If you're the owner of a C6 Corvette, your factory stereo system has the ability to play MP3 files on CD. If you're a younger, or at least a technologically "hip" Corvette owner, then you're probably already up to speed on what MP3 is and what it's done to music distribution, portability, storage, and accessibility. If you're "old school" and don't know much or anything about MP3, this will serve to give you a brief introduction to it, and you may find, as millions of others have, that it's a great way to take a huge amount of music on the road, stored on a device that's small enough to fit in your shirt pocket. More importantly, you can enjoy all your favorite tunes stored in the MP3 format playing through the FM radio and stereo system in your Corvette with some very inexpensive, noninvasive plug-n-play devices we'll also be covering. But first things first.
Just What Is MP3?
MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a popular digital audio encoding and lossy (you lose some audio quality) compression format invented and standardized in 1991 by a team of engineers directed by the Fraunhofer Society in Germany. It was designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent audio, yet still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio to most listeners. In popular usage, MP3 also refers to files of sound or music recordings stored in the MP3 format on computers. A lossy data compression method is one where compressing data and then decompressing it retrieves data that may well be different from the original, but is "close enough" to be useful in some way. This type of compression is used frequently on the Internet and, especially, in streaming media and telephony applications. These methods are typically referred to as CODECS (Compression/ DECompression) in this context.
In the first half of 1995 through the late '90s, MP3 files began flourishing on the Internet. MP3 popularity was mostly due to, and interchangeable with, the successes of companies and software packages like Nullsoft's Winamp (released in 1997), mpg123, and Napster (released in 1999). Those programs made it very easy for the average user to playback, create, share, and collect MP3s.
Quality Of Mp3 Audio
Because MP3 is a lossy format, it is able to provide a number of different options for its bit rate-the number of bits of encoded data that are used to represent each second of audio. Typically, the rates chosen are between 128 and 320 kilobits per second. By contrast, uncompressed audio as stored on a compact disc has a bit rate of 1411.2 kbit/s (16 bits/sample x 44100 samples/second x 2 channels).
MP3 files encoded with a lower bit rate will generally play back at a lower quality. With too low a bit rate, compression artifacts (i.e., sounds that were not present in the original recording) may appear in the reproduction. A good demonstration of compression artifacts is provided by the sound of applause-it is hard to compress because of its randomness and sharp attacks, therefore, the failings of the encoder are more obvious and are audible as ringing or pre-echo.