MP3 needs no introduction for most users. It is the ubiquitous digital audio format that powers everything from Apple’s iTunes software to various hand-held digital audio players. The format is based on a decade-old technology, and
felt it was high time to update it. Enter MP3Pro, the latest generation of the digital audio codec, which the company says dramatically improves both compression rates and audio quality.
“It’s been released to stay competitive with other codecs,” remarked Thomson multimedia’s Dave Arland, in a recent conversation with MacCentral. “The format is about a decade old, and it’s never been significantly updated.”
Thomson multimedia said that MP3Pro is an improved version of MP3 that provides higher fidelity files that are half the size or less of what an MP3 would be. MP3Pro is also backwards and forwards compatible — users can play MP3 files on an MP3Pro player, and MP3Pro files can play on an MP3 player, although Thomson multimedia said that best results are found when MP3Pro files are played on MP3Pro players.
The secret to MP3Pro’s compatibility is found in its encoding scheme. The new encoder actually splits audio recordings in two, according to Thomson. One part of the file contains all the standard MP3info, and the other stream contains high audio frequencies, thus producing a higher-quality recording.
MP3Pro effectively yields 128kbps performance at a 64kbps encoding rate, according to Thomson, enabling flash memory and compact discs to yield double the music capacity without diminishing quality.
Arland said that Thomson multimedia’s goal is to distribute MP3Pro technology just as wide as MP3has been. In a recent press release, the company said that it would be announcing details of its licensing arrangements with various third-party companies soon.
“We’re talking with jukebox software makers, chip makers, developers of portable digital audio devices, Internet radio companies and other firms,” said Arland.
So far, the software has been released in a demo application designed to run on various flavors of Windows. The app encodes .WAV files at 64kbps and plays back all MP3and MP3Pro files.
Development of the MP3Pro codec was an international effort. The technology was created by Coding Technologies, a Swedish firm specializing in audio compression technology. Coding Technologies’ efforts were combined with work done at Thomson and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute Integrierte Schaltungen (IIS-A), an audio research laboratory. Thomson multimedia, a multinational digital media corporation based in Paris, France, is the exclusively licensing representative of MP3 and MP3Pro patents and software of Fraunhofer IIS-A, Coding Technologies and Thomson multimedia.
Thomson and RCA’s demo software download may be Windows only for now, but Arland said that Thomson plans to release versions for Mac OS 9 and Linux later this summer. Arland was unable to specify if or when a Mac OS X version will be available, however.