database", online lookup tool for retrieving album, artist, and track information, especially helpful for completing MP3 ID3 tags
  • cd-r - short for "cd-recordable", this media type allows you to record audio or data files and does not allow erasing. Recording audio files allows for compatibility with car and home stereo systems.
  • cd-rw - short for "cd rewriteable". These discs can record and erase audio and data up to 1,000 times. However, most car and home stereos do not support this media type yet.
  • cd text - disc and track info embedded on an audio CD
  • constant bit rate (CBR) - bit rate remains the same throughout the audio file. Compare with variable bit rate (VBR)
  • converter - software program that transforms one file format to another
  • decoding - making a format readable. MP3 players "decode" MP3 by being able to play the data format as audio. However, the term usually refers to the process of converting MP3 to WAV
  • disc-at-once (DAO) - single session burning process that cannot be interrupted and does not allow any data to be added once burned on a disc. Does not add 2 second gaps between tracks as does track-at-once recording
  • encoding - the process of converting any audio format to MP3
  • ID3 - small file that can be attached to an MP3 that contains album, artist, track, and other info.
  • jitter correction - jitter occurs with digital audio extraction (ripping)or when digital audio is converted to analog. This correction feature helps restore the audio to its original condition
  • kbps - "kilobytes per second", a measurement that is used to judge the size of an audio file. Uncompressed audio such as WAV format is 1411 kbps, MP3 compresses this size to about 1/10 on average (varies depending on user settings when encoding)
  • MP3 (.mp3) - MPEG Layer III, digital audio compression format achieving smaller file sizes by eliminating sounds the human ear can't hear or doesn't easily pick up.  For more, see our MP3 codec section.
  • mp3pro - audio codec developed by Thomson Multimedia that attempts to achieve the same audio quality in smaller file sizes than MP3
  • normalizing - the process of making audio files the same volume
  • OGG Vorbis - open source audio codec designed to compete with MP3. Since it is not licensed like MP3, software using this codec does not have to pay royalties.
  • psychoacoustics - study of what sounds the human ear can detect.  MP3 exploits the limits of human psychoacoustics to get smaller file size with limited detectable quality loss.
  • RA (.ra) - "Real Audio" file type from Real Networks. Usually produced by any of Real Networks' proprietary software.
  • ripping - also called digital audio extraction, this is the process of taking CD audio and recording it to a computer in any file format. When the transfer is from CD to MP3, the process is both ripping and encoding.
  • RM (.rm) - "Real Media", fie type from Real Networks.
  • track-at-once (TAO) - this burning process can write tracks individually, up to 99 total. Automatically places 2 second gaps between tracks.
  • variable bit rate (VBR) - encoding process where the codec makes the choice for how many bits are used on each segment of music. More complex segments get more bits. VBR was created with the goal of efficient use of file sizes.
  • WAV (.wav) - uncompressed audio format developed by IBM and Microsoft.  Became standard audio file used on PCs.
  • WMA (.wma) - "Windows Media Audio", Microsofts proprietary audio codec designed to compete with MP3. Claims competitive sound quality at lower bitrates




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