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What are the main differences between MP3 and MP4 format and which one is better?

What are the main differences between MP3 and MP4 format and which one is better?

There are many ways in which we can enjoy a good song or any sound file. Those different ways in which we are offered are called formats, and give the content different characteristics. Very prominent are the two formats that we will see today: mp3 and mp4 .

Despite being known for being audio tracks, the truth is that the latter is not exactly in audio format. But, come on, that’s something we’re going to see next when we see what each of them consist of and what their differences are .

As an addition we have also included, and at the end of the article, a double classification of the types of audio formats , so that you can know exactly where these are and what their characteristics are depending on of these classifications.

What is the MP3 format and what does it have?

Formato MP3

MP3 is an audio format used to store compressed sound data, obtaining playable tracks on certain devices both portable and desktop (computers, DVD players, consoles, speakers and other home sound systems …) Its extension is .mp3 .

Its development comes from the hand of Moving Picture Experts Group and was born to be part of the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 standards . Although, it should be mentioned that what was initially sought was the transfer of musical data through the use of telephone lines. It was in 1992 when the ISO became an audio compression standard.

This is a format that is patented and that includes an algorithm with loss . Based on the classifications of formats that we will see later, we have that this is a proprietary compressed audio format with loss.

The compression of this type of audio format can be done with different bit rates per second (bit / s), obtaining results, of course, of different quality and size and taking more or less time for it.

Compression can be performed to the point of obtaining tracks reduced up to 15 times compared to the original. This makes, in conjunction with other features, that is a widely used format due to that versatility .

Its structure includes several frames, which include:

  • A header: Tells the player that a valid frame starts, starting the execution of the file.
  • The corresponding file data >, which are made up of MPEG bits , which will be used by the player for such execution.

These aspects form a sequence called Elementary Stream . Each of these frames, with its corresponding header and data, is independent, and can be cut and reproduced on any device.

Its biggest milestone is to be the first of the formats that became popular with the use of internet , because it served, and continues to serve, for file sharing , both on P2P networks and on platforms for buying tracks and music clips.

So much so that it is considered a universal standard, being one of those with a greater variety of devices that can reproduce it, being able to reproduce it virtually anywhere , either in a physical player or in digital one.

What is the MP4 format and what does it have?

Formato MP4

The MP4, or MPEG-4 part 14, is a container that includes both an audio track and a video, encoded in different formats. The result is a single file based on MOV , which is a video format. Its extension is .mp4 .

It also works with a compression algorithm that allows a very good audio-video optimization , offering a high final quality. Compression can occur in up to 16: 1 .

Main differences between mp3 vs mp4 audio formats

Let’s see what they have differently, clearly, mp3 and mp4 as file playback formats:

  • Function . They are developed to listen to music and to watch videos and images respectively. This offers us the clear and main difference: they don’t even have the same goal, although we can use the mp4 quietly to listen to songs, of course.
  • Form . The .mp3 format is a mere compression of audio files. In contrast, the .mp4 is based on MOV, a video format, being a container that includes both an audio track and a video track (or image) that are produced, by encoding, offering a single final product.
  • Compression and c sound quality . The compression of the mp3 is much greater, so that the loss of quality is too. Therefore, sometimes mp4 is used only to listen to music (even if it is played together with video), thus maintaining high quality.
  • Players . The MP4 player is a complete container that includes greater compression of the mp4 files (not the data), so that they offer a high storage capacity. Under similar conditions, the mp3 player may contain less content.

How many types of audio formats exist?

Tabla comparativa formatos de audio

Audio formats can be classified according to whether or not the data stored in these are compressed and, if so, whether or not they are lost.

Uncompressed audio formats

  • The main one is PCM , which is archived as .wav (based on an RIFF) for Windows systems and as .aiff (based on IFF) for MACs. Both versions are flexible and allow the storage of multiple combinations of bit rate or sample rate, making it ideal for recording .
  • CDA is small and is used to access the different parts of a Compact Disc .
  • BWF is a standard format that the European Union created to replace to .wav . Allows meta-data storage . It is used in professional editing programs.
  • BWF is a format that has a time stamp and easily synchronizes with images.
  • >

Compressed audio formats

  • Audio formats compressed with loss : When encoding the data, a part of it disappears, it is lost. This happens because a process is carried out that, being shorter in time, reduces the quality of the result but obtains other benefits such as er faster when it is opened and take up less space .
    • We have already seen that the .mp3 enters this category.
    • ACC offers files of more lightness and same quality as the previous one. The use of iTunes became popular.
    • OGG is a free version of .mp3 or .ACC, so there is no patent restriction. Ideal for being open but worse supported for not being so well known.
  • Lossless compressed audio formats : These are formats that require more processing time, making efficient use of the space they need and achieving a compression ratio 2: 1 . They use the same amount of bits to both compress sound and silence.
    • The best known and used is FLAC , ALAC corresponding to Apple. It is lighter than an uncompressed file but, for obvious reasons, it is still large, as it maintains the quality of the original audio.
    • MP3HD turns out to be an improved version of the MP3, with high quality , typical of a .wav. Offers compatibility with MP3 players.

Open or proprietary audio formats

Finally, we leave another interesting classification, which results from knowing if these audio formats are open or proprietary.

This would be:

  • Proprietary or closed formats. They are protected by rights or patents with the main purpose of preventing their operation, parts or design from being known.
  • Open formats. Organized data is stored by open standards without restrictions on access.
  • Free open formats. There is freedom in the use we give it.
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