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MV3 -- Gordon Rumson and Keith Bramich visit the world of music online

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MV3 -- a new downloadable music format? We don't think so. Millennium Version 3? Maybe. Music & Vision's 3rd year? Possibly. A pun on the names MP3 and M&V? Perhaps.

So what is MP3? It's an acronym for MPEG audio Layer 3, and is an audio compression scheme, originally part of the MPEG video compression format. The audio compression is used to create small downloadable music files, and these files have adopted the MP3 name, which has come to mean the files themselves, as well as the compression scheme.

The reason for its popularity? Mostly just hype. Although very popular, the quality is arguably no better -- even slightly worse -- than Real Media (Real Audio) files recorded at similar bandwidths. (Personally, I find the artifacts present in the low and medium bandwidth MP3 formats more disturbing to the ear than those present in RM files.)

Gordon has made it clear that we won't restrict ourselves to MP3 sites or MP3 files, for, although this format is very popular, various other formats are in general use. There's also a feeling that MP3's popularity will be short-lived, as new formats come into use. Unlike the CD industry, which should last for another five years or so, regardless of new developments, the huge MP3 empire could be blown away very quickly.

Some of the formats you may encounter are listed below :

AU An older sound file format used on UNIX Sun workstations, and found sometimes on the net. Windows Media Player can play these files.
MIDI 'Musical Instrument Digital Interface'. A language used to describe musical events and control (electronic) instruments such as synthesisers. MIDI files are similar to piano rolls -- the instructions in the file explain which notes are played, but not exactly how they'll sound.
MP3 MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. Also sound files created using this format.
MPEG Moving Picture Experts Group. Also used to refer to the various file formats defined by the group, such as MP3.
Real Audio Real Networks' proprietary format which was used extensively on the net before MP3 became popular. Many radio stations use the streaming capabilities of this format to transmit their programmes over the net.
RM Real Media -- a generic name for the Real Networks proprietary formats -- Real Audio, Real Video, etc.
WAV WAVE file format is popular on PC systems for audio processing. WAV files are sometimes available for download, but are normally uncompressed, and can be very large. The format is not specially suitable for download over slow connections.
WMA Windows Media Audio format -- a proprietary format from Microsoft, who claim high compression and CD quality.

So in MV3 we'll keep an open mind -- and open ears, and not dismiss any of the other formats, or even MIDI files.

We return on the first Monday of next month -- 5 February 2001 -- to feature (hopefully) some readers' recommendations, and some of our composer readers' own music. If you'd like us to feature your music in a future MV3 column, please let us know by completing our special form.


Copyright © 1 January 2001 Keith Bramich, Ludlow, Shropshire, UK


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