Checking out AAC and MP3

March 8, 2008 – 4:09 PM

RA and M4A are container formats for music used by Real Networks and Apple, respectively, in their downloads. The actually formatting of the music is done with AAC, which stands for Advanced Audio Coding. AAC, for these two brands, has taken the place of MP3s.

Many feel AAC will supplant MP3s. The latter standard is more than 10 years old. Many discoveries about compression have been made in that time. The fact that MP3 has hung on for so long is a testament to its quality. But it’s probably time for a change.

According to Chris Rimple, group program manager for the RealPlayer, Real’s music downloads are recorded at 192 kilobits per second. Typically, MP3s are recorded at 128 kbps, which is considered CD quality. So Real’s AAC recordings have 50 percent more information, which should make them more accurate. But the files are smaller than MP3s, Rimple said, because AAC is more efficient.

Apple, meanwhile, says AAC recorded at 128 kbps is not distinguishable from the original music. It also says that when AAC and MP3 are recorded at the same bit rate, AAC sounds much better.

Given the perceived advantages of AAC and the fact that MP3 is old, I think we’ll be seeing much more of AAC in the future.

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