Thursday, May 26, 2011

Differences Between MP3 and MP4

What are the differences between MP3 and MP4?

In this digital age, everything is changing quickly. Music is no exception. In the past few years, MP3 was the standard format for music files. Then it changed as more file extensions were developed and released. One similar format named MP4 came around and became much popular media format in our daily life. And the problem is that people is confuse when backing up their music collection – which is better to use, MP3 or MP4?

Yes, MP3 and MP4 sure sound similar, one might just assume MP4 is the next step for MP3, but that is not the case. In fact, they are rather different, with distinct histories and uses.

Let’s take a close look at them by the definition and the differences:

What is MP3?

MP3 is short for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, a format used for compressing the audio files in order to store them or transfer them on the internet. The audio files are stored in the computer or CD in a digital form, which are compressed using a format called MP3. The audio files take a lot of storage space. MP3 reduces this requirement to 1/10th of the actual space requirement of music files. MP3 is a digital audio codec, which means that it compresses and decompresses the digital sound. The MP3 codec is based on the method of perpetual coding. The MP3 format uses the perpetual noise shaping algorithm that uses the hearing characteristics of the human ear. These characteristics include the ability of the human ear to hear the louder sounds when two sounds are played simultaneously. Also, the human ear cannot hear some sounds. Using this basic information, the algorithm for MP3 format has been designed. The unwanted sounds for human ear, according to these characteristics, are eliminated from the music for compressing it to the MP3 format.

Altogether, the MP3 format utilizes the “lossy” compression technique for music.

What is MP4?

The MP4 format is a format usually used for multimedia. MP4 is an acronym for MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group). The MP4 is a file format used to compress video files. The MP4 uses AVC technology, i.e. advanced video coding. The video files consume a lot of space and so they are compressed using the MP4 format. The MP4 uses the compression techniques that are more complex than those of the MP3 format. The MP4 format enables us to watch DVD quality videos on the internet even at a speed less than 1 Mbps. The MP4 format is specially developed for multimedia. The MP4 format has increased the portability and accessibility of audio and video.

•The basic difference is that MP3 handles only audio and MP4 format handles audio, video, text and images.
•The original name of MP3 format is MPEG-1 audio layer 3 while MP4 is MPEG-4 part 14. The file extension for MP3 and MP4 is .mp3 and .mp4 respectively. The MP3 format was released in 1999; while the MP4 format was released in 2003.
•It is interesting to note that mp3 and mp4 were developed by different organizations. The MP3 format is developed by a group of engineers from Philips, CCETT, IRT and Fraunhofer society. The MP4 format is developed by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) technical program, which is also known as MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group).
•The MP3 format is used in the MP3 players that can only play audio. The MP4 players, which use the MP4 format, have a wide variety of features like playing audio and video songs, web browsing and instant messaging.

From the above descriptions, we can note a few major differences. First, MP3 is an audio compression format used to compress and store audio on a computer. MP4 is a media container format used to store media of many possible types on a computer.
Therefore, an MP3 file is limited with regard to the method of compression and can only store audio. MP4 on the other hand, can store video as well as audio. It can even store subtitles for a video file. Also, since MP4 is a container, it can store audio and video that have been compressed in different fashions. In fact, an MP4 file could be audio that has been compressed as an MP3.
These differences make it so that a program that plays an MP3 cannot necessarily play an MP4 and vice versa. The same goes for portable music players, though there are plenty of software options and portable players out there that can play both.
Both formats have their uses and things that they are better at than the other. Do you have any opinions on what each format does better? Let us know in the comments below.

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