Thompson, one of the largest audio companies around, recently announced the release of a new lossless mp3 audio codec. The company claims that the new codec, named mp3HD, will create bit-exact replicas of audio tracks from CDs, with 100% accuracy. Some of the important features of this new file format are as follows:

  1. The mp3HD format has backward compatibility with mp3. This means that older mp3 players will be able to play the files encoded with this new technology.
  2. The extension of the files is still .mp3, so traditional mp3 players will be able to play the files, although a special codec will be required to achieve the actual audio quality. This means that older mp3 players will play the file as a generic mp3 track, while a PC loaded with the mp3HD codec will produce the true sound quality of the track.
  3. The bit rate of the files encoded using mp3HD encoder will vary between 500 and 900 kbps. This is at par with most of the other lossless audio encoding technologies available to us. The bit rate will vary according to the genre, however, as music files of pop, rock, jazz, and all other available genres use different bit rates.
  4. The same id3 metadata is shared by the mp3HD file and the original, embedded mp3 track. Hence, there is almost no room for encoding errors to occur.
  5. The encoding parameters (including bit rate), the metadata of the embedded mp3 file and the ancillary data are all under control during encoding.

There is obviously some tradeoff for such great quality. The first tradeoff that will probably concern most music-lovers is the file size. Even a little, 4-minute track will take up to 26 MB, when encoded using the highest bit rate. If the bit rate is reduced somewhat, the file will still be around 18 MB in size, greatly increasing the space requirement for storing the files.

The biggest drawback that the codec will face is probably the lack of hardware support. No mp3 player available in the market currently supports this new audio format. So, for now, only PC users will be able to tinker around with this new technology.

Thomson reportedly plans to charge 75 cents for every PC software decoder package. Each codec will apparently be priced somewhere between $2.50 and $5.00. A hardware decoder and codec will cost 75 cents and $1.25 respectively.

The technology looks good so far and is all set to revolutionize the world of music, but strong hardware support is a must, if the technology has to be successful in today’s competitive market.

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