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  • polemon
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
So, it's 2015, and many of the MP3 patents expire this year. According to http://www.tunequest.org/a-big-list-of-mp3-patents/20070226/, it'll be another two years, until the problems with MP3 and patents become a thing of the past.

Although, how relevant is MP3 these days? I don't use them anymore, really, except for one use case: My car. The car stereo will read MP3 CDs, but nothing else (aside from regular red book audio CDs, of course).
Another use case, is an old and aging DJ-spec CD player, which would also read MP3s off CDs.
And the third use case is online streaming. Back when I was involved with online streaming, streaming MP3 was pretty important, because it's something the listeners trusted. There were competing codecs at that time, too, but MP3 was still the most used, because people could understand it.

How are things now though? (I stopped being involved with online radio in ~2012 or something)

  • KozmoNaut
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #1
MP3 is still relevant, since it is by far the most widely supported compressed audio format that also delivers good fidelity, at a reasonably good quality:size ratio.

AAC, Ogg Vorbis etc. are technically better formats, but it's hard to compete when there are millions of legacy devices out there that support MP3 and nothing else. It's also a matter of perception. To many people "MP3" = "compressed music", as in a lot of people will call their portable media player an "MP3 player", even if they don't actually use the MP3 format itself.

MP3 is ubiquitous and well-known. You can't say the same for the competing formats, outside of technical circles. Apple has done its fair share to increase AAC marketshare, but to a lot of people, they still "download MP3s from iTunes".

  • pdq
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #2
For awhile there was some incentive to create new formats that encoded high quality in less space and bandwidth than mp3, but since space and bandwidth have become much less important, the need for other formats has pretty much disappeared. In fact, the trend is now toward lossless compression.

  • polemon
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #3
To many people "MP3" = "compressed music", as in a lot of people will call their portable media player an "MP3 player", even if they don't actually use the MP3 format itself.


Hmm, this might be a regional thing, but it seems people start "forgetting" about MP3s in general.
Here (Germany), streamed music is just "music off of iTunes" or whatever streaming platform they use, such as Spotify.

I concur, that "MP3" is still used as a synonym for "compressed music" though. Sometimes not just "compressed music", but "music file" in general.

As a compression format though, is it still really all that relevant? I mean, legacy players, sure. It seems that people replace those playback devices faster and faster. With cellphones having a lifespan of around two years, people seem to go to the next iteration of playback devices quite quickly. Also, it seems the #1 portable audio players, or audio players in general, are smartphones these days.

People that actually care about music quality, that's a different story. Those people usually switch to FLAC (or other lossless codecs) pretty quickly, and never look back.

For the average market, I'm not so sure, though. Most audio streaming providers (i.e. Radio stations with a website that streams their music online), MP3 is just gone. They use web players with AAC and that's it. Online radio that has been around for around ten years or so, will provide a small number of MP3 streaming slots to appeal to an audience that is "stuck in MP3". In general though, MP3 seems to be gone from online streaming, for the most part.

Music collections. I don't see the relevance there. Most people seem to either not have a music collection as such anymore - having moved everything to streaming services and keep their "collection" there, on-demand.
Others seem to move everything to FLAC (which totally makes sense, of course).

It may be me getting older, but for some reason, I have a similar sentiment to MP3s, as I have to Vinyl. It seems "a thing of the past", and the audible artifacts remind me of the crappy music quality I had to endure, when using it from online resources at the end of the 90's and the early 2000's.

I don't really see people /asking/ for MP3s anymore. Granted, MP3 is probably gonna be the codec that'll work most probably, given a random playback device. I haven't heard of things, capable of playing back AAC, Opus, Vorbis, etc. but /not/ MP3. It seems to me though, that while MP3 isn't becoming completely irrelevant, it's kinda put into a niche. It used to be the standard, now it's not.

  • Aleron Ives
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #4
All lossy formats can have audible artifacts, as all encoders have killer samples. Similarly, all lossy formats can be transparent, provided you're using a competently written encoder (excluding obscure formats with no good encoders). MP3 is older than AAC, but since both can achieve transparency at relatively similar bitrates, MP3 is hardly irrelevant, and its wider compatibility leads me to assert that it is not only still standard but more standard than AAC. Compatibility is an important factor in determining the relevance of codecs.

  • DonP
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  • Members (Donating)
Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #5
How are things now though? (I stopped being involved with online radio in ~2012 or something)


Most podcasts, and lots of on-line outlets and cloud services are still mp3-centric:
Amazon
Google music
emusic

  • Porcus
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #6
Although, how relevant is MP3 these days?


It is supported more or less everywhere, and it will stay relevant as long as there is sufficient interest in the files that have already been encoded. They are many, and not all can be replaced.

I assume it is easier to get rid of both FLAC and ALAC, since one can migrate without quality loss. Of course one can do that with mp3s too - just decode them and store as e.g. FLAC. Nonsense thing to do, and even though storage is getting cheaper, I assume nobody benefits from stuffing such a solution down the users' throats.

  • andy o
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #7
Google Play Music has basically taken me back to MP3 from AAC. I used to use an iPod for music, now I just use any of my devices and stream what I uploaded to GPM for free (20,000 songs limit). It has its drawbacks especially compared to a mature system like iOS/iTunes music playing (although in general Google has been going into the trend of fewer options, more "smart" which is sometimes irritating), but the convenience is just too much to pass. T-mobile doesn't even count the data towards my limit so I can stream however much I want on the smartphone at the best quality.

GPM only takes MP3, and will convert anything else to MP3, so I just upload MP3 to prevent transcoding.

  • washu
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #8
There are lots of new, current devices that support MP3 as their only relevant format: Stock car stereos.  I have a car that is less than 8 months old and it only supports MP3, WMA and WAV.  As WMA and WAV are out, MP3 is the only real choice.  It's not only one manufacturer, I've seen several other makes of new cars with the same limitations.

  • KozmoNaut
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #9
There are lots of new, current devices that support MP3 as their only relevant format: Stock car stereos.  I have a car that is less than 8 months old and it only supports MP3, WMA and WAV.  As WMA and WAV are out, MP3 is the only real choice.  It's not only one manufacturer, I've seen several other makes of new cars with the same limitations.


That is precisely why I started using MP3 again as my lossy compression format, after using Ogg Vorbis for a while. Hardware support is absolutely limited if you use anything else.

  • IgorC
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #10
BTW there is a poll of different formats http://www.hydrogenaud.io/forums/index.php...108125&st=0

It indicates that hydrogenaudio members start to prefer another formats.
  • Last Edit: 15 May, 2015, 09:06:12 AM by IgorC

  • 2tec
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #11
Ahhh yes, mp3s, I may not like them, but inevitably, I have to deal with them. ;~)

from my perspective, the mp3 patents demonstrate just how flawed the software patent concept is, to me, it seems like an unsuccessful attempt to garner excessive profits which was successfully circumvented by some ethical software developers, all thanks be to them and LAME

  • Last Edit: 15 May, 2015, 10:25:53 AM by 2tec
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)

  • s3n0
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #12
Grrrr... and where is FLAC audio file format ? Without restrictions from MP3 format :-) Because MP3 standard has many restrictions from upper limit: 320kbps bitrate and 48kHz samplerate :-(

96kHz samplerate; 900kbit/s bitrate; 24bit depth for one channel - is normal usage in FLAC encoding configurations (if u have good audio source as BlueRay or DVD) ;-)
  • Last Edit: 15 May, 2015, 11:31:30 AM by s3n0

  • IgorC
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #13
FLAC has its own limitations. It doesn't support DSD512.
  • Last Edit: 15 May, 2015, 11:34:19 AM by IgorC

  • s3n0
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #14
What's this DSD512 ? :-) DSD uses pulse density modulation ? It's a special format the same as many other formats and it's useless by normal users. DSD will be used in professional audio branch maybe (Holywood ?). But not by my home theater for example and/or in my "DJing" work ;-) This FLAC with 50% lossless "WAV compression" is fully sufficient for all semi-professional usage I think ^^.

  • andy o
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #15
I think he was kidding. Maybe making a point how support for "96kHz samplerate; 900kbit/s bitrate; 24bit depth for one channel" doesn't really matter for consumer audio?

  • Nimos
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #16
FLAC has limited features - upto 32 bit, no floating point, upto 8 channels only.
This sounds reasonable?

Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #17
Quote
This FLAC with 50% lossless "WAV compression" is fully sufficient for all semi-professional usage I think ^^


Not always. You cannot DJ, even semi professionally,  with FLAC files. Or any other Lossless compressed format either.

The digital successor to the ubiquitous Technics SL1210 II has become the Pioneer CDJ-2000.

CDJ NEXUS

These digital players only accept MP3 or WAV (+ Apple equivalents AAC and AIFF).

You can see the logic - if you want to be able to jump instantly to any part of a track it's an inconvenience having to decode it first - but it does seem silly because you would have thought it would be trivial for the designers to convert/uncompress all data on load. They haven't though and it doesn't look like they will. So if you want to carry around music for public consumption it has to be MP3 or AIFF.

  • mjb2006
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #18
You cannot DJ, even semi professionally,  with FLAC files. Or any other Lossless compressed format either.


Eh? Traktor supports ALAC (now on Mac only) and FLAC (formerly on Windows only, but I think now on Mac too). I've DJ'd with it at house parties. FLACs worked just as well as MP3s and WAVs.

  • audiophool
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #19
Only the CDJs (and Denon SCxxxx) don't play FLACs, everyone else in the industry supports the format (NI, Serato, Virtual DJ, etc.)

EDIT: I guess Beatport is another notable exception. Those goofs stick to MP3, WAV, and AIFF.
  • Last Edit: 17 May, 2015, 03:34:31 AM by audiophool

Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #20
I wonder what the licensing fees are for AAC vs MP3.  My understanding is that Apple used AAC originally because it produced a superior file at 128 kbps.  With bandwidth and storage being far less of an issue these days, I don't know if there is a compelling reason to use another format, especially when it's not as universal as MP3 seems to be.  Google Play is selling 320K MP3s, which is as big as you can get for MP3.

Though newer formats such as Opus, AAC and Ogg Vorbis can probably achieve transparency at a lower bitrate, the average consumer is not going to pay for a 192K Opus file when Google is selling a 320K MP3.  Bigger is better, isn't it?

  • lamedude
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #21
AAC
MP3
AAC only charges for the encoder/decoder whereas MP3 wants a cut if you sell them.

  • 2Bdecided
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  • Developer
Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #22
...successfully circumvented by some ethical software developers...
Interesting use of the term "ethical". In food supply, "ethical" usually means giving more money to the source (i.e. those who actually grow the food), but you think in the world of software "ethical" means giving less money to the source (i.e. those who actually invent the idea)? (Yes, I'm being intentionally provocative  )


I agree though that mp3 provides a great case study in how well (or otherwise) "software" patents work. There must be whole PhDs waiting to be written on that one. My bet would be that patents increase revenue for those who hold them (duh!) but in some circumstances the revenue is maximised by making parts of the chain available freely to certain user bases. In other circumstances I bet revenue is maximised by milking all parts of the chain, in as much as possible while abiding by FRAND and open-standards rules of various industry groups which are the gatekeepers to success in certain markets.

Cheers,
David.

  • andy o
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Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #23
I think the comparison would be more apt and direct with GM patents, if you're talking about food.

Lots of patents expiring in 2015 - how relevant is MP3 still?
Reply #24
...successfully circumvented by some ethical software developers...
Interesting use of the term "ethical". In food supply, "ethical" usually means giving more money to the source (i.e. those who actually grow the food), but you think in the world of software "ethical" means giving less money to the source (i.e. those who actually invent the idea)? (Yes, I'm being intentionally provocative  )


I agree though that mp3 provides a great case study in how well (or otherwise) "software" patents work. There must be whole PhDs waiting to be written on that one. My bet would be that patents increase revenue for those who hold them (duh!) but in some circumstances the revenue is maximised by making parts of the chain available freely to certain user bases. In other circumstances I bet revenue is maximised by milking all parts of the chain, in as much as possible while abiding by FRAND and open-standards rules of various industry groups which are the gatekeepers to success in certain markets.

Cheers,
David.


I think... maybe it means... Giving money to the source, if it is a guy in a shed, is ethical; if it is a multinational company, then not so ethical.
  • Last Edit: 04 June, 2015, 09:03:03 AM by Thad E Ginathom
The most important audio cables are the ones in the brain