Difference Between MP3 and Audio CD

MP3 vs Audio CD

In this day and age of information technology, data is everything. In order to save and transport this data, various methods are used, each distinctly different from the other. MP3 and Audio CDs are two such methods of storing and safekeeping important audio files for future use as well as enabling easy transportation of data, as well.

What is MP3?

MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III MP3, commonly known as MP3, is a compact disk that contains digital audio in the MP3 format, using a form of lossy data compression which allows a great reduction of data that is needed to represent the audio file while keeping faithful to the original uncompressed audio. This is done by reducing the accuracy of certain morsels of sounds that are said to be beyond the auditory resolution of most people, which is commonly known as perceptual coding. A popularly used format for storage or audio streaming, MP3 is also a de facto standard of audio compression that is utilised for data transfer and playback of music on most digital audio players.

Designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), MP3 is an audio specific format that is designed as part of its MPEG-1 format which was later extended in the MPEG-2 format. It was in 1991 that all algorithms for MPEG-1 Audio Layer I, II and III were approved while, in 1992, it was finalized. In the second half of the 90’s, the use of MP3 files began to spread all over the internet and with the introduction of the audio player Winamp in 1997 and the first portable solid state digital audio player MPMan in 1998. Today, MP3 files are a popular way of sharing and storing music as well as being widely used in the peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

What is Audio CD?

Compact Disc Digital Audio (CD-DA or CDDA) commonly known as Audio CD is the standard format employed in audio compact discs as defined in the in the Red Book, which is one of a series of “Rainbow Books” that include all the technical details of all CD formats available. Materialized by the Digital Audio Disc Committee and ratified as IEC 60908, the first edition of the Red Book that was published in 1980 by Sony and Philips gives an Audio CD several basic specifications.

- Maximum playing time is 79.8 minutes

- Minimum duration for a track is 4 seconds (including 2-second pause)

- Maximum number of tracks is 99

- Maximum number of index points (subdivisions of a track) is 99 with no maximum time limit

- International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) should be included

The audio data stream in an audio CD is continuous but has three parts. The main portion is called the program area while it is preceded by a lead-in rack followed by a lead-out track. All three segments contain subcode data streams. Each audio sample, a signed 16-bit two’s complement integer, is comprised with sample values that span from −32768 to +32767. However, many recording publishers have created audio CDs that violate the Red Book standards some with the aim of extra features such as DualDisc and for copy prevention purposes.

What is the difference between MP3 and Audio CD?

  • The maximum length of an audio CD is 79.8 minutes while an MP3’s length is much longer.
  • MP3s are compressed files taking up lesser space. Audio CDs contain uncompressed files which take up more space.
  • The quality of files on an audio CD is much higher than those in an MP3 since during the compression of MP3 files, the quality too gets compromised.
  • Almost every CD player can support CD-R and CD-RW discs contained in Audio CDs. Many music players support MP3 files but the older players do not.

In conclusion, one can say that while audio CD’s contain a lesser amount of higher sound quality audio files, MP3s can contain a large amount of audio files at a more compromised quality.