Chapter 9. Competing Codecs and Other File Formats

MP3 isn’t the only game in town. There are many other audio file formats out there trying to compete with MP3, with varying degrees of success. Some of the alternative formats are meant to establish security and guard against piracy, some aim to provide better audio quality at smaller file sizes, and most try to accomplish both goals at once. Despite the fact that some of the formats you’ll read about in this chapter are technically superior to MP3, don’t expect MP3 to go the way of the pterodactyl anytime soon. MP3 is deeply entrenched, and seems to have struck a near-optimal balance between simplicity, openness, and quality for most users. MP3 software and hardware is everywhere, not to mention the zillions of legal and illegal MP3 files themselves. Any contending format faces a massive uphill battle to popular acceptance, and the only way the world is liable to change horses in mid-stream is if the industry forces a new format upon us; a dubious proposition at best. Nevertheless, many of the competing formats represent excellent technology, and deserve consideration.

Because many of the competing formats are actually much more than simple audio codecs, we’ve broken this chapter up into two major categories: First we’ll look at a few of the “architectures”—complete audio/video/multimedia authoring and playback platforms that encompass audio compression as a subset. Then we’ll take a closer look at a few specific codecs in use ...

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