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Soothing The Savage Breast
The new MP3 format has the music companies in a tizzy.

Enter MPEG Audio Layer 3 aka MP3, technology that's revolutionizing the world of music with it's promise of delivering CD-quality audio at one-tenth the size of traditional CD audio files, while simultaneously making the friendly neighbourhood audio pirate one very, very happy dude!

So this week, we'll tell you a little bit about this new technology, and also point you to the best Web sites for MP3 news, information and software.

First, a quick history lesson:

The Layer 3 format was originally devised by the Fraunhofer IIS Institute in Germany, in collaboration with the University of Erlangen, as part of a 1987 project on perceptual coding techniques - essentially, algorithms that exploit the properties of the human ear. Very simplistically, these algorithms filter out and eliminate those parts of the audio signal inaudible to the human ear, and then compress the remainder of the signal [using a technique known as the Huffman procedure to removes redundancies] to create an audio file that sounds exactly like the original, but is about one-twelfth the size.

You can find more information on perceptual coding techniques and the IIS's work at their Web site http://www.iis.fhg.de

This audio format is also a part of the MPEG [Motion Picture Experts Group] standard, which defines the coding of moving pictures and audio. However, contrary to popular belief, MPEG-3 and Layer 3 are *not* the same thing - Layer 3 is only the audio part of the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 standards.

More information on the MPEG standard is available at http://www.mpeg.org

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