Heyday of the MP3 – A History

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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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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.      

Murfie streaming on Smart TVs, gaming consoles, Roku and more!

Now you can stream your Murfie collection on your Smart TV, gaming console, hifi system, Roku, Plex, Kodi, and other DLNA compatible devices! How, you ask? We’ve teamed up with Jamcast to make it all possible!

Jamcast is available at no cost to you. Their app allows you to create your own multi-room audio system with devices you already own.

In addition to free streaming, Jamcast supports lossless FLAC streaming with a Murfie HiFi membership!

Setting up Jamcast is super easy—find instructions here! If you have questions, send us an email at info@murfie.com and we’ll be happy to help.

Get Free Streaming

Cloud streaming FLAC – Possible, Practical, Awesome

Our friends at @Bliss_audio retweeted this post from @audiophilestyleCloud Storage & High Resolution Streaming – Possible? Practical? Pricey?  It’s a very thorough write-up on streaming your personal music from a cloud storage service, and you totally should go read it right now if you’re serious about high-quality audio (as you can imagine, we’ve done a lot of that math ourselves :)

We reached the same conclusions as well, that streaming lossless music from the cloud is not only possible, but it is also practical and awesome!

When Murfie first offered a streaming music service we insisted on using 320k MP3 as our lowest-quality format.  Most of the experts thought this was unnecessary at the time and most other streaming services used much lower quality.  We disagreed, did our homework and found that we could reliably stream 320k to all the devices we support.  We felt that our members, who were used to downloading high-quality formats (including lossless FLAC) from high-quality sources wouldn’t be satisfied with the low-quality bitrates offered elsewhere.  So we made the investment and the technology to deliver a higher-quality stream regardless of what everyone else was doing.

Not long after our original streaming service went live we were already looking for a way to provide something better.  After more R&D we successfully demonstrated lossless streaming of FLAC over the Internet in our labs, and began to figure out how we could offer this as a premium service to our members who demand the highest quality available from their CD’s with the convenience of streaming from the Internet.  One of the biggest challenges to this project was finding playback devices that could handle streams of this quality but over time these became available, and we released our first lossless streaming service on the Voco music device.

Since that time we’ve been adding more devices to the list of players that can handle our lossless streaming service (we call it “HiFi“), and of course clever hackers can always use our public API to access the service using their own home-grown solutions.

It was very exciting to run across @audiophilestyle’s post this morning and know that there are other music fans out there who care this much about the convenience of streaming without compromising the quality of their recordings.  Paired with the large amount of lossless recordings available in the Murfie Marketplace, we think our lossless streaming service is pretty awesome, but that doesn’t mean we’re not already working on making it awesome-er :)

 

Lossless streaming on Sonos, worldwide!

Hip hip hooray!

The day has arrived—Murfie HiFi, our much-buzzed-about lossless streaming service, has officially launched on Sonos! In case you haven’t heard, Murfie is the only lossless streaming service for your entire music collection on Sonos. Now you can enjoy your music anywhere in your home, with perfect fidelity.

This also means Murfie is available globally on Sonos! Hello, world!!!

Not a HiFi member? Upgrade to lossless streaming! (HiFi members now have control over the streaming quality delivered to their Sonos system—standard 320kbps mp3, or FLAC—via a setting on their Profile page.)

Host your whole music collection with Murfie: Enjoy the perfect fidelity that only Murfie HiFi streaming on Sonos Wireless HiFi delivers—we individually clean, upload, securely store, and insure every CD and vinyl record you send to Murfie. We’re real pros! Learn more…

Murfie HiFi on Sonos: Watch the video

Set up Murfie on Sonos          Upgrade to Murfie HiFi          Send CDs to Murfie

Creative Cover Caption Contest

Let’s have some fun celebrating the new Murfie + VOCO partnership! You have a chance to win VOCO devices, Murfie HiFi, VOCO credit, Murfie credit, and more in our Creative Cover Caption Contest!

The contest will have 12 winners—meaning you have 12x a greater chance at grabbing great goodies!

CONTEST DETAILS

Step 1 of 3. Pick any album cover on Murfie and think of a creative caption. It can be funny, clever, socially relevant, interesting—anything you like!

Step 2 of 3. Share your caption, the hashtag #MurfieVOCO, and the Murfie album page link on Facebook and/or Twitter.
If your Facebook account is private: Copy and paste the Murfie album page link in a Facebook post and change the post privacy settings to “public”.
If your Facebook (or Twitter) account is publicly viewable:  You can hit the social sharing buttons right on the Murfie album page!

Step 3 of 3. Double-check that your caption, the album link, and #MurfieVOCO are all included so we can see your entry!

The deadline to get your captions out there is August 22nd at noon ET!

We’ll pick our favorite entries, which will then move to a final round of voting. We’ll let you know if you’re a finalist by responding to your post on Facebook, or by tweeting at you! We’ll include a link with instructions about how to rally for votes from your friends and fam in the final round.

Here are some examples of captions:

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

PLEASE NOTE

  • In order for us to see your entries, you’ll have to be certain that:
    – Your Facebook post is publicly visible.
    – Your Twitter account is publicly visible.
  • You’re only required to share your caption once, on your choice of Facebook or Twitter—although you’re more than welcome to share on both platforms, which will only increase your visibility!
  • Be sure your caption won’t offend anyone.
  • The contest is for US residents only.
  • Album art may not be altered in any way.
  • Go ahead and submit a few different album captions!
  • Murfie and NAVVO staffers (and their family members) can enter for fun, but they will not be able to move to the final round!

Enough details—let’s talk PRIZES!

There will be 12 winners. Finalists must rally for the most votes to win the best stuff! Here’s what you can win:

1. VOCO VSPOT + 1 year of Murfie HiFi + $100 Murfie store Credit
2. VOCO VSPOT + 1 year of Murfie HiFi
3. VOCO VZONEplus + 1 year of Murfie HiFi + $50 Murfie store Credit
4. VOCO VZONEplus + 1 year of Murfie HiFi
5. VOCO VZONE + 1 year of Murfie HiFi + $25 Murfie store Credit
6. VOCO VZONE + 1 year of Murfie HiFi
7. $100 VOCO store Credit + 6 months of Murfie Gold or HiFi + $25 Murfie store Credit
8. $50 VOCO store Credit + 6 months of Murfie Gold or HiFi + $20 Murfie store Credit
9. $25 VOCO store Credit + 6 months of Murfie Gold or HiFi + $15 Murfie store Credit
10. 1 year of Murfie HiFi
11. $50 Murfie store Credit
12. 1 year of Murfie Gold

Give us a holler at info@murfie.com if you have any questions. The deadline to get your captions out there is August 22nd at noon ET!

G’luck, friends—now make those captions!

Get Lossless Streaming with Murfie + VOCO!

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Today, we are happy to announce a new partnership with NAVVO, the creators of VOCO—wireless audio systems that stream top quality music through a unique voice and touch user interface.

What does this mean for you? Now you can listen to your entire Murfie collection on any VOCO device! 

Plus, VOCO supports lossless streaming! Instead of just 320kbps mp3, lossless streaming plays FLAC files, giving you perfect CD quality audio. (You can learn more about FLAC music here.)

Join the Murfie HiFi for $99/year to get lossless streaming with VOCO, in addition to all Murfie Gold benefits!

Need a VOCO device? Pick out something that fits your vibe. Use the coupon code MurfieHiFi and get free ground shipping on your order!

Already own a VOCO device? Stream with VOCO!

We’ll keep workin’ hard to bring you new ways to enjoy your music—if your ears are super-happy, so are we!