SANDY BERGER: Not All Digital Music Players Are MP3s
By now, every American has heard of MP3s and MP3 players.
In fact, the term MP3 has become synonymous with digital music so that all digital music players are referred to as MP3 players. The truth, however, is that not all digital music can honestly be called MP3.
MP3 is simply one of many digital formats for audio files. MP3 has become the most popular audio format in use today. The reason for the popularity of MP3s is that it is a format that produces reasonably good sound quality in a relatively small file.
Actually MP3 is a compression format. When you transfer music from a CD to a digital format such as MP3, you are compressing the file.
The compression software determines which parts of the original audio file are deemed to be beyond the auditory capabilities of most people. Those portions of the audio file are removed. The result is a small file that will fit on today's small digital devices.
The sound reproduction is adequate for most people, but far from real audio and/or CD quality. A similar compression standard called AAC is the standard that is used in iTunes and on most Apple iPods.
In fact, when you think about it, it is hard to imagine that people who spent thousands of dollars on sound systems in the 1970s and 1980s are now happy to listen to the much inferior music from their iPods and other digital music players.
A popular thing to do right now is to move your most-listened-to music to an iPod or other MP3 player and then insert the iPod into a docking station that has built-in speakers. Bowers & Wilkins, Bose, Marantz, Jensen and many other notable audio manufacturers are making these docking stations.
Some of them cost in excess of $500. In actuality, it doesn't make sense to buy such expensive speaker systems to play music that has been compressed into MP3 or AAC format.
To be honest, everyone's ears are different. Many of those in the baby boomer generation have subjected their ears to so much loud music over the course of their lives that their aging ears can no longer appreciate high quality music. Even many younger folks have already worn down their acoustic capabilities.
Alternatively, there is high-end digital music. Uncompressed audio formats such as WAV, AIFF, and AU can reproduce music that sounds as good as a CD.
Unfortunately, music in these formats takes up much more space so you probably won't be able to fit uncompressed digital audio on your iPod.
However, the prices of hard drive space have been dropping consistently, so you may be able to afford a terabyte hard drive where you can store uncompressed music. Then you can play your digital music through some expensive stereo speakers to get really great sound. Most people, however, won't do that.
We are in a world where everyone has accepted portable digital music players. It is great to have the ability to digitally reproduce music and to be able to listen on the go.
Just remember that before you spend your money on a high-end docking station, you should listen to the quality and let your ears decide if they can ascertain the difference between a $100 set of iPod speakers and the $1,000 speakers.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compu kiss.com/happycomputing.
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