Mp3, Like ISDN, Far From Gone

by | May 26, 2017 | Technology

Few established technologies can match the ubiquity of the mp3 music format.  For more than 20 years it’s been the defacto standard of audio engineers, music aficionados, and certainly most aspects of the voice-over industry.

When it came along, even audiophiles had to agree only the most discerning human ear could detect the difference between the sound of an mp3 file, and a .wav file.  At the time, the space savings for early digital storage made mp3 the hands-down choice.

But the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits that developed the format under a German research agency released the following statement just a few days ago: (the) “…licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated…”

What exactly does THAT mean?  Will Apple alla sudden switch over to something else?  Will VO clients demand some other esoteric format like Xiph OGG Container (*.ogg)?

Nah.   The Germans are now backing the AAC format (Advanced Audio Coding) which they also developed.  No question it’s a better algorithm.  Here’s why, according to this helpful NPR article:  “…The engineers who developed the MP3 were working with incomplete information about how our brains process sonic information, and so the MP3 itself was working on false assumptions about how holistically we hear. As psychoacoustic research has evolved, so has the technology that we use to listen. New audio formats and products, with richer information and that better address mobile music streaming, are arriving…”

But we have only to look at a similarly entrenched technology – ISDN – to see how long it takes for obsolescence to really find full flower.

Even in the face of less expensive, more technologically advanced, and easier-to-use products, most production houses and audio engineers will stay with the tried and true of ISDN.  It’s just part of their well-established work flow, and its reliable.  Getting that to change takes an act of God.

Just ask Joe Cipriano, who YEARS ago, tried to get ABC Network engineers to even try Source-Connect technology.  They all agreed it worked as promised, then went back to their Musicam Codecs.  Hmph.

All that being said, when Fraunhofer makes this kind of a statement, it’s probably best to start looking ahead.  They sounded serious.   More than likely, advances in smartphone technology are also a reason for this development.

Click the link (left) for a PC Mag article about .mp3

An Extreme Tech article claims there might even be a political/economic reason for Fraunhofer making this move:  “…What actually happened is this: As of April, the last patents on MP3 encoding that Fraunhofer could still validly enforce and collect royalties on expired in the United States. As a result, the institute has terminated its licensing program, because licenses are no longer necessary…”


Regardless, change is constant, and in this case, after 20 years it may well be time for a shift to something even better.





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