Squeeze box

Previously, efforts to deliver high-quality media online kept choking due to bandwidth limitations. MP3 and similar formats -- such as Windows Media Audio and Liquid Audio -- can shrink music files with minimal loss of audio quality. Hogging space on your hard drive at a rate of 10MB per minute, a standard uncompressed hour-long CD requires about 600MB of storage space. But MP3 and other formats can squeeze that same disc into just 60MB of disk space, without significantly degrading its quality. At this level of compression, the resulting sound is "near-CD quality". Users can encode tracks at any of several sampling rates and corresponding levels of audio fidelity, ranging from transistor radio to CD quality.

At the heart of compressed-audio formats lie codecs -- coders/decoders -- that compress and play back audio files. Each format has its own proprietary codec, usually incompatible with other formats. You can store and replay these small music files through a cheap (or free) player on your PC. Currently, only MP3 files can be played back on a portable device, like RioPort's Rio 500 and Creative Labs' Nomad, though we'll soon see other formats on these and other devices. Major players (such as Lucent Technologies and Microsoft) have developed their own codecs that compete with MP3.

Encoders shrink sound files by removing redundant data from them. "If you play the game right, you can throw away a surprising amount of data," says Amir Majidimehr, Microsoft's director of audio/video compression. Microsoft's Windows Media Audio encoder is a case in point: "At 64Kbps, we toss out 96 per cent and keep the four per cent we want," says Majidimehr. Yet to the human ear, the clip sounds nearly identical to the original.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?