By Alex Hollings
In the world of digital music, the mp3 is the most common audio format used. It is so well known that many people think that all digital audio is mp3. But not every music file is mp3. The mp3 is short for MPEG-2 Audio Layer-3 and was developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).
People use MP3s for digital music because music converted to that format creates smaller files than those created using CD-quality audio. This gives you the ability to store more mp3s on the same amount of space as a single CD quality file. Though settings can cause this to vary, generally speaking, an MP3 takes up about 10% of the space of a CD-quality audio file.
AAC, short for Advanced Audio Coding File, is a digital audio format that was the successor of the popular mp3. AAC offers higher quality sound compared to the mp3 and can use less memory space.
Many people think that AAC is an Apple audio format, however, it was actually developed by several different companies such as AT&T Bell Labs, Sony, Dolby, Sony and Nokia. Because of this AAC can be played on many different non-Apple devices including the Zune, Sony PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Wii U and Android platforms.
Similar to the Mp3, AAC is a lossy format meaning that to compress CD-quality audio into smaller files suitable for transmitting over the internet. However by doing this some data will be lost due to its compression process even though you can barely tell the difference. Both the MP3s and AAC measure their quality based on its bit rate, rendered in kbps. Just like the MP3, the most common bit rates for AAC files include 128 kbps, 192 kbps and 256 kbps.
The reasons why AAC files produce better sound than the MP3 may seem a little difficult to understand so I will explain some of them as simple as possible;
– AAC offers a broader frequency range from 8 to 96 kHz as opposed to the MP3s 16 to 48 kHz.
– AAC offers up to 48 channels including Dolby 5.1 as opposed to the MP3 only providing 2 channels you see in stereo audio.
– It offers much better handling of audio frequencies above 16 kHz
– And it gives you additional modules (tools) to increase compression efficiency. These tools include: TNS, Backwards Prediction, PNS etc…
In a nutshell, the AAC format grants the developers good flexibility to design codecs compared to the MP3 and corrects many of the design flaws made in the original MPEG-1. This increase in flexibility often leads to more concurrent encoding strategies and better compression.