what is mp3?
     Mp3 is an mpeg reduction format for audio files. It reduces the file size to about 10% of the original .wav (or similar) files´ size, means that a normal song that is about 40 to 50 mb big will be 4 to 5 mb small. MP3 is not a compression format, it reduces data. It is based on reduction algorhthms developed by the Fraunhofer Institute. Besides compression they reduce / delete data that you don´t hear. I myself do not hear any difference between a .wav file and a 128 kb/s .mp3 file.

what is it good for?
     Silly question! But as I asked ... I will answer:
You can transfer sound data much faster. You can write the content of 10 or 11 CDs to one CD (but you cannot listen using a normal CD player - you need to have a computer and mp3 software). There are only a few CD players available that play directly from MP3-CDs. But imagine: You have a computer with a 6 gb harddisk and a good soundcard: You can store about 100 CDs on the drive and play any song within seconds. That´s really enough for a party. 
     Some companies already offer small mp3 players. As there are no mechanical parts needed for playback you can jump and run as much as you like ... . At this time the memory capacity of the players is quite low ... but for sure - this will change.
     Mp3 is also used to spread copyrighted commercial music all over the world using the internet. This is illegal. Therefore I do not offer any links to websites or chat that deal with this topic. 

to get started:
     Go to MP3.com. There you will find players, encoders, CD rippers etc.
The rippers are programs that "rip" audio data directly from CDs to your computers´ harddrive and save it as .wav data (or similar). They "rip" digital data so you don´t have to use your soundcard and the sound quality is 1:1. The encoders are programs that encode .wav data (or similar) to .mp3 data. The players ... well ... .
     I recommend using the Winamp mp3-player. It´s the most common one, it´s easy to handle and it works great. IMPORTANT: Winamp now offers streaming like RealMedia. Go to Icecast and choose between many live-streams.You can even make your own live-radio! There is software available to broadcast music, use your microphone to talk live - just like any other DJ. The only limitation is your data-bandwidth: If you have only ISDN, you will have to limit the number of listeners to 3 or 4 and you still have a poor sound-quality. But it´s fun
     There´s another common player by Xing, which plays mpeg-video too. When I installed it, the Xing-player seemed to delete my soundcard drivers so I didn´t hear anything anymore. Fortunately it´s uninstall program worked properly. :->  I don´t want to say anything negative about the Xing-player, but when a program deactivates my soundcard - I deactivate the program.  ;-)
     At MP3.com you will also find thousands of free mp3-songs, sorted by genre, country etc., message forums and nearly everything that deals with mp3.
     I had problems with some mp3-files at MP3.com: They were not there, means there were dead links. So if you are really new to mp3, download a player and test it using the mp3-file below. 

one mp3 file...
  ...I made can be downloaded here. It´s a short interpretation of "Eleonor Rigby" by The Beatles. It´s no good example of  the great mp3 quality ... I used my old and bad soundcard to sample a tape recording, but I refreshed and equalized it and I think it sounds quite good. It´s about 1 mb small.
 

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