Information about MP3 format

The name MP3 is shorthand for MPEG Audio Layer 3--the audio coding scheme within a video compression program--and while this bit of trivia isn't too exciting, what the technology can do definitely is. Before it, saving high-quality audio onto a personal computer just wasn't practical. Even a few songs could take hours to download and would devour an enormous chunk of memory. Now, however, a song can be downloaded in about a minute, entire CDs in a few more, and digital audio can be compressed into a fraction of the disk space once needed, with virtually no loss in quality.

What's created is a storable, downloadable, CD-quality computer file, popularly known as an MP3, that gives you music at your fingertips. And with electronics manufacturers embracing the technology and creating hand-held MP3 players, all music--from your own collection or from the Internet--will soon be easily accessible no matter where you are.

While much of the music available online is handled by sanctioned websites, there are enough pirated MP3s being offered free to the public to set the music industry scrambling to regulate the technology's use. Whatever the future outcome, one thing is clear--MP3s and their distribution have created a whole new ball game. If you're interested in playing, then climb aboard the latest recording revolution.

Before you pick your MP3 songs, you need an MP3 player. No, this isn't the newest pricey piece of stereo equipment--it's software downloaded off the web, and it's usually free.

Before you start surfing, check to see if your computer comes with a default MP3 player in its hard drive (most newer PC and Macintosh models do). The easiest way to check is to download an actual MP3 and see if the system routes it to the player. If your computer already has the software, and you're happy with its sound and features, then move on through the rest of the 2torial from there. If you're lacking a player (or if you have one you're not happy with), continue with this step to download a new player.

There are dozens of players available on the web, some for free, some for a fee. To check what's out there, try typing "mp3 player" or "music downloads" into your search engine, or click onto a consumer electronics site to see what they recommend--they'll usually provide direct links to the player sites. Once you see what's available, follow these criteria to choose the player that's right for you:

1. PC or Macintosh? The player you choose needs to be compatible.

2. How much memory does the player require? Make sure your system can handle it.

3. Free or fee? Certain software that offers extensive recording and playing options can cost money, but most free players will have all you need for stereo-quality sound.

4. What features does it have? While you may not need a karaoke button, other options like a playlist editor (which lets you create a list of songs playable in the order you wish), or graphic equalizers (to tweak the sound) can be a must.

If you're getting what you think is a free download, check if the software is "freeware," "shareware," or "demoware." Freeware is what it says--software that's free. Shareware, on the other hand, is free to download, but if you choose to keep the software, you're sometimes asked to register with the site and pay a small fee for its use. Finally, demoware is "demonstration software"--it's free, but you can use it for only a certain period of time before it stops working.

Once you've made your choice (or choices), it's time to download. To do so, create a folder for the player on your hard drive, download it into the folder, decompress it, and you're done.

Links to music resources

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Links to the most popular MP3 players

K-jofol Freeware Multimedia player for 95/98/NT/2000. Linux port is in the work.
ZipAudio It includes the MP3 Creator Software as well as the lightweight portable MP3 player. The player has a built-in FM radio receiver.
Soritong Soritong 1.0š features include CD-Audio support, WMA (MS Audio 4.0) support, timer, playlist (.pla) bug fix, and expanded language pack (Configuration is now localizable).
AudioGrabber A piece of software that grabs digital audio from cd's. It copies the audio digitally-not through the soundcard-which enables you to make perfect copies of the originals.
XMMS This player has most of the features as Winamp from Windows 95/98/NT butš features some specials only available for the linux version.
Xaudio Write your own MP3 player in a few lines of code. With the XAUDIO SDK, now available for the Windows95/98/NT, Windows CE, MacOS and UNIX platforms, you can very easily write your own GUI or other front-end to the Xaudio decoding engine.
Mp3Spy Locates, sorts and connects you hundreds of audio feeds. Works in conjunction with another MP3 player
Mp3 Box Mp3Box is a freeware mp3 player, encoder, decoder and digital audio copier.
WinAmp Now free! The most popular MP3 player for Windows. Plays MP3, CD audio and other formats. Cool, customizable interface. Gets rid of pesky llamas.
Virtuosa Jukebox software for Windows. Rip, encode, play, download, organize and burn CD's. Free 15-day trial version may be downloaded from the site.
a2b music Free downloadable player that uses Advanced Audio Coding (MPEG- AAC), that claims to have superior audio performance than MP3.
Liquid Audio Players that allows you to listen to files in MP3 and Liquid formats.
Audioactive This sleek new player focuses on providing the highest quality MP3 decoding in the business. No gimmicks, just great sound. Download free.
MS Media Player Windows Media Player delivers most popular streaming and local audio and video formats, including Windows Media (WMA), MP3, WAV, AVI, MPEG, and more.
CDCopy A shareware Windows program for copying CD audio tracks. Saves to MP3, WAV, AU, RealAudio G2 and many more formats.
Digital Audio Copy WinDAC32 converts CD audio directly to .mp3 format, avoiding possible noise from your soundcard. In German or English.
FreeAMP A free, cool-looking MP3 player for Windows or Linux (others coming). Makes playlists and saves them to Rio players.
MacAMP Do you use a PowerPC? This may be the player for you! Plays all popular formats, including streaming audio. Shareware.
Mpecker A nice shareware MP3 player for PowerMac users.
Napster The software that lets you share MP3 files with others over the Net. This is the one that has the music industry in an uproar.
Producer A commercial encoder from Opticom. Two versions available for Win95 and NT: Advanced Plus and Professional. Command-line versions available for Linux, Sun and others.
RealJukebox Free or "Plus" versions for Windows, from the makers of the RealPlayer. Plays all formats and rips CD's to MP3. Organize songs into playlists.
Sonique An MP3 and media player for Windows. Currently in beta testing and completely free. Some users have reported problems with uninstalling it.

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