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Topic: Will MP3s created now always work? (Read 4874 times) previous topic - next topic
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Will MP3s created now always work?

Apols if this is a stupid question!

With all the different types and versions of encoders the thought struck me recently - will the MP3s I've created now always work?

By "work" I mean happily be played by hardware and software players in, say, 10 or 20 years time?

I know no-one will be able to answer this question for certain, but am I right that MP3 is a standard with some basic features what all encoders need to adhere to? Hence, though encoders will improve with time potentially providing better sound quality and/or smaller files the older encoded files will still work as long as the basic rules have been adhered to?

Anyway, I'll try to put my "worry beads" down now. 

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #1
If your encoder is producing mp3 compliant files, then yes they will always be readable by mp3 compliant decoders.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #2
10-20 years is a long ways off.  Who knows what technology developers will release by then.  We could have 400GB iPod's in 20 years thus making it possible to carry around a lossless archive.  I would say that the mp3 format would be a safe bet though.  Right now, the mp3 format is still considered to be the "universal" lossy format in that every portable DAP plays the mp3 format while only certain ones play WMA, ATRAC3, and mpeg-4 AAC.

It will also depend on what the developers of Lame do.  The mp3 format would have been almost gone if it wasn't for the Lame mp3 format.  I imagine Lame will start to die down once the developers stop coming out with new versions.  I have heard about versions leading up to Lame 4.0 so you still at least another 3 years until that.

If you really want to future proof your music, do what I did.  I went out and purchased a 250GB hard drive (I saved my money so I was planning on this for a while) and made a lossless archive of all my music.  That way, whenever a new lossy format or lossless format emerges as the universal standard, I can simply transcode my lossless files and that would be the same as me directly ripping those files from the CD.  I don't want to make it sound like I am the only one doing this though, there are many people starting to backup their library in a lossless format.

I know that doesn't really answer your question though.  Hypothetical questions get greyed results as no one can really predict the future, especially 10 years from now.  There are just too many variables: hardware manufacturers (hard drives and DAPs), Lame developers, the RIAA (they could make it so that everyone had to rip to a protected format to keep files on their computer), and developers of other audio formats such as mpeg-4 AAC.

Just a little FYI - mpeg-4 AAC was developed to be the replacement for the mp3 format.  Right now, it isn't much better than the Lame mp3 encoder (from recent listening tests where results were posted here on HA).  Now, this is just my personal opinion, I think mpeg-4 AAC has the most potential in being a future format.  But it may take way too long to become the next mp3 and by then another format may already be out that offers twice the compression and four times the quality, you just never know.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #3
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If your encoder is producing mp3 compliant files, then yes they will always be readable by mp3 compliant decoders.
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=374245"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

How is mp3 compliance validated?

Have MPEG or somebody else created a mp3 validation test suite?

I'm curious since incompability issues do exists for certain combinations of mp3 encoders / decoders. E.g.
- MusicMatch 320 kbps mp3 files was badly distorted on 3G Apple iPod,
- Apple Nano stutter when decoding some LAME aps mp3 files,
- Apple iTunes truncates some LAME VBR mp3 files.

I'm sure there are more combinations involving mp3 that fails, but I have personal experienced the three above.

My guess is that all encoders / decoders mentioned above has passed some kind of mp3 compliance validation test, but still issues remain.

So a more precise answer to the OP would be:

It will always be possible to find a decoder that will be able to decode mp3 compliant files.

However not all mp3 compliant products are 100% compliant.

[span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%']Edit: Spelling[/span]

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #4
Quote
If you really want to future proof your music, do what I did.  I went out and purchased a 250GB hard drive (I saved my money so I was planning on this for a while) and made a lossless archive of all my music. 


I did, to backup my lossy files which are approaching 150Gb already! To store it all losslessly would have been terabytes. Anyway I'm keeping the CDs I actually would fret about not owning losslessly, hopefully *those* will still be playable/rippable  in 10 or 20 years! The only things I am backing up losslessly too are any CDRs that I own which I wouldn't like to lose.

I'm using LAME (not sure which version, 3.96 or 3.97 I think) and encoding everything 256K CBR. so hopefully they are relatively future-proof. 

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #5
I think one thing to bear in mind in these debates is that the tools to play the MP3s that you have are not going to disappear overnight.  This argument holds more water if we talk about lossless, in which situation you will have at least a few years to transcode to the new system before needing to worry about your files becoming obsolete.

With MP3 there is a genuine concern that your files will not be playable by a device in the next twenty years, compounded by the fact that any transcode to a lossy format will no doubt lose some quality.  However, storage space is likely to be of so little concern that you could convert your MP3 to the space-age equivalent of WAVE and still have enough TB to store The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Personally I am expecting to have an iPod Yocto the size of a grain of rice implanted under my aging skin that will interrogate a wi-fi music database that holds every song ever published in lossless format, allowing me to hear new music every day until I die, at the age of one hundred and seventy five.
I'm on a horse.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #6
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With MP3 there is a genuine concern that your files will not be playable by a device in the next twenty years



"a device" I'm not worried about, it's "any device" which would concern me. 

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Personally I am expecting to have an iPod Yocto the size of a grain of rice implanted under my aging skin that will interrogate a wi-fi music database that holds every song ever published in lossless format...


If it were as big as a grain of rice I'd expect it to have the entire database held locally at the sub atomic level! Of course the biggest dilemma would be whether to go for the long grain or short grain model.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #7
Well, sorry about that.  I missread the question.  I thought it was a question dealing with the future of the mp3 format and not about compliance with future devices.

As far as compliance goes, I have a couple other comments to add on top of what has already been said.  I too have experienced the skipping problem when using a 3G and 4G iPod, both of which I owned.  Luckily Apple has fixed this problem with the 5G but still, that was a problem.  Additionally, I have had problems with my car CD deck displaying ID tag information and not playing mp3's.  I have found that my car CD deck will randomly stop reading the ID tag information and I further investigated the problem in that the car CD deck could not identify the ID tag information of the mp3's on my mp3 CD even though all mp3s on there had ID Tag v2.3 tags which are compatible with my CD deck.  I don't know if this is directly related to the compliance of the mp3 format or not.  I have also had trouble playing back mp3 files encoded with Lame.  All -V 4 and above settings work fine in my car CD deck (haven't tested anything below).  The strange thing is that if I choose to encode at 256kbps CBR, my car cd deck just won't read the files.  160kbps CBR, 192kbps CBR, 224kbps CBR, and 320kbps CBR all work fine.  The all VBR and CBR files (at same settings) encoded with Fraunhofer's encoder worked fine though.  A little strange.

I guess a lot of it will depend on what hardware manufacturers determine to be mp3 compliant.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #8
Though I use AAC far more than MP3, the question is the same for both: will we continue to need lossy formats in the future? I would say the answer is "maybe not".

Today lossy formats exist for two primary reasons: our delivery and storage systems are not up to the task of coping well with uncompressed audio data. Internet connections are too slow and storage media are too small (and power hungry).

If these two items are effectively addressed, then why bother with lossy formats at all? Once my iPod is a 1TB Nano and my internet connection runs at 1GB/sec, why the heck not do everything lossless? I am still human and unlikely to require a music library that is 100 times the size of my current one (with respect to content).

The issue of future playability is quite real. Consider the very short timeline of personal computing, and then consider how much effort might be required today to open a critical document that was written with a now-obscure DOS-based word processor. Using this analogy, there is certainly a possibility that MP3 will eventually become such a minority concern that players will become difficult to find. Given the large base of customers, I consider this a fairly unlikely scenario.

As with all of these changes, they will occur gradually and allow users and content owners to adjust over time, so I suspect that most of our music will still play somewhere, somehow when my kids are young adults.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #9
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Personally I am expecting to have an iPod Yocto the size of a grain of rice...[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=374258"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Approaching off-topic; who else saw the episode of Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago when, during the Weekend Update segment, they interviewed 'Steve Jobs' who showed the new iPod Micro, which was something like one micron in size, could hold every song ever written, and could levitate?


- edit -
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Of course the biggest dilemma would be whether to go for the long grain or short grain model.
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=374274"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Long grain - it's supposed to aid digestion, which is the true reason that Apple put the thing out in the first place...
voted 'Most likely to veer your thread' three straight years!

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #10
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Though I use AAC far more than MP3...
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=374347"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
You're jumping the gun.

Unless you have an iPod (lousy player i.m.o.) and a dozen accessories for it, you're really limiting yourself using AAC.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #11
Quote
Today lossy formats exist for two primary reasons: our delivery and storage systems are not up to the task of coping well with uncompressed audio data. Internet connections are too slow and storage media are too small (and power hungry).

If these two items are effectively addressed, then why bother with lossy formats at all? Once my iPod is a 1TB Nano and my internet connection runs at 1GB/sec, why the heck not do everything lossless? I am still human and unlikely to require a music library that is 100 times the size of my current one (with respect to content).

The issue of future playability is quite real. Consider the very short timeline of personal computing, and then consider how much effort might be required today to open a critical document that was written with a now-obscure DOS-based word processor. Using this analogy, there is certainly a possibility that MP3 will eventually become such a minority concern that players will become difficult to find. Given the large base of customers, I consider this a fairly unlikely scenario.

As with all of these changes, they will occur gradually and allow users and content owners to adjust over time, so I suspect that most of our music will still play somewhere, somehow when my kids are young adults.
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=374347"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Some excellent points here. I agree the only reason for lossy at the moment is space/bandwidth, something which as time goes on will be less of an issue. If I were to put money on it though MP3 is likely to be the last bastion of lossy retro-compatability!

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #12
Quote
I'm curious since incompability issues do exists for certain combinations of mp3 encoders / decoders. E.g.
- MusicMatch 320 kbps mp3 files was badly distorted on 3G Apple iPod,
- Apple Nano stutter when decoding some LAME aps mp3 files,
- Apple iTunes truncates some LAME VBR mp3 files.
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=374249"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

These are interesting examples. The first two are embedded devices dealing with complex cases which might not have been considered (or considered as unimportant) during development. It's the sort of thing that embedded systems developers need to do to conserve power.

The second seemed to be partly because of a bug in iTunes and partly because of slightly different interpretations of the same spec. This sort of thing happens all the time, in many different fields.
Quote
I'm sure there are more combinations involving mp3 that fails, but I have personal experienced the three above.
Yeah, there are many more examples, a large number of the first generation of cheap embedded players didn't handle VBR at all.

This isn't the case for embedded players, but any MP3 that, say MPG123 or libmad can play today will be playable in 10 years time. There is loads of source still around that's much, much older than that.

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #13
If you're worried about the future-proof nature of file formats, just look back at the situation twenty years ago. The dominating file formats for graphics were PIC, WPG and TIF, word processing was all about Word Perfect 4.2 and WordStar, spreadsheets were Calc and Lotus 123, databases were in Fox, audio was in MID or VOC, and text coding was in ANSI. Even twenty years after their commercial demise, and with far fewer people who used PC's with those formats back then, all these formats are still supported by every Office suite today that matters. The existance alone of emulators of entire obsolete hardware platforms with their complete OS+software architecture will make sure that no format will be lost.

It's true that orphaned, failed, and truly dead formats like VQF or CD-I (10 years ago the next big thing) are now reduced to unreadable on your average out-of-the-box system. But mp3 as a generally easily playable file will be around forever. We're talking about a format that is used in one way or another by a billion people today. I don't think you can find any example in human history of an object, language or technology with so many users that has vanished off the face of the earth completely (well, apart from Vanilla Ice fans).

Will MP3s created now always work?

Reply #14
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(well, apart from Vanilla Ice fans).
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=374708"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]