MP3: What's the Difference?
word in popular culture is now MP3. Music company executives
fear it, students love it, and journalists can't say enough about
it, even if they don't understand it. So, what is it exactly,
and why is it so much bigger than MIDI?
file is just an audio file that has been compressed (made
smaller) so that it can be sent easily over the Net. An
uncompressed music file, like that found on a CD, can be 30
or 40 megabytes or much larger. MP3's are typically
one-tenth this size, with only a slight loss in quality.
files, on the other hand, do not contain actual audio.
Instead, the music sequence is recorded as a series of
numbers which explain how the music is to be played back.
The advantage is that MIDI files are very small, but the
sound is totally dependent on the output device (usually the
sound card in the computer).
short for MPEG1 Layer 3. MPEG stands for Moving Pictures
Experts Group, an organization working under the joint
direction of the International Standards Organization (ISO)
and the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC).
This group devises standards for the coding of moving
pictures and audio. MPEG audio files are compressed, and are
typically one-tenth the size of uncompressed files (a CD
track, or WAV or AIF file is uncompressed audio).
stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and was
first introduced in 1983. This is not actually an audio
format, but rather a protocol by which various electronic
musical instruments, including sound cards in computers,
connect to and interact with each other. However, many
people use the term "MIDI" to refer to files (sequences)
produced by MIDI devices. (To learn more, see my previous
column entitled Increase Your MIDI IQ). Unlike the following
audio formats, MIDI files do not actually contain music
recordings, but rather a set of instructions on how to play
a tune. Think of a piano roll, which contains the
information on how to play a piece, but can't produce music
without a player piano.
means to you
files are very small, and therefore excellent for use in Web
pages and other applications. Just a few seconds of download
time, even on a slow connection, can yield several minutes
of listening pleasure. MIDI files will play on most browsers
without having to install a third-party plug-in. These files
are also much easier to edit than other types.
mentioned before, the main disadvantage of MIDI is that the
quality of playback is dependent on the playback device
(sound card or synthesizer). A MIDI sequence that sounds
great on a high-end card may sound terrible on a cheap one.
Also, MIDI is for instrumentals only, not vocals. Most MIDI
sequencing programs such as Cakewalk and Cubase can combine
MIDI with digital audio so that vocals or non-MIDI
instruments can be incorporated. However, these are all
proprietary formats, so if you record such a file with
Cakewalk the tune can be played back only with Cakewalk.