MP3 vs. AAC: What’s The Difference?

In the age of digital music, everyone feels like MP3 is everywhere which is why it is no surprise that some people would associate music to MP3 itself. However, this is far beyond accurate. MP3 refers to a particular type of audio file. When you download music, there is a high chance it is in the MP3 format; however, this isn’t the only format available today.

Understanding the MP3 Format

MP3 is short for MPEG-2 Audio Layer III. It is a digital media standard designed by MPEG or the Moving Picture Experts Group.

A lot of people tend to use MP3s for digital music because the songs in this particular format take up less space as compared to the songs with CD-quality audio. As a result, people tend to gravitate towards MP3 rather than CD-quality files. Though you can change these in the settings, generally speaking, MP3 files take about 1/10 of the space of a CD-quality audio file.

How Do MP3s Work

When we talk about the storage space of an MP3, we talk about its ability to compress the data that makes up the file. It removes some of the audio from the original which results in the loss of certain data during the conversion.

This is also the reason why MP3 is called a “lossy” compression format. The act of compressing the MP3s would always involve removing parts of the file which won’t necessarily impact the overall listening experience of the user.

Since some data is removed, the MP3 version of a song will not sound like its CD-quality version. While its ability to minimize the data space of a song is good, others have criticized its act of compressing and removing certain data that generally damages the listening experience.

Understanding the AAC Format

AAC, or the Advanced Audio Coding, is a type of digital audio file that has been promoted as a successor of the late MP3 format. The AAC offers a much higher quality listening experience than that of what an MP3 format can provide – all the while, having the same amount of disk space, or less!

Most audiophiles would comment how the AAC is the perfect format for Apple users – it’s not. It was developed by a group of companies including Nokia, Sony, Dolby, and AT&T Bell Labs.

If you’re not an Apple user, don’t worry. The AAC can also be played on devices that aren’t necessarily Apply devices, including smartphones running Google’s Android OS, Nintendo Wii, PSP and Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Zune, among others.

How Do AAC Works

Like MP3, the AAC is a lossy format. In order to compress and convert CD-quality audio into a smaller file, data that doesn’t necessarily impact the overall listening experience of the user is removed. As a result of the compression and conversion, the AAC files do not sound identical to CD-quality files, like that of an MP3 file.

MP3s and AACs are measured based on its bit rate. The common AAC bitrates would typically include 128 kbps, 192 kbps, and 256 kbps.

One of the main reasons why AAC produces a better listening experience than an MP3 is because MP3s are complex.


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