There are many ways in which we can enjoy a good song or any sound file. Those different ways in which they are offered to us are called formats, and they give content different characteristics. Very prominent are the two formats that we will see today: mp3 and mp4.
Despite being known for being audio tracks, the truth is that the latter is not exactly in audio format. But come on, that’s something we’re going to look at next when we see what each of them consist of and what are their differences.
As an addition we have also included, and at the end of the article, a double classification of types of audio formats, so that you can know exactly where these are and what their characteristics are based on these classifications.
What is the MP3 format and what features does it have?
MP3 is an audio format used to store compressed sound data, obtaining playable tracks on certain devices both portable and desktop (computers, DVD players, consoles, speakers and other home sound systems …). Its extension is .mp3.
Its development comes from the hand of Moving Picture Experts Group and was born to be part of the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 standards. Although, it is worth mentioning that what was sought at the beginning was the transfer of musical data through the use of telephone lines. It was in 1992 when the ISO it is now considered an audio compression standard.
It is a proprietary format that includes a lossy algorithm. Considering the classifications of formats that we will see later, we have that this is a proprietary lossy compressed audio format.
Compression of this type of audio format can be done with different bit rates per second (bit / s), obtaining results, of course, of different quality and size and requiring more or less time to do so.
Compression can be done to the point of obtaining tracks reduced up to 15 times compared to the original. This makes, together with other of its characteristics, that it is a very popular format due to its versatility.
Its structure includes several frames, which have:
- A header: It tells the player that a valid frame is started, starting the execution of the file.
- The corresponding file data, which are made up of MPEG bits, which will be used by the player for said performance.
These aspects form a sequence call Elemental Stream. Each of these frames, with its corresponding header and its data, is independent, and can be cut and played on any device.
Its greatest milestone is the first of the formats that became popular with the use of the internetbecause it served, and continues to serve, for file sharing, both in P2P networks as in platforms for buying tracks and music clips.
So much so that it is considered a universal standard, being one of those with a greater variety of devices that can reproduce it, being able to reproduce it practically anywhereEither on a physical player or a digital one.
What is the MP4 format and what features does it have?
MP4, or MPEG-4 part 14, is a container that includes both an audio track and a video, encoded in different formats. The result is a single file based on MOV, which is a video format. Its extension is .mp4.
It also works with a compression algorithm that allows a very good audio-video optimization, offering a high final quality. Compression can be up to 16: 1.
Main differences between mp3 vs mp4 audio formats
Let’s see what is different, clearly, mp3 and mp4 as file playback formats:
- Function. They are developed to listen to music and to watch videos and images respectively. This offers us the clear and main difference: they do not even have the same objective, although we can use mp4 quietly to listen to songs, of course.
- Shape. The .mp3 format is a mere compression of audio files. In contrast, .mp4 is based on MOV, a video format, being a container that includes both an audio track and a video (or image) that are produced, by encoding, offering a single final product.
- Compression and cquality of sound. The compression of mp3 is much higher, so that the loss of quality is also. For this reason, mp4 is sometimes used only to listen to music (even if it is played in conjunction with video), thus maintaining high quality.
- Players. The MP4 player is a complete container that includes a greater compression of mp4 files (not data), so that they offer a high storage capacity. Under similar conditions, the mp3 player can hold less content.
How many types of audio formats are there?
Audio formats can be classified based on whether the data stored in them are they compressed or not and, if so, whether or not they have a loss.
Uncompressed audio formats
- The main one is PCM, which is filed as .wav (based on a RIFF) for Windows systems and as .aiff (based on IFF) for MACs. Both versions are flexible and allow the storage of multiple combinations of bitrate or sample rate, making them ideal to make recordings.
- CDA it is small and it is used to access the different parts of a Compact Disc.
- BWF is a standard format that the European Union created to replace .wav. Allows the meta-data storage. It is used in professional editing programs.
- BWF is a format that has time stamp and it easily syncs with images.
Compressed audio formats
- Lossy compressed audio formats: When encoding the data, a part of it disappears, is lost. This occurs because a process is carried out that, because it is shorter in time, reduces the quality of the result but get other benefits like sbe faster when opening and take up less space.
- We have already seen that .mp3 falls into this category.
- ACC offers files of greater lightness and same quality than above. It became popular as the use of iTunes spread.
- OGG is a free version of .mp3 or .ACC, so there is no patent restriction. Ideal for being open but worse supported by not being so well known.
- Lossless compressed audio formats: They are formats that require a longer processing time, making efficient use of the space they need and achieving a compression ratio 2: 1. They use the same number of bits to both compress sound and silence.
- The best known and most used is FLAC, being A THE C the corresponding one for Apple. It is lighter than an uncompressed file but, for obvious reasons, it is still large, keeping the quality of the original audio.
- MP3HD turns out to be a improved version of MP3, with high quality, typical of a .wav. Offers compatibility with MP3 players.
Open or proprietary audio formats
To finish, we leave another interesting classification, which results from knowing if these audio formats are open or proprietary.
She is serious:
- Proprietary or closed formats. They are protected by rights or patent with the main purpose of preventing their operation, their parts or their design from being known.
- Open formats. The data organized by open standards is stored without any restrictions on its access.
- Free open formats. There is freedom in how we use it.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, we will answer you as soon as possible, and it will surely be of great help to more members of the community. Thank you! 😉