Playing MP3 Musicfiles
If you're using Windows, you can play MP3s using Windows Media Player, or even better, you can try Winamp or Sonique. If you have a Mac try SoundJam or Macast (or MVP for PC/Mac). Plus, you don't necessarily need a computer to play MP3 music files. There are some very cool portable MP3 players on the market including Diamond Multimedia's Rio, Compaq's iPaq PA1, Creative Labs' Nomad, i2Go's eGo, and Mambox. In addition, there are a few car MP3 players emerging to bring warmth to those long lonely drives around the block (Empeg). A great comparative list of portable and car players can be found at MP3.com. There are also a lot of other units summarized and reviewed at MP3car.com and Xeenon. If you have access to a CD-R burner, you can copy MP3 music files to a data CD, or convert the MP3 files to WAV format and burn the wave files to an audio CD for playback.
Now if you're a purest DJ type and you actually want the beats of the songs synchronized, check out Virtual Turntables from Carrot, or Visiosonic's PCDJ, which will allow you to do actual DJ type effects going from one MP3 song to another. You can also try the Nullsoft Cross-Fader Plugin with WinAmp (Plug-ins / Effects) for mixing and special visual effects. Plus, you can create a playlist containing all the MP3 files you have on disk, and there are many other MP3 databases programs that help you keep track of all your MP3 files.
Does MP3 offer good sound quality? Well, it depends on your equipment, the quality of the recording, and your hearing capability. Good encoding software really makes a difference. Some encoding software produces results that sound awful, whereas other software produces good results. The BladeEnc encoder produces MP3 files that are usually acceptable. The LAME encoder, an open source project, is another good free alternative. Musicmatch Jukebox lets you encode at all bit-rates using a version of the Fraunhofer encoder which you can get at CNET's Windows Shareware Collection.
128 Kbps compression is on the low side, while 192 Kbps done by a good encoder should sound pretty good under most circumstances (but higher kbps produces higher quality). Uncompressed CD audio data requires a transfer rate of 1,411.2 kpbs (16 x 2 x 44,100), so MP3 data encoded for 128 kbps is compressed by a factor of 11.025. Kbps (kilo bits per second) refers to the rate at which the audio data would need to transfer for real time playback. It is also a measure of how much the audio data has been compressed in creating the MP3 files.
MP3 Agents - Legal Issues:
Are MP3s legal? Well, like VCRs, and CD-Rs, yes they're legal. It's what you do with them that makes them questionable. There are many sites offering free, legal downloads (MP3.com, RioPort), although there seems to be many sites that are fostering the illegal distribution of copy-written material. The Recording Industry of Association of America (RIAA), the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), the Business Software Alliance (BSA), and many others are very active on the subject, and they have filed several large-scale lawsuits (current litigation). Plus, the Transcript of the chat held by the musical band Metallica, with ArtistDirect and Yahoo expresses some very serious concern.
But, there is a group of highly respected musicians such as Madonna, B.B. King, Prince, the Eurythmics, Bono (U2), the Dave Matthews Band, Green Day, and Chuck D who are expressing open opinions on the subject. The RIAA and NMPA say "we are not suing a technology, we are suing a company that is stealing work that does not belong to them. They cannot build a multi-billion dollar business on the backs of other people's work." According to a report released from Forrester Research, the music and book publishing industry stands to lose billions in revenue from online file sharing, and there is not much anyone can do about it. Digital Security Systems or lawsuits don't seem to be able to stop Internet theft of content. It only takes one person to break the encryption, and then it is available to everyone in the world.
Napster's controversial free music file-sharing service is among the fastest growing Web sites in history. If it's not Napster, it will be someone else. It seems that music consumers will move to underground Internet services, and it is estimated that record labels will lose $3.1 billion by 2005 because of file sharing (book publishers $1.5 billion). Musicians will gain $1 billion, authors $1.3 billion, and third-party service companies $2.8 billion by 2005, the Forrester Research report said. Plus, it is actually proving to be a good way for small bands to gain a wider audience.
The combination of high fidelity and small file size has made MP3 the file type of choice for transferring audio over the Internet. Searching for MP3 audio and music files is as easy as typing in the title of a song, name of the artist, or an album name. MP3 allows you to store hundreds, or even thousands of your favorite hits with complete playlists and database management tools. MP3 Agents and file sharing services are changing the face of the entire music and publishing industries, and they are impacting the whole Internet. It is also proving to be a good way for small bands to gain a wider audience. Sites that embrace artistic work will see the profits that traditional publishers lose, and artists will start to move toward self-publishing on their own websites. Everything is changing and it is starting to get exciting. There are large companies, famous artists, the massive public, and big money involved. It will be very interesting to see how everything turns out.
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