MP3-format: description, programs for converting

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MP3-format: description, programs for converting
MP3-format: description, programs for converting

Today, most of the audio recordings that a person listens to almost every day are presented in the form of universal MP3 files, since they are the most common and in demand in terms of audio information storage format. Now the nature of this type of data, the history of the emergence of the codec itself and the principles of coding will be considered. In addition, practical advice will be given on how to convert an MP3 file to another format or create an MP3 from files of a different type than the one mentioned. This is done quite simply, however, subject to the use of special programs.

What is MP3 format?

Today, few people think about what constitutes sound in this format. In principle, if you do not go into the wilds of the principles of audio coding, it is enough to say that this is audio information in a compressed form.

mp3 format
mp3 format

Previously, the basic format in which music files were stored was WAV. Such information tooktoo much hard disk space, and over time this type of data became quite inconvenient. In particular, this affected those times when music began to be actively posted on the Internet. It was then that there was a need to compress audio in order to reduce the volume of the source material. Indeed, if the format is converted from WAV to MP3, the space saving becomes noticeable immediately (the track takes up 10 times less space, besides, the structure of the new format was such that even certain information about the track could be entered in the description, say, the name of the artist, the track itself, the album, the year it was released, as well as post some basic audio specifications).

convert mp3 file
convert mp3 file

Special text fields, called ID3 tags, are responsible for this in the file structure, after filling in all the information can be displayed in the player window.

History of occurrence

In the modern world, there is a lot of disagreement about who exactly created this data type. Although MP3 is generally considered to be a variation of the more general MPEG concept created by the Moving Pictures Experts Group, the true developer of MP3 encoding technologies was the Fraunhofer Institute group, which first proposed the use of the Lame MP3 Encoder codec. It was he who was the first standard in this area.

wav to mp3
wav to mp3

It happened in the mid-90s, however, then such audio (MP3 files) could only be played using softwareplayers, so the widespread introduction of new technology has not yet been discussed. Only after the first home players and portable players were released, this standard began to be applied as a single one. However, he still has a lot of competitors today. This is due only to the basic principles of coding, due to which you can reduce the amount of source material.

Principles of encoding and audio compression

The most important thing in the process, when the source material needs to be converted to MP3 format, is cutting out everything that is not perceived by the human ear at the household level. Roughly speaking, that the track will have a bitrate of 320 kbps, which is 128 kbps with a standard sampling rate of 44,100 Hz - it's quite difficult to notice the difference in sound. That is why a certain characteristic of the audio is reduced during the compression process.

Only a person with very subtle hearing or a sound engineer who uses specialized programs in his work can perceive such a difference. De facto, practically no one works with the compressed MP3 format in the studio. It is involved only at the stage of final mastering and post-production, when all the tracks need to be equalized in volume, normalized, and then released a full-fledged album. We will dwell on this a little later.

Key audio features

As you know, any audio material has several basic parameters that determine the quality of its sound. And the MP3 format is no exception here. The most important characteristics are the sampling frequency(the most common standard is 44.1 kHz), bit rate (128 kbps is taken as the main standard), and sound mode (mono, stereo, surround 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1). In general, the last parameter is not always taken into account, and the main emphasis in determining the quality of any track is reduced exclusively to the first two characteristics.

The most common formats of music, other sound files and the relationship between them

As for the direct competitors of the universal MP3 format, today there are quite a lot of them. As it is already clear, due to its insolvency in terms of household storage, the WAV format has not been used as the final one for a long time. But for professional sound studios, it remains, so to speak, the basic option for work. Especially when recording vocals or live instruments. The recorded material is converted from WAV to MP3 only at the final stage.

music formats
music formats

However, music can be presented in some other popular formats today. So, for example, very often (especially on the Internet) data types such as OGG, AIFF, AMR and many others are used. But the real competitor for MP3 is the newer and higher quality audio type FLAC. Of course, for MP3 you can bring all the indicators to the maximum values, but FLAC is an order of magnitude higher in terms of playback quality. In addition, it is a single file, and the division into tracks occurs directly at the expense of a software or consumer player. In other words, the listener does not see each track separately, but can switch betweentracks in the player. For the MP3 format, it would seem that you can also create one file by combining several tracks in it. But fast switching between tracks in this option will become impossible (you will have to use the usual fast forward, nothing more).

However, not everything is so bad. The fact is that all the formats of music or audiobooks known today can be easily converted among themselves, and even with the preservation of the initial parameters of the audio material. Almost all programs for processing and converting sound, called audio editors and converters, are based on this. Any program of this type (MP3 editor or converter) recognizes both the source and destination types of an audio file, and, as is already clear, it can perform both direct and inverse conversion. Let's explain this with a specific example.

Wave representation of MP3 files in audio editors

Several types of software are used today to process sound. To begin with, let's focus on narrowly focused applications called audio editors. Among them, the most prominent representatives include such giants as Sony Sound Forge, Sintrillium Cool Edit Pro, which was later bought out by Adobe and changed its name to Audition, Acoustica Mixcraft, ACID Pro and many others.

mp3 editor
mp3 editor

The principle of their work is that for convenience, any MP3-audio program presents it in a classic wave form, as it was originally used for WAV-files. This approach predetermines the emergence of sufficiently widethe ability to edit audio material of any type as a conventional WAV format. In addition to the fact that you can perform the simplest operations of copying, cutting, pasting, etc., it becomes quite simple to change the frequency characteristics and bitrate, not to mention the use of a huge number of additional effects that connect to the studio via a DirectX bridge or universal host VST.

In the simplest version, you can convert the format to MP3 using the standard file menu, which has the line "Save as …" (Save As …) or there is an export function. Thus, the whole process comes down to just choosing the final format (we have MP3 as an example) and activating the save mode. In this case, the conversion will be performed automatically while maintaining the current settings of parameters and frequency characteristics. Don't like the original? There is nothing easier to change the format to MP3, after specifying higher parameters. However, one point should be taken into account here: if the quality of the source material is too poor, it will not be possible to achieve its special improvement even by professional means. Here you will have to use special tools to restore audio, use various kinds of filters, etc. For an uninitiated person, this will cause quite a lot of difficulties.

As already clear, there is absolutely no difference what we have in front of us - audio books in MP3 format, music or just recorded speech or noises. By the way, it's an unspoken convention that audiobooks have a much lower sound quality. This is understandable, because the file should take up a minimum of space, and the characteristics of sound during speech perception, in general, are not so important. After all, this is not a professional recording of some famous band's album?

However, if you use some standard operations even without specific knowledge, you can still achieve a good result, especially since any application of this type has built-in templates based on which this or that action is performed. Of course, it will be very difficult to achieve the perfect sound the first time, however, if you study the program and master the principles of its operation, then things will go like clockwork, and the result will not be long in coming.

Audio converters

With audio converters the situation is even simpler. Programs of this type have been developed specifically to convert audio formats between each other quickly and without explicit user intervention. Unlike audio editors, converters can be said to use a certain batch mode, that is, they allow, in one operation, for example, to convert an MP3 file not in a single instance, but to make several pieces at once. Depending on the capabilities of the application itself, there can be from several tens to several hundreds.

audiobooks in mp3 format
audiobooks in mp3 format

Again, the principle of working with such software packages is quite simple. You just need to select the initial material (and often these can be files of completely different types), and then set the final format. Next, a special button is pressed to start the process, and at the exitthe user gets all files of the same given type. They are saved, as a rule, in the folder set in the default application settings, but the save location, of course, can be changed at your discretion. By the way, the same applies to the main characteristics that will be applied in the conversion process. But any program initially offers the user a certain set of standards that are used for sound files of one type or another. They can be changed too.

The advantage of such applications is that they automate the entire conversion process as much as possible, and it does not take much time to complete all the processes. True, if you compare them with music or audio editors, in terms of improving the same sound quality, you can’t really accelerate here.

Music sequencers

We have another type of software products that mostly have a built-in MP3, WAV, etc. editor. In this sense, they work according to principles similar to audio editors, but their capabilities are somewhat wider.

convert to mp3 format
convert to mp3 format

First of all, this concerns the fact that the entire musical composition can consist of fragments of different types (MP3, MIDI, WAV, OGG, VST or DX instrument libraries, etc.). After recording the sound or assigning parts of all tracks, for example, with virtual synthesizers, after mixing and mastering, the resulting file can be saved in the desired format. Most often this is either MP3 or WAV, or the project file of the program itself. In some applicationsThere is also a function to write to disk. Want to make an audio CD? No problem! As well as in audio editors, you can perform the necessary operations in a few minutes and get a CD with tracks in CDA format.

If we talk about the advantages of this type of application, it is obvious that just the same, combining several formats with subsequent saving or exporting to one of the most common ones is their strongest point. In addition, you should pay attention to the fact that the same effects are applied or any parameter of the audio track is changed in real time, that is, you don’t need to wait for the result - you can hear it instantly, for example, when you turn some knob that regulates that or another setting. Naturally, this is only a small part of what such software packages are capable of.

Which is better to use?

Finally, we come to the question of choosing software for working with MP3 format or any other format in which sound is recorded. As it is already clear, for normal listening to music or an audiobook, a simple player (software or hardware) or the most ordinary DVD player will suffice.

For converting files to other formats, so to speak, quickly, audio converters are perfect. But if you need to get crystal clear sound at the output, even by converting one type of file to another, you cannot do without powerful specialized software. Of course, it will take an order of magnitude more time, and even without special knowledge, get the same top-quality MP3 file the first might not work out. However, if you thoroughly study at least audio editors, not to mention professional music studios, the result will exceed all expectations.

Instead of afterword

It remains to be added that the MP3 format was considered here quite briefly, because if you dig deeper, especially getting into the technology of restoring and restoring sound using the means of improving the quality of the material, you can write a whole monograph here.

But as for understanding the structure of the MP3 format itself, I think most users will understand what it is and what principles are laid down in its formation and transformation. However, if you look into the future, so far you can only predict that this type of audio, which is considered the standard today, will undergo drastic changes in the near future. Moreover, apparently, the main emphasis will be placed precisely on improving the sound quality without a significant increase in the size of the files themselves. However, there is every reason for such prerequisites, because the same computer technologies are developing at a frantic pace today.

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