Heyday of the MP3 – A History

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via Flickr

Did you know there are over 1.2 trillion mp3 files on earth? That’s more than 171 times the number of people on the planet! It took nearly 200,000 years to grow the human population to 7.2 billion but only 20 years to produce the number of mp3s that exist in the world today. How come there are so many? What has made the mp3 so popular?

In this article we’ll take a look at the history of the mp3 and see how it gained its foothold in the audio world. We’ll also investigate some of the newer codecs that are being used alternatively to the mp3.

In 1989, the Moving Picture Expert Group (MPEG), an international standardization organization, wanted to introduce an audio standard. They received 14 audio coding proposals from participants who were then encouraged to combine their contributions. This resulted in the creation of ASPEC (adaptive spectral perceptual entropy coding), the precursor to the mp3 (MPEG layer 3). The technology was later incorporated into ISO MPEG standardization, which ultimately led to the success of its creators, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (FIIC).

Unfortunately, marketing the mp3 was a bit of a disaster. In 1996, consumers were able to purchase the first mp3 encoder via the internet, which quickly led to mass distribution of the mp3. Regrettably, the software was bought by an Australian student using a stolen credit card and was made publicly available. Fraunhofer’s software business may have been laid to rest, but the result was the mp3 spreading like wildfire across the internet.

What’s more, music that was encoded in mp3, often in breach of copyright, was being distributed via file sharing and torrent sites such as Soulseek, Napster and Grooveshark. At the time, an average 128 kbps mp3 took up around 3.5 megabytes of space, a size that could easily be transferred over the internet when higher connection speeds ranged only from 56k to 1.54 mbps.

Finally, the advent of the mp3 player would solidify the mp3’s existence for years to come.

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via Flickr

The last two decades have shown that mp3s were favored over formats such as AAC because they were compatible with more listening devices at higher bit-depths. They also required less storage space than large, uncompressed file types such as AIFF or WAV. This is still true today and streaming and download services such as Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Murfie continue to support mp3s, but they also support alternative formats as well.

There’s debate about which file formats are best for consuming music, but what consumers should be primarily aware of is the difference between lossy and lossless compression and how it affects their listening experience.

Lossy file types such as mp3 and AAC are compressed audio formats that use inexact approximations and discard data to represent the content for the purposes of storing, handling and transmitting. In other words, what you’re hearing is not the audio in its entirety. It’s similar to printing a draft on your printer as opposed to a full quality print. Less ink is used and the print is often lighter, but what remains is enough information to tell you what you’re looking at. Depending on the bit-depth of these file types the listener may experience reduced audio quality. Some would argue, however, that at higher bit-rates degradation in audio quality is hardly noticeable when compared to lossless formats.

Lossless file types like WAV and AIFF, FLAC and ALAC are containers that are able to store all of the data of an audio signal. Bit-for-bit, these file formats are more accurate representations of a signal because they don’t eliminate any data while encoding. FLAC and ALAC are newer codecs, which are compressed to some degree, but claim to deliver the same quality as uncompressed formats.  Although these containers are often massive in size, they are great for storing audio files in their original condition (true CD quality). And with the advent of hi-res streaming packages like Murfie Hi-Fi, you’re able to stream your music in FLAC on your lossless-ready devices for only $10 a month!    

When you send your collection to Murfie, we’ll rip and store the data as uncompressed audio (WAV) and make it available for streaming in 320 kbps mp3 (1411 kbps FLAC if you choose the Murfie Hi-Fi plan) or download in AAC, mp3, FLAC and ALAC.  

If you’re looking to transfer your CDs, vinyl or cassettes to digital and stream them from your preferred devices, send your collection to Murfie. To get a free quote click here. To learn more about our services, contact us or check our FAQ for answers to frequently asked questions.

Amazon Echo vs. Sonos Play:1- Who Will Be Victorious?

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The popularity of music streaming continues to rise as more companies enter the market to compete and win over customers looking for easy-to-use, high-quality playback devices. There seems to be a trend in the home stereo market that’s leading buyers away from complex systems with dozens of components to sleek, simple machines that roll your tuner, receiver, and speakers all into one. Of all the choices available, the Amazon Echo and Sonos Play:1 have become two of the top contenders, but which of these devices is truly worthy of your dollar?

At a glance the Amazon Echo seems promising. It features Alexa, a voice assistant program similar to Apple’s Siri. Alexa can be commanded to stream music from your collection, give you weather updates and even help you with your math. There is a large list of commands people can use and even some “Easter eggs” to get things done or have a little fun.

Digital Music News quoted The Times, saying, “While Echo has received mixed reviews for its sound quality, its Alexa voice assistant — which allows people to quickly play music with verbal commands — has captivated the tech industry and the public.

The Echo sounds like a great investment if you have your hands dirty and need someone to scratch your nose for you, but what about its sound quality? How does the Echo compare to the Sonos Play:1 and other streaming devices?

A number of reviews state that the sound quality of the Echo is uneven (despite its 360-degree, omni-directional audio capability), and that the bass frequencies are weak at high volumes. When pushed up against a wall, it showed minimal bass improvement, a poor use of the “boundary effect.” It also lacks resolution at times, which could be due to the fact that the Echo encodes mp3s at only 256 kbps using a variable bit rate. A variable bit rate means that while complex parts of audio are playing, the overall bit rate will be higher than when less complex parts are playing, so listeners are not hearing the same quality audio at all times.    

On the contrary, the Sonos Play:1 has received rave reviews for its audio quality. Trusted Reviews writes that it, “…produces excellent, rich and meaty sound for its size. It has pretty neutral voicing, but the depth and scale of the bass the speaker is able to produce is very impressive.”

A single Sonos Play:1 can fill a room with sound almost as well as the Echo, but if you’re looking for true surround sound, Sonos gives you the option of purchasing multiple units as well as woofers and soundsbars to pair together and play as one unit. What’s more, the device allows you to stream mp3s at a constant bitrate of 320 kbps, not to mention FLAC and ALAC files at a whopping 1411 kbps. That’s over four times the bit rate of the Echo!

In addition, nerdwallet.com reports, “the Echo can play songs from Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Amazon Music Library, whereas the Sonos Play:1 can stream music from your iTunes library, pull from over 100,000 free radio stations, and work with a number of popular online music services (Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, Google Play Music, Amazon Music and iHeartRadio, to name a few).”

Not to mention, you’re able to stream your entire Murfie CD and vinyl collection via Sonos. We at Murfie have been using the Sonos app and speakers to listen to music for several years now, and we love it!

Price-wise, the two are comparable. The Amazon Echo goes for about $179 retail while the Sonos Play:1 goes for $199.

There has been some debate on whether or not the Sonos Play:1 will remain a competitor in the streaming device market in the coming years. There are a number of other companies producing similar products for a fraction of the cost (i.e. Google Home priced at $129 or Muzo’s Cobblestone priced at $60). Regardless of what the future holds, the choice for audiophiles and music aficionados should be clear. The Sonos Play:1 is hands down the better buy. It may not have all the bells and whistles the Echo has, but it does what it was designed to do, provide listeners with the highest quality audio possible.

We at Murfie will continue to support Sonos because we know the importance of audio quality. When subscribers send in their collections, Murfie ensures quality playback, with full metadata, in 320 kbps mp3, lossless FLAC, and other formats, all of which Sonos is able to deliver.

To learn more about our streaming services, see our FAQ or contact us.      

April 25th Centennial of Ella Fitzgerald

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Today marks the centennial of American jazz singer, Miss Ella Jane Fitzgerald. She was born on April 25th, 1917 and passed away June 15th, 1996 due to complications from diabetes.

Ella Fitzgerald was discovered during an amateur night at the Apollo theater in Harlem. She was often referred to as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz” and “Lady Ella”. Her first big hit, “A Tisket, A Tasket” was released in 1938, which was written by both Ella and Chick Webb. She had a remarkable talent for singing and was most noted for her pure tone, improvisational ability and scat singing.

Norman Granz, a famous jazz impresario, worked with Ella during her career and built up the record label Verve Records based partially on her vocal talents. It was with Verve that Ella wrote many of her best works including her interpretation of The Great American Songbook.

Ella also appeared in movies and as a guest on popular television shows. She worked with a number of other Jazz artists including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. One notable album, Porgy and Bess, was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special award that honors recordings with “qualitative or historical significance”. It was considered to be among the most successful jazz vocal versions and would be released to coincide with the movie version.

After a long and successful career, which included 13 Grammy nominations and countless Downbeat Jazz Awards, Ella Fitzgerald would play her final concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991.

In addition to her many achievements, Ella assigned all of her royalties to the Charitable Foundation that bears her name. So every time you purchase a new recording of Ella’s, the royalty is donated in order to continue her charitable legacy. The centennial begins April 25th, 2017 and will conclude April 25th, 2018.

To commemorate Ella’s 100th birthday, the Smithsonian Museum opened “First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at 100.”, and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has created a similar tribute. In addition, much of her body of work will see re-releases all year long.

Looking for albums from Ella Fitzgerald’s discography? Check out our shop!

Digitize Your Tapes with Murfie!

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Image courtesy of hifiengine.com

It’s time to do some spring cleaning and you’ve come across your old tapes. What do you do with them? Do you donate them to Goodwill? Set them on a table outside your house with a sign marked “free”? Maybe you dig through your basement for the last known piece of equipment you played them on (if it wasn’t your old car stereo that is).

These are all options, but Murfie can do you one better! We will take your old tapes, digitize them, and make them available for streaming or download in the following formats: FLAC and ALAC, mp3 and AAC complete with metadata. We will also store your tapes at no extra charge indefinitely or until you want them back. No more clutter! Woo-hoo!

We are dedicated to providing you with the highest quality of product, which is why we use top-of-the-line Aiwa AD-F990 stereo cassette recorders to transfer your tapes to a digital medium. These decks are known for their “unmatched sound quality”.

Please email us at info@murfie.com to get your free quote. For information on our vinyl services, click here.

 

Buy FLAC music

Look no further.

Murfie might be the largest and most diverse source of FLAC music online. Every album in our marketplace is a real CD that we rip in FLAC format and send to you digitally. We’re not like other FLAC download websites—the music you’re downloading is from physical CDs you really own. The music will remain yours as long as you wish, available for future downloads and even FLAC streaming.

How to buy FLAC music on Murfie

1. Create a free account.

2. Shop the marketplace. Sort by genre, search artists and album names, and check out our cool collections of albums.

3. Buy your album.

Fill in your billing details if you haven’t already, and your info will be saved for future purchases. We accept US credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin.

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4. Go to your collection and search for the album, or click “Recent Activity” on the left sidebar of your collection.

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5. Click “Delivery Options” next to the album. Choose FLAC in the drop-down menu and click “Request Download”.

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Your download will arrive via email. You can also click “Downloads” on the left sidebar of your collection to see when your downloads are ready. Here are FAQs about downloading music on Murfie.

Helpful tip: Stream the album before you request a download, to make sure you really like it. Because if you don’t, simply return the album within 24 hours for full credit back to your account. Here are FAQs about Murfie streaming.

As you can see, it’s easy to buy FLAC music on Murfie. In addition to getting lossless audio, you get to own your music, and that can’t be beat.

TekLinks talks digital music trends

With so many digital music trends, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. That’s what TekLinks aims to do!

In this episode, Haley Montgomery interviews David Powell, who is admittedly a huge music fan. They discuss the best music apps for people who want instant digital access, along with current trends like high-quality downloads, lossless streaming, and what do with with those boxes of CDs.

There will always be more music trends on the way—but right now, it seems that streaming services aim to introduce you to songs you haven’t heard, and then get you to buy.

Watch their entire interview here!

FAQ: Does Murfie sell FLAC music?

This is a question we hear often. The short answer is yes…but “yes” in itself isn’t entirely accurate.

Murfie is a source for FLAC music online, but we don’t sell FLAC downloads. We sell CDs, from which we provide you CD-quality FLAC downloads, and even lossless FLAC streaming to Murfie HiFi subscribers. And that’s really the key aspect to what we’re doing, which some people don’t realize!

When you buy an album on Murfie, you’re buying a real, physical CD from our warehouse that you can stream and download anytime. You can store the physical disc at Murfie or have it shipped to you.

Most CDs are ready to download and stream immediately after purchase.

Download Formats FLAC, ALAC, mp3, aac
FLAC Streaming Sonos, NAD Bluesound, Voco
MP3 streaming (320kbps) Web Player, iPhone, iPad, Android, Sonos, NAD Bluesound, Voco, Samsung Shape, and more ways added all the time!

Why CDs? Buying a CD instead of a download gives you ownership rights to the content on that disc. You can download your files as many times as you like, stream your music on various devices without restrictions, and even pass on your collection to your heirs. What you’re getting when you collect with Murfie is a high quality music investment that will last you a lifetime.