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What is an MP3?

An MP3 is an extremely popular digital audio format (.mp3) that is highly compressed while maintaining near cd quality.


What does 'MP3' stand for?

'MP3' stands for MPEG 3, which is a type of multimedia file. 'MPEG' is the acronym for Moving Picture Experts Group, and '3' is for Layer 3 - the third type of MPEG format. You may know of .mpg files, which is the first type of the MPEG format and is used for videos.


How can I get MP3 PLAYER?

If you want to listen to an MP3, you'll need a player. Although many of you will already have Microsoft's Media Player, which can play MP3s and many other formats, you might as well start with the most popular MP3 player, Winamp. Go to our MP3 PLAYERS section  and download it. It is easiest to save the file to your desktop, which is 'My Desktop' on the pull down menu. When it is done downloading, double click the .exe, which will be on your desktop if you saved it there, and install the program. You might want to write down where it's saved - usually C:\Program Files\Winamp\. When that's done, you can delete the file you downloaded (the one That's on your desktop or where ever you saved it). Now you can open Winamp by double clicking winamp.exe in the directory you saved it. There are many more players in our MP3 PLAYERS section but I suggest you start out with winamp.


How do I get mp3's?

I suggest NAPSTER. You can download this in our FIND MP3'S 1 section. If you have a particular song in mind, use Napster's search function.  Type in an artist and/or song name and click the "Find It!" button (or simply hit the enter key).  Napster will then search all the libraries online for your query.  If Napster finds any matches, all you have to do to download is double-click on a result.


Why are MP3s so popular?

MP3s are everywhere these days - they're used for everything from distributing music to listening to the New York Times every day. First of all, MP3s made a relatively large jump in compression size. In fact, without sacrificing quality MP3s are over 10 times smaller than WAV files without sacrificing quality. An average length song of four minutes would be around 40 mb in WAV format, but when converted (through a process called encoding) to MP3 format, the file will only be about 4 mb , which would only take approximately 15 minutes to download on a 56k modem. This leap made distribution of files over the internet worthwhile, and now everyone seems to be joining the craze. In the future, as audio formats become more compressed while maintaing quality, internet connections become faster, and more people are connected to the net, there will be no need for going to the store and buying CDs, because we'll just buy songs over the internet in digital audio format. It's much more convenient for the user, and it's even better for the artist because it eliminates much of the production and distribution costs, which should mean prices will be cheaper. MP3s are simply fueling this inevitable result.


Is MP3 the best format?

Even though MP3s are easily the most popular audio format, there are better formats, meaning there are audio formats that are more compressed than MP3s and have the same great quality, such as VQF, ACC, and even MP4. If this is true, then why doesn't everyone use these formats? The answer is mainly because MP3s are so common and widespread, and these newer formats are not a great enough improvement over MP3 for everyone to switch to, so MP3s will probably be the most popular audio format for a long time, or at least until the next amazing leap in compression occurs.


Are MP3s illegal?

As opposed to what many people unfamiliar with MP3s think, MP3s are legal. MP3 is simply an audio format. Of course, this format, like any other, can be used for illegal means. This includes taking copyrighted songs (for example, songs from a CD you bought) and distributing them on the internet without permission from the copyright holder. However, if you have permission from the copyright holder, or you do not distribute the mp3s, you just put the songs on your computer for your own use, then there is nothing wrong with that. Because MP3s are so compressed yet high in quality, a huge "underground" community has formed where you can find almost any song imaginable, and this community is only growing with the spreading popularity of MP3s.



 "how can I make a CD so I can play it in my regular CD players?" First of all you need a CD-R (CD burner) and the software (which should come with the burner) to be able to put the digital music files on the CD. You then need to convert your songs from MP3 format to WAV format (Instructions are below). You can do this with Winamp. Use winamp's help section if you need it. Then, you just "burn" your WAVs to the CD using the software that came with your burner. If you want an easy to use, do it all program, try the MP3 CD Maker.  Also, keep in mind that you can still burn MP3s straight to a CD for storage and so they can be played on your computer.

Ripping (CD to WAV)
Ripping is the first step in making MP3s from a CD. Before you even attempt this, make sure you are not just wasting your time and check this list to see if your CD-ROM drive is capable of ripping. If it isn't, you're out of luck, and you won't be able to rip CDs, so you may want to consider this when you buy your next CD-ROM. If it is capable, you now need a ripper. For this tutorial, we will use AudioCatalyst because it is easy to use because it can go straight to MP3, it has an excellent help/troubleshooting guide, and it is an overall great ripper/encoder combo. You can download the shareware version in our RIPPERS section. When you have finished downloading and installing AudioCatalyst, open it up, insert the CD you want to rip songs from into your CD-ROM, and rip away. Its actually very simple, you just check off the box of the track number you want to rip, and press "Grab." You might want to change the settings, but they are set at the norm, and you'll probably find that you don't usually need to change anything. One thing to note is that the default is to rip, then encode, the song straight to MP3. Click on "MP3" if you want to rip it to WAV instead, or you can even make an MP3 and a WAV file. Now you can just sit and enjoy!

Encoding (WAV to MP3)
Encoding is the process of getting your WAVs to MP3s. If for some reason you have are not making your MP3s straight from an audio CD, but instead from WAVs already on your computer, then you can skip the Ripping Tutorial. As mentioned in that tutorial, you should download AudioCatalyst (shareware), an encoder and ripper in one. For a full list of encoders, please refer to our RIPPERS. Once you have installed AudioCatalyst, open it up, go to File -> Make MP3, choose the WAV, and press OK. It encodes pretty fast and should be done in no time. Now your 40 mb WAV is 4 mb in MP3!

Decoding (MP3 to WAV)
Decoding is the opposite of encoding - making a WAV from a MP3. Chances are, you won't even need any new software to do this, since most players give you this option - MP3 players already have a decoding engine, which is needed to play the MP3, which is just a compressed version of a WAV. Anyways, this tutorial will use WinAmp as an example, since it is the most popular player and it is free. Open up WinAmp, and then go to the Preferences menu (Menu-Options-Preferences, or just hit CTRL+P). Select the Audio I/O tab, which will give you a list of different input and output (I/O) plug-ins, as shown in the picture to the right. Choose the "Nullsoft Disk Writer Plug-in," and then choose the "Configure" button. This will take you to a window with a directory listing, which you will choose the directory the WAVs will be output too. Hit "OK", and WinAmp will appear the same. Now, just play the song you want to convert to WAV (you can also make a play list of songs and just have it go through - just don't leave Repeat or Shuffle on). If you don't hear the song, but the time moves, you know it is working. Once the song is done playing, go to the directory you chose when you configured it, and you should have your WAV file. It should be about 12 times bigger than your 128 kbs MP3.



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