“Talk Nerdy to Me” is a technology column written by Derek Deulus.
Like many people, I love music. Recently, one of my new favorite artists released her debut album. I did a quick Google search to see where it was available to download and this got me thinking about audio quality.
Let’s start with the MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer III). Without getting too technical, the basic idea behind MP3 is taking a pure recorded sound and compressing it into a smaller file while trying to retain the sound quality.
In terms of audio quality and file size, the bigger the file you have, the more pure and quality sound you hear. If you were to take a song off of your CD and leave it completely uncompressed however, your average audio file size would be well over 30Mb (megabytes).
That’s a lot of space for one song and your iPod would fill up pretty quickly. What audio compression does, is chips away little bits of audio that typically your ears don’t pick up on. This is usually your deep bases and very high ends in music.
To your average music listener using $20 Apple earbuds, you’re not going to hear a difference and that’s great. If you want something a tad bit better in quality but don’t want to sacrifice your file space, start using AAC format.
AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) was designed to be the successor to the MP3. AAC files offer higher quality sound at roughly the same file size as MP3’s.
If you purchase your music through Apple’s iTunes then you’re already on your way, as Apple uses AAC. For the audiophiles of the world (I’m talking about the people who purchase $200+ headphones) industry standard MP3 probably won’t cut it. They most likely use file formats like FLAC or Apple Lossless compression.
These are referred to as “lossless compressions codecs” because they don’t lose any sound quality. Just be warned though, one album could easily fill up to 1Gb (gigabyte) of hard drive space.
So think about that the next time you are tempted to purchase those “Beats by Dre” headphones. Unless you’re using the right file format for your music, you may just be throwing away hard earned money.