This most popular digital format for audio compression today was developed several years ago by a small German company Fraunhofer IIS. European corporation THOMSON actively supported the new format and made every effort to distribute it as quickly as possible. In particular, with its support a newcomer became one of the standards of audio compression family MPEG1, MPEG2 and was named MPEG Layer3 or more familiar to us MP3.
The Revolution of Sound
The appearance of this format is most appropriately called a quiet revolution. A revolution – because before MP3 no audio file format could provide such quality at such a relatively small size. The only .RA (real audio) network format at the time was nothing but a mockery of hearing. MPEG Layer3 was conceived precisely as the “killer” of this wretched monopolist, a giant on clay legs. MP3 is a format designed specifically for the Internet, to quickly send quality sound anywhere. That is why MP3 is a streaming format, which means it will be considered in the future. The ability of this compression algorithm to reduce the size of sound files almost without loss of quality, looked absolutely fantastic at the time. After all, even when encoding with maximum stream width (bitrate) equal to 320 kbs (kilobit per second), and this sound quality is almost indistinguishable from the original, the size of the original WAV file is reduced by four times!
Yes, it was a revolution, but a very strange one. After all, this unique algorithm was hanging literally by a thread at the beginning of its existence. Complete lack of advertising, no music players of this format, except for the branded Fraunhofer IIS, which was characterized by extremely poor design, terrible control and exorbitant system requirements. Add also huge appetites of the developers themselves, who wanted for their codecs (CODEC – COder/DECoder) quite a lot of money (similar situation now with some formats of the family AAC) and the lack of music as such, as opposed to solid deposits of music in the format of RA. These factors could well kill a newborn immediately after delivery. And all lovers of good music should say a huge thank you to those famous and unnamed developers of freeware MP3 CODEC, who didn’t let the creator of this format Fraunhofer IIS company because of their marketing stupidity and greed to destroy a brilliant creation.
Also it should be noted the important role played by popular WinAMP player in distribution of MP3 format. This player was the first to provide the convenience that branded players lacked. Then, as I said, this format was noticed by THOMSON, and this was the start of the victorious march of MP3 all over the world.
MP3s from the inside: the psychophysiology of sound…
This format uses an extremely complex encoding algorithm. Unlike conventional archivers who need to compress information so that no bits are changed after extraction from the archive, MP3 pursues slightly different goals. In addition to mathematical compression algorithms, in this format there is also a very complex algorithm for removing unnecessary sound information, based on the psychological and physiological characteristics of the human body. I will try to dwell on this point in more detail.
As we have already mentioned, MP3 is a streaming format. It means that during encoding sound information is divided into equal in duration sections, which are called frames. All frames are mutually independent. Each of these frames is encoded separately with its own parameters and has a header in which these parameters are described. During playback, a sequence of decoded frames generates a continuous sound of the recorded sound.
What are the benefits of this approach? Firstly, the ability to rewind, because it is possible to easily move to an arbitrary frame, and play the sound from this place. Secondly, it is this structural feature that makes MP3 a true network format. By loading the first few frames into the RAM or disc cache, the player starts playing them, while simultaneously loading new frames, thus achieving a continuous playback. And finally, if you were not able to download the entire MP3 file from the Internet, it’s okay, you can still listen to the music, just the player will reach the place where the connection was broken and stop.