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New Lossless MP3 Format Explained

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the see-it's-like-mp3-but-lossless dept.

Software 346

CNETNate writes "Thomson, the company that licenses the MP3 patent, has released a new lossless MP3 format called mp3HD. It utilises both lossless and lossy audio contained inside a single .mp3 file, and the files will play on all existing MP3 players. The idea is simple: lossless files on your desktop that can be transferred without conversion to iPods and MP3 players. The issue, it transpires, is that although the full lossless/lossy hybrid MP3 file is transferred to players, only the lossy element can be played back. A command line encoder can be found on Thomson's Web site."

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I'll post first (-1, Offtopic)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27320877)

so it can't get lost

The only loss... (0, Troll)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 5 years ago | (#27320925)

... is the right of the performer to gain fair compensation for their art.

Re:The only loss... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27321777)

Fine, but who compensates me for inadvertent exposure to certain 'performers'?

*Re-perforates eardrums with corkscrew*

Re:The only loss... (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321867)

When you can define "fair compensation", we can start to worry about whether or not artists are getting it.

I'll wait for the MP3-HHD-DVVDD-BVD format. (4, Insightful)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 5 years ago | (#27320943)

Everything HAS to play MP3s now. []
Except MP3 players, which now plays MP4s.

Re:I'll wait for the MP3-HHD-DVVDD-BVD format. (5, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321101)

The chinese companies already have MP5 players ;)

Re:I'll wait for the MP3-HHD-DVVDD-BVD format. (5, Funny)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321177)

Wouldn't an MP5 [] player not be usable in many countries?

H&K (5, Funny)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322701)

That MP5 format is really bad for your ears.

Re:I'll wait for the MP3-HHD-DVVDD-BVD format. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322505) []

The device is an Mp10 player, it has built-in all the features of previous devices, that means, inside the mp10 there are an mp3, mp4, mp5, mp6, mp7, mp8 and mp9.

Someone from work one explained to me. Each feature, like a camera, mobile analogic TV, digital TV, fmRadio, etc. Each feature adds 1 to MpX.

Yes, but... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27320949)

Can it play Crysis?

why? (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27320953)

So, it's a container format with two different data streams in it, and you can stuff massively oversized files on your portable player, only you can only play the itty bity portion of that file that's the lossy one.

And the use case for this is?

Re:why? (5, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321105)

So let's see. It's like a car with helicopter blades, except the helicopter blades don't turn, but now you take up both lanes of traffic.

Re:why? (5, Funny)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321497)

I think a better comparison would be a helicopter that can also drive down the street. As if the convenience of not having to switch to a car outweighed the risk of accidentally decapitating pedestrians.

Re:why? (5, Funny)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321997)

As if the convenience of not having to switch to a car outweighed the risk of accidentally decapitating pedestrians.


Re:why? (4, Interesting)

brianosaurus (48471) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322175)

I think an even better comparison would be a car with a helicopter stapled to the trunk. That's not even right, since the car & helicopter are more analogous to the ipod and computer. This is more like everything you would put in your car has a 10:1 scale model of itself attached to it.

Its like every shirt in Arizona having a winter coat sewn to the back of it. Closets hold 1/10 as many clothes, but big closets are getting cheaper every day. The largest suitcases barely hold enough for a weekend trip. Everyone ends up dragging around winter coats like tails, even though they rarely ever need them.

My analogy is bad, but not as bad as this hybrid mp3 format. I suppose the format is OK for archival storage, but copying the huge files to a portable device with limited space is just stupid.

Re:why? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322305)

Its like a truck with a car in the back. When needed you lower a ramp and drive the car around the tight city streets.
Later you can enjoy the space and carrying options the truck gives you.
Or a bike on a RV.

Re:why? (2)

BigDXLT (1218924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322519)

But the difference here is that the smaller vehicle is still towing the bigger vehicle around with it whereever you drive.

Re:why? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322727)

Yes unhooking a smaller file for a portable device would be an option in mp3HD Pro version 2.0 for just $50 a year :)

Re:why? (0, Redundant)

acheron12 (1268924) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322867)

More like an RV on a bike.

Re:why? (5, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322709)

...copying the huge files to a portable device with limited space is just stupid.

Unless you sell flash memory.

Re:why? (2, Funny)

taucross (1330311) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322799)

I think an even better comparison would be a car analogy, with seventeen discrete car analogies attached below it.

Re:why? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27323025)

In case it isn't bleeding obvious (apparently it isn't): The key to good compression is prediction. If you can predict the signal to within a small margin of error, then you only need to encode a small error correction stream. In this case, the MP3 signal serves as the prediction and the remaining data is the correction stream. This concept requires that the prediction is stable, and since the prediction isn't an algorithm but based on actual data, that data has to be delivered with the correction stream. So this isn't so much MP3 with additional information as it's a lossless format which happens to use an MP3 stream as a component and is formatted such that MP3 players recognize just that stream.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322401)

you speak of decapitating pedestrians as if it is a bad thing

Re:why? (4, Insightful)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321333)

And why put the MP3 part there at all? Why would you need it if you already have a lossless file?

If you transfer it to a player not capable of playing the lossless file it doesn't make sense to store it all over there, so converting it to a lossy only file is the way to do it, and well, you can do that while transferring the file ... ... but then using "MP3" and their technology doesn't make sense at all since there already exist plenty of lossless formats and one compressed one would be enough.

It would had been enough if they had made an app which hooked into Windows file copying to UMS devices and encoded any lossless formats into MP3 during the transfer.

All in all, yes, it's useless, and a stupid idea.
(And if you already have a lossless file while not convert to something like AAC or OGG instead?)

Re:why? (5, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321521)

the use-case is probably some kind of lock-in, either now or later. or licensing fees. or NEW fees.

yup, sounds like container when a container is NOT needed. keeping dual copies makes sense (I do this, I have mp3 and flac of the same file but in diff subdirs) and when I'm home, I play from ./flac and when I'm away, I copied files from ./mp3 to the device. time to encode is still slow so I keep pre-encoded copies on my farm.

but putting flac in a portable and not being able to use it.

dumb. really dumb.

no, no use case. not for us, anyway. there might be a use-case for people making money from this, but not for us users.

Re:why? (2, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322523)

Couldn't you have both versions (lossy & lossless) in the same file, but strip the lossless upon copying to the mp3 player (ie by iTunes on an iPod)?

Re:why? (2, Interesting)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321663)

selling music and getting rid of the "which is the right format for you?" question, which would end up in support costs.

Re:why? (1)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322177)

So its a new music format for idiots, basically. No advantages for non-idiots that know the difference between a MP3, AAC, OGG, and raw 44Khz files. And how to convert between them with Free software.

Re:why? (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322295)

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not. If not, that explains why Free software advocates have trouble selling a free product...

Re:why? (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322313)


which fraction of the population are non-idiots, according to your definition?

Re:why? (1)

0xygen (595606) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321841)

I imagine it contains the significantly smaller deltas between the output of the lossy codec and the the exact audio data?

The use case is presumably to not require 2 copies of the same data to maintain backwards compatibility.

Re:why? (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321857)

Ya! My 200G ipod can hold three songs now!

Re:why? (1)

hikaricore (1081299) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322083)

Unless they're Opeth songs.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322229)

Opeth! \m/

Re:why? (3, Insightful)

niko9 (315647) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321955)

Would have been smarter to have the MP3 player know to only download the lossy part of the file and metadata. I'm sure someone
can figure out how to do this with the FLAC container, i.e., the FLAC file would have a .flac and a lossy .ogg, and a program like gtkpod would know
to only import the lossy .ogg.

Re:why? (2, Funny)

kpainter (901021) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321959)

It is like these guys are trying to patent strcat

Re:why? (4, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322125)

MP3 by itself is not a container format. It is a raw data stream designed for handling realtime audio processing. It sounds like this is more like a "hacked" MP3 with special invalid frames tacked on to the end with difference data, similar to the way ID3v2 tags and album art are embedded.

Re:why? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322657)

The use case is providing an avenue for a better format with strong backwards capability.

Phase 1: You can use the file as an MP3 with previous generation software/hardware. Yeah, its a waste of space, but at least it works.

Phase 2: Improvements to software identify hardware devices that cannot play the lossless stream, and instead of dumping the whole oversized file in, extract the lossy stream onto the device. Now, with just a software update, the file is a superior distribution medium without any disadvantage on legacy devices. Plus, cycles are cheap compared to transfer costs -- if the lossy portion can easily be streamed, an isolated lossy stream should be cheap to extract.

A bit of thought instead of instantly throwing your nose in the air goes a long way.

Re:why? (5, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322971)

Not to mention there is a REASON why they are coming out with this now, and it AIN'T because they want you to have high fi MP3s. It is because the MP3 patents [] expire in Dec 2012 so they are hoping to get all the MP3 makers and home users switched over so they can keep drawing a check.

And the simple fact is thanks to the loudness war [] trying to come up with high fi MP3 is about as pointless as coming up with a super polished turd. The extra bitrate will NOT be any better than the 320k we have now, simply because the source material is so shitty. In fact most folks I know use 128K VBR because they can't tell the difference. So don't be fooled, this is NOT to make your music sound better. It is so they can keep MP3 compression under patents for another 20+ years. I don't know about you but I would rather stick to good old MP3 and wait to see what kind of cool new gadgets come out in 2013 when the patents pass. Plus having legal Linux support is a nice bonus too.

The obvious problem (5, Informative)

pxc (938367) | more than 5 years ago | (#27320987)

that you probably thought of when you read the summary ("So now I get a larger-than-FLAC sized file on my portable player so I can get 128kbps?") is acknowledged in TFA.

The problems

At face value it's remarkably convenient, like a car that doubles up as a plane. But like your aeromobile, there are problems for the average consumer. Firstly, file size. A normal 320Kbps MP3 of the same Pink Floyd song was just 14.6MB, and 320Kbps is all you'll hear if you listen to an mp3HD track on your iPod.

But the lossless audio stored in the file will be stored on your iPod nevertheless, taking up precious storage space. (Although we should point out to audiophiles that the hybrid files are smaller than the combined size of a FLAC and 320Kbps MP3, although are less efficient to encode than FLAC.)

I don't really see to whom this will be a valuable technology--audiophiles will probably have a large enough music collection that they don't see the benefit in taking up 10x as much space on their portable device, and are probably capable of reencoding when they transfer (some media players can do this automatically). Most everyone else just listens to low quality Limewire rips on their PC anyway.

Anyone here think they would really want to use this format? (genuine question)

Re:The obvious problem (1, Informative)

PayPaI (733999) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321379)

Besides, the iPod can already play lossless audio. I encode everything in Apple Lossless already. Space is cheap, there's no reason not to.

Re:The obvious problem (3, Informative)

Taikutusu (1479335) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321499)

There are other players out there than iPods. I'm sure if you're an audiophile, you've done your research and decided to buy a player which supports (or can be flahsed to support) FLAC. I get the feeling this technology will be DOA. There's simply no market for it.

Re:The obvious problem (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322521)

Space isn't so cheap when you're buying it from Apple.

Re:The obvious problem (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321889)

Anyone here think they would really want to use this format? (genuine question)

Is storage space really that "precious" anymore?

Genuine question.

The decoder is first generation.

I'd like the option of spinning off an occasional low-fi copy.

But as I grow older, I've find myself less willing to accept the second-rate.

I find that my time has become precious. That I am no longer willing to invest it in nursing P2P downloads that are not worth saving.

Re:The obvious problem (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322109)

At the 'home station'? No. On the portable? Yes.

Cheap storage is not exactly portable yet, and portable storage isn't exactly cheap.

Re:The obvious problem (1)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322257)

Is storage space really that "precious" anymore?

Perhaps not on a desktop (or even laptop) machine. But on a (physically) small portable device with permanently installed non-upgradeable storage, I think it probably still is.

And the right solution (for non-idiots) is to have larger high quality files (where available) on their home/'base' machine, and then encode smaller lower quality files for said portable device(s).

This is useless. (5, Insightful)

twitchingbug (701187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27320991)

Great. I'll have 80% of the capacity of my MP3 player used up by bits I will never access. Great job solving the problem fellas.

Re:This is useless. (5, Insightful)

m0rbidini (559360) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321677)

No really. It is useless and a lousy hack. It's just a way for Thomson and FhG to further milk the mp3 buzzword, one more time.

Useless format:
        * The lossless part is stored in ID3v2 tags.
        * Size of ID3v2 tags is limited to 256MB by specifications; as a result, lossless part of an mp3hd file can't be larger than 256MB.

Current tagging software isn't prepared to deal with this kind of situation, so you're going to see various disturbing behaviors such as:
        * Very slow tag updates (near-full-file-rewrite with each edit).
        * Heavy memory usage of tag editors.
        * Retagging stripping correction data.
        * Tag editing or even reading failures when approaching the 256MB limit because software will try to put each ID3v2 frame in a single memory block and allocating a single block of such size is likely to fail in 32-bit address space because of fragmentation issues.


Re:This is useless. (2, Informative)

philipgar (595691) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322345)

* Tag editing or even reading failures when approaching the 256MB limit because software will try to put each ID3v2 frame in a single memory block and allocating a single block of such size is likely to fail in 32-bit address space because of fragmentation issues.

What the hell are you talking about here? It might fail to allocate a 256 MB block if the machine doesn't have enough memory, or if the program decoding the module is running in the kernel and using kmalloc, but for the most part, applications do not have to worry about memory fragmentation. Virtual memory takes care of fragmentation for you, as only 4KB pages need to be contiguous.

The only time this wouldn't work is if the application that you're running doesn't have 256MB of its address space free. Unless the application is using close to the 2GB or 4GB address space the application is given this shouldn't be an issue.


Re:This is useless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322361)

>Size of ID3v2 tags is limited to 256MB by specifications;
Holy hell, seriously?
What possible use could there be for storing that much data in it?
256MB is larger than most albums in MP3...

Unless they were predicting a potential future use for it when the music industry becomes so evil that they want every single source of inspiration logged right back to the first song...

Re:This is useless. (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322935)

The 256MB is for the lossless part, not the mp3.

I have a 50 minute-long track. It's an mp3, but as a FLAC it'd either exceed or get damned near to 256MB. (FLAC gives you a file that's roughly 50-70% the size of the uncompressed audio. There are codecs that do better in ratio but they seem to all (?) require much more effort to decode.)

Re:This is useless. (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322451)

Considering most people use a sync suite to manage their MP3 player couldn't this be part of the sync system?

If the container allows for easy dropping of the uncompressed bit you could have both in one file but at sync time tell itunes/zune etc to just strip the lossless version on the way out the door.

That way you dont' have to keep track of two files on your computer BUT you can also use the low quality version on iZune.

That sounds both convenient and useful.

transpire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27321039)

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:transpire? (5, Funny)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321539)

Isn't a transpire a male vampire who dresses like a female vampire?

More than double the space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27321049)

Hm. Sounds interesting, although I'd imagine that holding both audio streams wouldn't be that good for disk space... Most of the newer portable audio players have more than enough room, but if technologies like this become the norm for distributing audio, then the amount of songs that a player could hold would be more than halved...

My tastes aren't refined enough for me to appreciate lossless music over a decent quality lossy version, so while this is interesting, I doubt that it is something that excites me one way or the other...

Re:More than double the space? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321607)

Most of the newer portable audio players have more than enough room, but if technologies like this become the norm for distributing audio, then the amount of songs that a player could hold would be more than halved...

Yes we have more "room" but the general trend has been to switch to flash-memory based players where more than 8 gigs of space is expensive. Add that with the rise of video, applications, photos and other large files on digital audio players and you will soon find out that there really isn't that much room.

Useless? (1)

ninjapiratemonkey (968710) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321051)

Although TFA says it's smaller than the mp3 version + the flac version of the file, how much smaller? from their numbers, it seems you save about 5 MB over having 2 versions of the same song.

But, where ever you listen to it, you're only listening to one version of the song. So it takes up more space than should be required on every single device you use.

Maybe instead of coming up with new formats for music that are backwards compatible with existing tech, they should just make iPods and other mp3 players compatible with lossless formats.

Re:Useless? (1)

Kopiok (898028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321315)

Well, the article states that the ripped mp3HD was 5MB bigger than the comparable FLAC rip, while the original, regular MP3 was 14.6MB. Using a little bit of maths, it looks like it's about 9.4MB less than a FLAC+MP3.

I didn't read the article, but... (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321071)

Is it actually FLAC, and do nightingales have it built in? []

Loudness war (1, Insightful)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321079)

Good idea, but with music being recorded with horrible loudness levels, its a waste. But I do like being able to not use something other than MP3, and burning back to a CD anytime I want. []

Good Luck with that Thomson (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321143)

Anyone who wants better quality is already using FLAC. It's not like they don't have the space for it on their massive MP3 players or computer hard drives.

And it ain't going to replace MP3s on stores. The format is good enough for most sales.

Re:Good Luck with that Thomson (2, Funny)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321531)

To Thompson I would say you had your chance with rubbish MP3, so FLAC off!

The stupidest format ever! (5, Interesting)

Per Wigren (5315) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321167)

Basically it's a standard MP3 with correction delta as a binary blob in the ID3-tag. Was it really that hard to make it interleaved? Even having the correction data as a separate file, like Wavpack does it in its hybrid mode, would be better as it would make it much easier to add the files to MP3-players without using extra tools. This is just stupid. You won't be able to stream it as it's not interleaved and ID3 tags are limited to 256 MB so you can't have a MP3HD-file longer than 35 minutes or so.

All we need... (4, Insightful)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321243)

is more FLAC support in portables. Problem solved more elegantly and without yet more proprietary codecs.

Re:All we need... (1)

Yankumi (807658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321293)

I completely agree. When the storage limits on digital music players were still small it made sense to avoid FLAC but it astonishes me how few modern players support it.

Re:All we need... (2, Interesting)

twitchingbug (701187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321603)

While I don't disagree you there. More codec support is always welcome. I think there are some advantages to running lossy codecs on portable players.

1) Capacity
2) Battery Life

Capacity isn't quite where we need to be for the average person to use lossless all the time. Assuming people have roughly 1700 songs [] on it (A reference on Slashdot! woot!). If each mp3 song is 5megs you need an 8gig player to hold that. The lossless copy, is what? 30megs? You'd need about 50gigs to hold that same data, which is around, but not exactly mainstream yet. This problem will be mostly solved in 2-3 years.

Battery Life, might be the harder problem to solve. Cause just reading the bits and processing them with always take more energy than the lossy copies. I'm curious to know the battery life difference if anyone has done an experiment with their player? But battery life will become more important as people are integrating their mp3 players with their phones. Who cared if your iPod ran out of juice. People care a lot more when their iPhone runs out of power.

Re:All we need... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322369)

Codec profit is always welcome.

3) Revenue stream from a voice codec.

Re:All we need... (1)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322059)

Here you go: []

Re:All we need... (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322933)

Thanks! I was wanting to finally join the 21st century since I broke my CD player, but I wanted something that would play FLAC.

Lower Bitrate = Longer Battery Life? (1)

Azureflare (645778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321271)

I imagine the lower quality audio reduces the amount of battery required to process and play the audio. I'm not too sure about this though. Anyone know about this?

For example, does the audio processor on a portable mp3 player draw more power for higher bitrate files than lower bitrate files?

Re:Lower Bitrate = Longer Battery Life? (1)

Azureflare (645778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321737)

Nevermind, I read the actual article (wow), and the version played on the mp3 player is 320kbps...

I could see a use for this if they have a version that is lossless with a low quality version (say, 160 or 192kbps). The process of transferring the file to the portable mp3 player would extract the lower quality version and only store that data on the player (thus allowing the lossless data on the desktop, and the low quality space saving version on the player).

I'm guessing the format can't really do that so yeah, I guess it is pretty useless.

Complete waste of time (3, Informative)

sammydee (930754) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321345)

Relevant hydrogenaudio thread: []

In summary, it seems like a fairly useless and poorly thought out format. To be clear, this WILL NOT play losslessly in a standard mp3 player, you must use a special decoder to get the lossless bit. It will only play the lossy component in a normal mp3 player.

Lossless information stored in id3v2 tags? Bad hack that will break just about every tagging program out there. File sizes much larger than real lossless codecs and encoding/decoding speed is much slower than flac. Also you can't have tracks longer than about an hour due to id3v2 size limits. Additionally, a full size flac file and 256kbit mp3 often comes in at a SMALLER size than this one monolithic hacked up mp3.

Nothing to see here people, this is a waste of time. Something like lossy/lossless wavpack hybrid is a much better solution.


This could be nice actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27321365)

This actually could be nice... I mean, I have separate directories for my FLAC files and another for my MP3 (same albums, just in MP3)

I would love for iTunes to take this new MP3 "lossless" and play it back lossless, but if I say drag and drop it on to my iPod, have it just transfer the lossy portion of the encode

Basically, you can now just manage one set of rips / not have to keep managing two sets (lossless and lossy)

Learn with history or make the same mistakes. (5, Informative)

Volanin (935080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321439)

I dare say that this insistence on backward compatibility is going to kill this format.

If anyone still remembers, many years ago Thomson released the mp3PRO format.
It was a low bitrate MP3 with some added spectral band data that could recreate the original
music sound quality. So in theory, you could have the same quality for half the bitrate/size.

To my decaying ears, it sounded really good at the time... if played on the supported players.
But when you played these files in any unsupported player, which happened to be all of them
except for the Thomson's Player or the Thomson's Winamp Plugin, you ended up listening to
a HORRIBLE low bitrate sound quality, since the extra mp3PRO information was ignored.

And even worse: you had no way of telling if a file being downloaded was an original mp3 file
or a new mp3PRO file, since they both used the same file extension. Maybe if they had renamed
the extension to .mp3pro or something like that, the mp3PRO format might have had some chance...

Years pass... and now they are doing the same thing again.

Instead of focusing on a lossless mp3 codec for a specific kind of market/enthusiast, they are
insisting in keeping backward compatibility with players using the same method as mp3PRO did.
And once more the files are going to have the same extension as the original ones, instead
of .mp3hd or something similar.

I hope I am wrong, but this surely spells doom to me.

Not for long (1)

oftenwrongsoong (1496777) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321445)

The issue, it transpires, is that although the full lossless/lossy hybrid MP3 file is transferred to players, only the lossy element can be played back.

This will be true only until players begin supporting the lossless format.

Re:Not for long (1)

ameyer17 (935373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321655)

If they start supporting mp3hd, you mean.

This is stupid. (0, Redundant)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321485)

So presuming the normal case where I have a PC that can play the lossless version and a media player that can only play the lossy version, now have to:

a) waste large amounts of high-value storage space to store "lossless-mp3" data on my pocket player that I can't actually play


b) waste disk storage space on my PC for the data for a lossy version that I will never choose to play because the lossless version is also available.

bad idea (2, Interesting)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321529)

Well, the good thing about this would be that if someone actually buys a MP3 encoded this way they wouldn't be paying prime dollars for low quality lossy audio like they do now. But the bad news is that all mp3 appliances, as well as any current mp3 player that you have on your computer, will only play the low quality sound, the lossless track is rather hidden. And if you copy these mp3 files to your mp3 player, they end up wasting most of the space for something that will not be heard.

And, of course, this just muddies the waters. Some people may come to think that mp3 is decent quality (a few tracks might be), and then unknowingly buy low quality mp3 files without the extra hidden high quality track.

A far better "fix" to the problem would simply be to sell tracks in a high quality format, perhaps including a lower quality mp3 file with a lossless copy, although even if the mp3 were not included it should be able to be created as long as objectionable DRM were not part of the deal. There just seems to be no justification to packing both copies of the audio into the same file. Except, of course, as a marketing point. Lets take care of marketing right after we deal with the lawyers and politicians.

Re:bad idea (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322023)

if someone actually buys a MP3 encoded this way...

People actually buy mp3s? Are you sure? Why?

what about (2, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321605)

Does this mean that they're abandoning the mp3pro format? And just as it was about to finally catch on, too....

2 files is often a better solution (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321639)

Why exactly do I want a hybrid file with twice the data on my MP3 player. I may not care about space on my computer hard drive as much but every song transfered to the MP3 player that's twice the size it needs to be pushes out another song that I could have taken with me.

Converting on the fly (if you value space more), or storing 2 versions and only uploading the right one to your player (if you value time more) seems like a much better solution.

Making worse products, fuck yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27321641)

FLAC already does this without any weird conversion stuff, and Vorbis is already higher quality at the same bitrate.

I hope more PMPs support this. It's a good format, it's older, and it's free.

Makes no sense (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321743)

I'd be listening to FLAC on my iPod except that storage space is an issue. The entire point is that you're willing to trade-off lower sound quality for more space - on your portable player.

This just takes up more space. You're unable to play the higher-quality audio on your mp3 player (that's why you have the low-bitrate in the first place)... but you're still taking up space with it... I know! To get that space back, I'll just split the lossless audio from the 120kbps audio...

This is useless. Is there even a legitimate use case for this? The only thing I can come up with is that users are too stupid to manage their CD-rips (lossless) and lower-quality mp3s. That's a software problem - make the transfer program re-encode on transfer. I know for a fact that WMP does this, so it can't be too hard.

It's all in the name (5, Funny)

ray_mccrae (78654) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321767)

I predict this will be a raging success on the scale of JPEG2000

Why? (4, Insightful)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321775)

My P-133 could do better than real time encoding of .wav -> .mp3

So why, when computers are now routinely 50 or 60 times faster than that, would I bother with two separate file formats crammed into one blob on the relatively tiny memory of my portable device?

Why, when disk space is now so cheap on my pc, can't I have a simple background process converting .flac into.mp3, to be stored separately for transfer to my portable device?

Why would I suddenly want to put up with 9/10th's of the storage capacity of my portable device being used for useless data?

In short, what the fuck were they thinking?

Re:Why? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322543)

"real-time" in your case means that it can transcode the song while playing the audio. A four-minute song takes four minutes to transcode.

But the kind of real-time transcoding that would obviate the extra data (which would increase the "lossless" files by what, 10%? big deal.) is the transfer speed of the storage media. If it takes four minutes to transcode a four minute song, that's orders of magnitude too slow. A four minute song needs to take less than a second to transcode.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

BigBuckHunter (722855) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322741)

In short, what the fuck were they thinking?

"I wonder if this cow has any milk left in it?"

They're seeing if they can extract more $ for mp3 IP licenses.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322775)

> My P-133 could do better than real time encoding of .wav -> .mp3

That's odd, since l3enc on my P133 ran at a very small fraction of real-time. Heck, it took 1/4 of the cpu just to do real-time playback.

Give me lossless! (2, Insightful)

Godji (957148) | more than 5 years ago | (#27321861)

This is completely dumb, but if it finally makes LOSSLESS digital music stores a reality (that have no DRM and are not watermarked), I'm all for it!

Didn't RTFA (duh), but I wonder what codec they use for the lossless part? Not that I care, since I would transcode that to FLAC before I even played it.

I'm the only one that thinks this is a good idea? (0)

jerkychew (80913) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322015)

I'm surprised that nobody thinks this is a good idea. To the poster above that said it's like a car with helicopter blades, I have a better analogy: This is like a car with two motors. One motor is street legal and can be driven in all fifty states. The second is a fully modified fire-breathing 800HP monster that can only be used in closed-course racing. When you're driving to work you use the street legal motor, but you can drive the same car to the race track and get the full potential of the second motor.

As MP3 players get more and more storage space, we're going to see scenarios similar to those in desktop computers - Grandma only needs a fraction of that 500GB drive in her new eMachine. The same will be said for Sally the high school student with her 60GB iPod. If that space is available why not fill it with the highest quality music possible so that music is available wherever one goes? I understand that it won't be playable in my iPod but it will be available to hook up to a stereo or computer etc etc at a friends house / party / barbecue.

Am I alone? :-)

Re:I'm the only one that thinks this is a good ide (1)

taco8982 (725292) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322147)

To extend your analogy, having to carry around the extra weight and volume for both engines kills your gas mileage on the street and causes it to accelerate and handle like a school bus on the track.

Re:I'm the only one that thinks this is a good ide (1, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322163)

So when driving to work your fuel economy sucks because you have second engine that probably doubles the weight of the car that you don't use.

And when you are at the race track you lose all your races because you have a second engine you aren't using adding weight to slow you down.

Re:I'm the only one that thinks this is a good ide (4, Insightful)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322219)

My reply is why bother supporting a proprietary format to incorporate lossless audio when there's already a well-developed open standard already, namely FLAC? By your argument, the expansion of disk space makes lossless storage more attractive. I agree with that, but what I don't want is for everyone to hop on board another standard from Thomson and friends which can't legally be supported in free and open software.

Forward-thinking companies like COWON support open formats like FLAC and Matroska. Other players should as well. We've all suffered long enough with proprietary formats that bring nothing extra to the table other than the marketing power of large corporate backers.

You're alone. (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322303)

The only reason for MP3 (vs. lossless/uncompressed) is to save storage space.

If your assumption that storage space will increase beyond need is true, then why bother with lossy files at all, let alone combination ones which are larger than lossless?

One can expect that media players, as their storage expands beyond that needed for lossy compressed storage, will support lossless and PCM (".wav") formats. The market leader already does.

Given ample storage, just use PCM (.wav) files, or lossless compression.

Re:I'm the only one that thinks this is a good ide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27322341)

And meanwhile you're carrying around that huge racecar engine, which is taking up your entire back seat and trunk space for backwards compatibility's sake.

Worse, you're not allowed to tune either engine or put your own gasoline in it without paying a huge licensing fee.

A simpler solution is to get FLAC, transcode it to MP3 yourself, and then store them separately on your MP3 player.

A better solution is to make PMPs that can play FLAC.

A crazy solution is to design a new FLAC / Vorbis-based format that stores a Vorbis version with the lost signal appended as a FLAC.

When a cheap-ass PMP sees it, it just plays the vorbis part.
When a good PMP or PC sees it, it plays both and adds them back together to get the lossless version.

Alternately, use a software program to artifically drop the quality, then make the lossy stream just a FLAC encoding of an artifically lost signal.

I know absolutely nothing about audio codecs, but I have a feeling in my balls that this will work.

Re:I'm the only one that thinks this is a good ide (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322507)

Unfortunately, the 800HP fire breathing engine is so big that it took up all the space of your SUV trunk and the back seats (second and third row).
It made your wife mad, so you ended up buying here the minivan she wanted to replace your other car, a small sedan, so at least she can truck the kids around and go grocery shopping.

Then the extra weight on your monster reduce your mileage from 25MPG to 5MPG when you use the 50-states street legal engine on your daily commute.
Your gas bills are getting so huge that you decide to buy another vehicle for your daily commute.
You are really struggling to make the payments on your wife's minivan and your 800HP monster, so you end up buying a used Vespa scooter.

On a rainy day, you are riding to work wondering if Obama's bailout will help you out, when suddenly you get crushed by somebody who is driving another one of these 800HP monster car, illegally set in Fire-Breathing mode, at the corner of 3rd and Market. RIP jerkychew.

You leave your wife with a mortgage payment and two car payments she cant afford on her part time job... but she is glad your madness is over. And maybe now Obama's bailout is going to help her....

And Yes, You are alone.

Too Porky (2, Interesting)

JackSpratts (660957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322103)

flac is of course lossless, and by definition reproduces a clone of source. it is also becomming ubiquitous. among those who care about quality or who swap bootlegs penetration is near 100%. it's a great format for these reasons. the problem is size. it's huge, on average nearly 2/3 that of a wav file. apes are slightly better, shrinking wavs to about half their size, but still quite large. really, if anything is going to unseat either flac or ape it's not going to be something even larger. it sounds as if this new mp combo file has approached 3/4 of a wav and that is just going the wrong way, paricularly since the disadvantages of girth are not offset by any corresponding advances in sound with everyday players. listeners might as well forget compression, lossless or otherwise and just go with wav files for all the good this piece of pork will do. i'm fairly certain wavs are playable on nearly every existing portable.

the world wasn't waiting for this. but a slim lossless file 1/3 the size of a wav? different story altogether.

- js.

Another extension (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322171)

Oh, yes, lets tweak this patent just a tad and see if we can extend it for another 20 years.

Obligatory... (1)

flattop100 (624647) | more than 5 years ago | (#27322497)

It's like storing the World Wide Web inside the Library of Congress!
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