If you’re anything like the girl on the right, you probably enjoy your mp3 music as it is. But if you’re a serious audiophile, you may already be left raging at the amount that mp3 files miss out to keep the file size in the single digits. If that sums you up, then it’s time to celebrate, because Thomson – one of the companies to come up with the original mp3 format – has developed MP3HD technology.
What does this mean to you? Well potentially nothing if it doesn’t pick up, but if it does then you can expect higher quality audio with less sound loss than conventional mp3s. Mp3s achieve their svelte file size by discarding various bits of audio that the algorithm considers expendable. It essentially means that what you’re hearing will always be of inferior quality to the original CD source, though it’s questionable as to how many can tell the difference. In the days of smaller mp3 players (32mb ones used to be the norm, remember) this loss of quality was essential, but with flash memory and hard disk sizes growing every day, we can afford to be a little more selective in what should be left out.
The best thing about the new format is that it’s backwards compatible with vanilla mp3 files. An mp3HD file is simply a .mp3 in terms of its file extension, with the additional information hidden away in the id3 tag (where you’d find the song name, album title and other bits and pieces), meaning that standard mp3 players will still play the files, just without the improvements that the format delivers.
In terms of file size, the mp3HD encoding will make audio files for audiophiles that are a little bigger than your common or garden mp3. We’re told that a four minute rock song encoded at 876 kbit/s would be around the 26 megabyte mark, but this could be reduced to between 18 and 23 megabytes by dropping the quality to 786 Kbits/s or 605 Kbits/s.
My problem with this is the same issue I have with Blu-ray over DVD. The benefits of DVD over VHS were obvious – no rewinding, no deterioration over time and a significantly better picture quality. I’m concerned that mp3HD will offer an improvement in aural quality equivalent to the visual improvements of Blu-ray over DVD – not vast enough to be considered worthy of upgrade by the majority of people.
MP3HD (via PCMag and @gordonkelly)