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.

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.

 

How To Buy Lossless Music With Bitcoin

Two things we’re fans of: lossless music and bitcoin. No doubt about it. Call us geeks, audiophiles, or what-have-you, but the recent interest in high quality files and virtual currency fits with what we’re doing at Murfie.

Here’s a how-to guide for buying lossless music with bitcoin on our site.

1. Sign up for Murfie. It’s free to sign up, and all you need is a name, email address, and password.

2. Add credit with Bitcoin. Select the desired amount of Murfie credit you’d like to buy on your billing page. You’ll be taken to BitPay to securely complete the process.

3. Shop for music. We have thousands of complete albums for just a few dollars each. Every album in the Murfie marketplace is backed by a used or new CD.

4. Download in FLAC or ALAC. Every CD at Murfie is ripped in FLAC and made available for you to download in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC.

5. Stream in FLAC. Murfie HiFi members can get CD-quality FLAC streaming on Sonos, Bluesound, and VOCO devices.

We want you to customize your own music experience. Having the option to pay with bitcoin and listen in lossless format is a wonderful thing!

Spring Cleaning Checklist: Music Collection

Spring is almost here…the official first day is March 20th! I know that most folks—especially us in Wisconsin—have been looking forward to this for months!

Spring cleaning has become a yearly tradition all over the world. It’s an opportunity to open the windows and shake the dust off everything in the house from top to bottom. It’s therapeutic—beneficial for your mind and physical health, for all kinds of reasons.

Don’t overlook your music collection when you spring clean this year. Your CDs and vinyl deserve to be checked, re-assessed, and re-organized. You may not have noticed how much your collection has grown over time, piece by piece. Here are some tips for how to sell the titles you no longer want, and breathe new life into your old favorites!

CDs

white_square_yellowDownsize. Figure out which titles are just taking up space since you don’t listen to them anymore. Order a seller’s kit to sell CDs to Murfie members, or sell your CDs directly to Murfie. You’ll earn money from each sale that can be cashed out or used in the marketplace.

white_square_yellowDigitize. Send your remaining collection to Murfie, where it will be ripped and uploaded to your personal account for high quality downloads and streams. Stream your music on the web, our apps for iOS and Android, Sonos, and even more devices. Download your music in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC to listen offline.

white_square_yellowDeclutter. Store your discs at Murfie and free up some space. Enjoy anytime/anywhere digital access to your music. Your collection will always remain yours, we’re just storing it for you along with any album art you send—and you can request your physical collection back anytime!

Vinyl 

white_square_yellowClean. Those ol’ vinyl records can become quite dusty over the years. If you send them to Murfie, we’ll use our multi-brush wet cleaning system to remove any dust that might be damaging the quality of your records.

white_square_yellowDigitize. After we clean and digitize your records, you can enjoy streaming on all your devices, and downloads in various formats. We remove pops, clicks, and background noise. Get started by ordering a vinyl kit.

white_square_yellowDeclutter. Just as we store CDs, we’ll safely store any vinyl records you leave with us while you enjoy convenient digital access. Don’t forget, they always remain yours—so request them back whenever you want!

Get organized this spring, and give your collection the cloud treatment it deserves! Get an instant quote for digitization on our CD shipping kit page and vinyl shipping kit page. As for the CDs you don’t want to hang on to anymore, order a seller’s kit to get ’em outta your house asap!

CD shipping kit
Vinyl shipping kit
Seller’s kit

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.

Is hi-res audio worth the price?

As Onkyo plans to expand its hi-res music store to the US, it’s time to decide if hi-res downloads are worth paying more for than CD-quality files.

In recent times, we’ve seen more focus on the quality of music files online. For music lovers who enjoy digital music, this is a welcome change. Folks like musician Neil Young are taking a stance against the low-quality downloads that consumers are used to getting from online stores like iTunes.

“We live in the digital age, and unfortunately it’s degrading our music, not improving,” said Young.

To combat crappy digital music, Young launched his Pono device and its corresponding hi-res audio store online. Now, Japanese consumer electronics company Onkyo is planning to expand its hi-res audio store, e-Onkyo Music, to the US, and hopefully tap into the same audiophile market that prefers purchasing higher quality files.

CD-quality audio is better than low-quality files, and hi-res audio is considered to be even better than CD-quality audio in terms of bandwidth and dynamic rage. But when the two are compared in listening tests, even to high-bitrate mp3s, a lot of people can’t hear the difference. For this reason, the question of whether hi-res is truly “better” for listeners than CD-quality is still under debate. (Try comparing them for yourself!)

So how much do places like Onkyo and Pono charge for a hi-res album in FLAC format? Here’s an example, compared to the price on murfie.com for CD-quality FLAC.

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Pono eOnkyo Murfie
quality 48kHz/24bit 48kHz/24bit 44.1kHz/16bit
price $22.99 ~$31.00 $16.00

The Diana Krall album is a new release. How about building your back catalogue with an old favorite?

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Pono eOnkyo Murfie
quality 192.0kHz/24bit 192kHz/24bit 44.1kHz/16bit
price  $24.79  ~$30.00  $3.00

High-quality music is great, but it would be outrageous to pay for a hi-res album if you can’t hear the difference between that and CD-quality audio, which is already high. Some have even claimed that the hi-res movement is profitable trickery aimed at elitists and audiophiles.

Ultimately the choice is up to you, the listener. Find out what you can hear—and can’t hear—and make the choice that makes sense for you. When you choose to buy an album from Murfie, you’re buying a real CD that you can download (FLAC, ALAC, mp3, aac) and stream on different devices (320kbps mp3 or FLAC). Then choose to store the physical disc with us, or have it shipped to you.

For us, quality is key, along with providing access to your music that isn’t limited by any brand or device. Since everything released on CD can be ripped and downloaded in FLAC, Murfie just might be the largest source of high-quality FLAC music online. See for yourself!

This Week in Music History (May 28th-June 3rd)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

Oops I did it again5/28- On this day in 2000, Britney Spears topped the new millenium’s album chart with Oops!…I Did It Again. The album sold 1,319,000 copies in its first week and went on to reach No.1 in thirteen other countries. To date, it has sold over 20 million copies.

365447-large5/29- On this day in 1942, Bing Crosby recorded the Irving Berlin song “White Christmas” with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Crosby’s version is the best-selling single of all time, with sales to date topping 50 million.

Beatles5/30- On this day in 1964, The Beatles‘ single “Love Me Do” reached No.1 on the US singles chart, the group’s fourth US No.1 in five months’ time. Although the single was originally released in the United Kingdom in October 1962, it did not become a hit in the United States until 1964.

114141-large5/31- On this day in 1977, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced a ban on the new Sex Pistols single “God Save the Queen”. Although the single reached No.2 on the UK chart, the BBC declared it to be “in gross bad taste” and considered it to be an assault on Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy. Lead singer Johnny Rotten, however, explained, “You don’t write ‘God Save the Queen’ because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them and you’re fed up with them being mistreated.”

32093-large6/1- On this day in 1968, Simon & Garfunkel went to No.1 on the US singles chart with “Mrs. Robinson”. An early version of the song was featured in the film The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffmann and Ann Bancroft. It was then re-recorded to be released as a single, which went on to win the duo a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

7400-large6/2- On this day in 1984, British duo Wham! had their first No.1 hit with “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”. The song was written and produced by British musician George Michael, who was one half of the duo. Michael’s inspiration for the song was a note his Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley had left for his parents which read “Wake me up up before you go go”.

13293-large6/3- On this day in 1967, soul legend Aretha Franklin hit No.1 on the US singles chart with her cover of Otis Redding‘s hit song “Respect”. Although the two versions were musically very similar, Aretha’s version added the famous R-E-S-P-E-C-T chorus and backup singers’ refrain of “Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me…”

Find these musical gems in our CD marketplace, and own your own pieces of music history! Every album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. :-)