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How to use MP3
by by Ross MacIver

MP3 is the most popular compression format for audio files. In this article, we will take a look at how MP3 works and how you can make your own MP3 files.

Uncompressed audio files are very large. A 1-minute CD quality stereo song requires approximately 10 MB of hard disk space. Without compression to reduce this size, relatively few songs would be able to be stored on a computer hard drive, and compact devices like portable MP3 players would not exist, or would cost thousands of dollars.

The same one-minute audio file can be encoded in MP3 format and only require about 1 MB of disk space. This amazing reduction in file size is accomplished by discarding some of the audio data that is outside the hearing range of the typical listener. An MP3 file will sound almost as good as the original CD but the file size will be about one-tenth.

There is a balance between how much audio data can be removed and the quality of the sound. The most common MP3 compression uses 128 kilobits per second (kbps), but many people claim there is a noticeable amount of distortion at this setting. For people with critical listening requirements, 160 kbps is the minimum setting – it produces files which are slightly larger than 128 kbps but the sound is closer to CD quality. Lower settings such as 96 kbps or 64 kbps introduce noticeable noise into the audio. They are suitable for spoken voice recordings but not for music.

You can encode your own MP3 files using any of the hundreds of software packages on the market today. Many of them are free, and you can use them to rip music from CDs and encode them to MP3 in one step. To decide which settings to use, start by encoding a piece of music you are familiar with. Save three files - 128 kbps, 160 kbps and 192 kbps, and then compare the original CD to these three files. This simple test will help you choose which setting is suitable for your own listening requirements.

About the Author
Ross is an enthusiast audio professional take advantage of his knowledge about MP3, AAC,OGG, FLAC SHN and other compression techniques