MP3 is 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 audio data that is outside hearing range of typical listener. An MP3 file will sound almost as good as original CD but file size will be about one-tenth.
There is a balance between how much audio data can be removed and quality of 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 minimum setting – it produces files which are slightly larger than 128 kbps but sound is closer to CD quality. Lower settings such as 96 kbps or 64 kbps introduce noticeable noise into audio. They are suitable for spoken voice recordings but not for music.