What is MP3?

According to the acronym search engine, the acronym MP3 ( MP EG Audio Layer- 3 ) is one of the most searched subjects in these services, losing only for “sex”. All this, thanks to the revolution that the MP3 caused in the world of entertainment, mainly after his great fame in the internet. Such a revolution simply made the music industry completely shaken and had a hard resistance against the format. This article will show you some of the history of MP3 as well as its operation, as well as program tips so you can enjoy the MP3 if you do not already.

What is MP3

MP3 is an electronic format that allows you to listen to songs on computers, with great quality. Like the LP, the K7 and the CD, MP3 has been strengthening as a popular means of distributing songs. But why? The key question to understand the success of MP3 is based on the fact that, before it was developed, a song on the computer was stored in WAV format, which is the standard format for sound file on PCs, even occupying tens of megabytes on disk. On average, one minute of music corresponds to 10 MB for a 16-bit stereo sound recording with 44.1 KHz, which results in a great complication the distribution of music by computers, especially the internet. With the advent of MP3, this story has changed since the format allows you to store songs on your computer without taking up too much space and without taking away the sound quality of the songs. Generally, 1 minute of music, corresponds to about 1 MB in MP3.

Therefore, it was not long before the format became popular and consequently, the record companies worried about their profits. MP3 reached such a success that when record companies realized the format was already present on millions of computers worldwide.

How it came about and how MP3 works

In 1987, the IIS ( I nstitut I ntegrierte S chaltungen) in Germany, together with the University of Erlangen, began work on a perceptual audio encoding for Digital Audio Broadcasting. All work resulted in an audio compression algorithm called MPEG Audio Layer-3, which later became known as MP3.

One of the goals of creating this format was to be able to play CD-quality sound with a reasonable compression ratio. To record a CD, the bit rate is about 1.4 Megabit per second. In MPEG Audio Layer 1 and 2 (MP1 and MP2), the rates are 348 KB / s and 256-192 KB / s respectively. MP3 was able to lower that rate to 128 and 112 KB / s. And even at this lower rate, the sound quality was maintained almost entirely. This was possible thanks to the techniques of perceptual coding, which is not a simple data compression, but a method that consists of only using the sound frequencies that are captured by the human ear. Once a frequency pattern has been set for human hearing,

At this point you may have noticed that the original songs (both CD and record labels) are different from songs converted to MP3 format, since they bring “too much information.” Broadly speaking, what MP3 does is simply “trim” the songs, leaving only what is useful.

MP3 × Recorders

With all this sophistication and with all the accessibility provided by the internet, nothing more natural than MP3 was a great success, especially after the release of software that works as MP3 “players”, such as the pioneer Winamp. But until then, nothing had been done by the record companies, until the company Diamond Multimidia released a device (MP3Player) that allowed the user to listen to their MP3s wherever they wanted, as in a Walkman: it was Rio. The device aroused the fury of the record companies that soon filed lawsuits against the company, under the allegation of piracy. But after many appeals (and a fair amount of money), Justice ruled that Rio was not a digital audio recording device, but only an MP3 player. After that, the market saw (and sees) the launch of several devices compatible with this technology.

The Napster Era

The American Shawn Fanning, developed software that allowed Internet users to share MP3 over the Internet: Napster. The program made it very easy to find and download MP3s over the network, as it enabled the formation of a huge collection of digital music. That’s because Napster used an entirely different method. He stored nothing on his servers, just an index, which was necessary for the search for songs. Once someone has found the desired music, the download would be made from the service users’ computers that have music stored on their PC. That is, each computer registered in the service was both client and server.

As Napster provided a huge facility for finding MP3s, the service soon became a real “fever”. The Phonographic Industry began then, a series of legal disputes against Napster. Even the Metallica band, led by drummer Lars Ulrich, filed suit against the service, as did rap singer Dr. Dre. After many battles the record companies ended up winning Napster, which had to remove from its index all the songs protected by copyrights (that is, almost all the songs), which practically took the service of operation.

Even with Napster out of the game, other successors appeared and allowed the interchange of songs to continue.


There are several good programs to play MP3s, both for recording, listening, or making your album on your computer. One of the most used is Winamp, which has free versions and can be downloaded at www.winamp.com. The program is compatible with various formats and has several features. One of them is the possibility of putting skins or skins (visual effects in the program), which can be downloaded on several websites. The program is light and intuitive enough. It has a very practical MP3 playlist manager that makes it easy to organize and play tracks.

For users of the Linux operating system, there is a program very similar to Winamp (including features) that comes with various distributions: this is XMMS, whose website is www.xmms.org.

Other programs such as Windows Media Player (in current versions), Real Player and Quick Time, also play MP3.

MP3 Recording

The most commonly used MP3 burning method is to put a music CD into the computer and, through a ripper program such as FreeRIP (which can be downloaded from www.mgshareware.com), convert the tracks from the CD to MP3 files. This is usually done as follows: the program passes the digital song data in CD-DA format (the CD format) and stores it in a temporary directory. Then, this data is converted to WAV format and then compressed into MP3.

The resulting sound quality depends on the software used, the machine hardware, and the configuration chosen. By the standard MP3 recording rate (128 Kbits per second), each minute of music corresponds to about 1 MB on disk. But this rate can be changed, depending on the availability of ripper software resources. For example, you can increase this rate to 192 Kbits per second, which increases the sound quality but, consequently, takes up more space.