back to article MP3 'died' and nobody noticed: Key patents expire on golden oldie tech

Key patents held on the MP3 audio format expired last month – and it's taken three weeks for anyone to notice. And the Fraunhofer Institute has declined to renew the intellectual property it owns on the MPEG Audio Layer III technology – as well as terminating its licensing programme. So yup, now you can use MP3 encoding in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "If you're looking for bleeding-edge music formats today, have a look at MQA, or Master Quality Authenticated (MQA)"

    Audiofools please form an orderly queue here where you can talk complete bollox.

    PS don't forget to stick used egg boxes all over your walls to kill unwanted standing waves as a complement to the ridiculously expensive oxygen free copper cables you bought.

    Stereophile, a synonym for gobbledegook talking wanker.

    1. SteveK

      Don't forget your gold plated optical cables too!

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        When you're streaming music, don't use WiFi, use a $10000 gold Ethernet cable made for audio fidelity. Anything else could play havoc with your lossy compression algorithm.

        1. TitterYeNot
          Coat

          " don't use WiFi, use a $10000 gold Ethernet cable made for audio fidelity"

          Ethernet! What are you smoking? It's common knowledge that Ethernet cables use a linear signal and so induce audible negative feedback at primary and secondary resonant frequencies!

          Any proper audiophile knows that you need a loop topology like Token Ring for a digital music network, and with Token Ring you get the added benefit of being able to tune the token to your prefered frequency to create a more ambient tone (as long as platinum carbide termination is used so that the token doesn't fall out of course.)

          <Coughs>

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            I tried that but I kept losing the Token and they're quite expensive you know.

            1. PNGuinn Silver badge
              Coat

              "I tried that but I kept losing the Token and they're quite expensive you know"

              You can get a Round Tuit off Ebay to replace it for very little money these days Just watch the quality and check the roundness before you try to use it.

              You're welcome.

      2. TheVogon Silver badge

        Gold plated optical cables? pffft I'll raise you £20K speaker cables: https://www.whathifi.com/news/russ-andrews-launches-kimber-select-flagship-speaker-cables-ps3772

        Apparently they come with a gold leaf gullibility certificate...

        1. m0rt Silver badge

          Jeez! Vitriolic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            >Jeez! Vitriolic.

            Yes I was a bit but two things that do make my blood boil are snake oil salesman and the stupidly gullible for buying it. If you can't blind 'em with science then baffle 'em with bullshit.

            Through all the bullshit people fail to actually see what matters, a good tune.

            1. m0rt Silver badge

              "Through all the bullshit people fail to actually see what matters, a good tune."

              A good tune, which is subjective, yes.

              Then followed by good production, that helps.

              Then good production is rewarded by good playback.

              You can skimp on any of that. But then it limits what you can achieve. THis is why 24bit and 96khz exists. If not higher.

              Snake oil salesmen, yes. Fine. But you may as well get upset with people for liking Bieber, as paying a lot of money onto something that they *think* makes it sound better. If they think it does, that is all that matters in that context. That is the way subjective appreciation works. It is the way it always works. If you are always worried about the science behind listening to music, then you too are repeating the same pattern as those that worry their copper interconnects are may have too much signal degredation over the 500mm and want to replace them with Orgonite connectors.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                >But then it limits what you can achieve. THis is why 24bit and 96khz exists. If not higher.

                I see you joined the queue, you may want to look how speakers and human hearing works as to why this is irrelevant.

                I challenge you £5,000 to tell the difference between 320kbps MP3, CD, 16 bit FLAC and 24bit 96khz in a blind hearing test conducted by me or Mr James Randi.

                Pi is now quoted to 2.2 x 10^13 decimal places but that doesn't make it any better at landing you on the Moon.

                1. MOV r0,r0
                  FAIL

                  Lays down £5k challenge, posts as AC

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    >Lays down £5k challenge, posts as AC

                    Challenge accepted, please join the James Randi foundation forum, make yourself known and you will be contacted.

                    http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/forumindex.php

                    Easiest £5k I've ever made.

                2. m0rt Silver badge

                  MASTERING.

                  I know I can't tell the difference, but signal degrades every time you do anything with it, therefore you MASTER @ 24bit 96khz to ensure you don't lose any of it.

                  If you do not understand this concept, then you don't really stand from any position to lecture anyone on audio.

                  EDIT: I didn't specifically mention mastering before, I now realise, but I was talking from the standpoint of production. This is why 24bit and 96khz exist. If you tried to do this at any less, you would be working with a degraded signal and by the time you finished, the end result would be poorer. Think of it like working with a dirty lens. You wouldn't notice this in the picture, but if you continued taking a picture of the picture over X amount of times, you would see the difference the dirty lens made compared to a pristine lense.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    >I know I can't tell the difference, but signal degrades every time you do anything with it, therefore you MASTER @ 24bit 96khz to ensure you don't lose any of it.

                    Quantum physics, it's always degraded no matter what you do and will always be an approximation. Heck why not use 256bit and 1Ghz sampling ?

                    If only I could record the position and energy of every particle at every moment in the room then I'd have the perfect audio recording, oh wait hang on......cue Professor Heisenberg.

                    1. Robert Moore

                      No problem. You just need a Heisenberg compensator

                      http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Heisenberg_compensator

                    2. ShelLuser

                      @AC

                      "therefore you MASTER @ 24bit 96khz to ensure you don't lose any of it."

                      Ehm, no.

                      Mastering has nothing to do with audio degradation but more so with trying to enhance the audio signal. For example by 'pushing' lower audio frequencies when certain bass instruments are used (bass drum, bass guitar, cello, etc.). Another important aspect of mastering can be to try and ensure that certain higher signals don't "mix" or get canceled out. Sometimes that's done by pushing higher frequencies when lower regions dominate (think about your bass drum which can block higher frequencies).

                      Also: you optimally master material which sits around -6dB. Bit rate and/or frequency is pretty much irrelevant.

                    3. Ramazan

                      Re: Heck why not use 256bit and 1Ghz sampling?

                      Currently it's either/or: either XXXbits at 96/48/44.1KHz or YYYMHz with 1bit:

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_Stream_Digital

                      "A further extension to the development of DSD is DSD512, with a sample rate of 22.5792 MHz (512 times that of CD), or alternatively 24.576 MHz (512 times 48 kHz)."

                      There used to be RHCP - Blood Sugar Sex Magik disk's image in DSD128 format IIRC on torrents, you might want to check it out (searching for a player capable of playing this would be fun, they said).

                    4. PNGuinn Silver badge
                      Go

                      No, No NO!

                      Forget all this boll*x about quantum physics and sampling rates.

                      Wot you need is VALVES, and OUTPUT TRANSFORMERS!

                      There's nothing like the non linearity of a BH loop and a tranny running out of iron to adequately compensate for the inherent non linearity of the human ear canal.

                      The crossover point of a pair of kt66's does need to be adequately matched to the unique characteristics of the individual listener’s middle ears though - which is why the old lags always insisted on TWO valves, natch.

                      And, of course, the warming of the electrons adds appreciably to the improbability of any distortion, which the audiophiles of old determined by purely empirical methods, predating by several decades the elegant mathematical proof of infinite improbability.

                      And, of an additional course, while you might well refuse to by that LP because it was scratched, it'd still play, the additional rhythmic click only adding to the enjoyment of the ambience provided by the dust on the record.

                      And sod all this rubbish about oxygen free copper - How do you expect the bloody electrons to breath without oxygen - all you'll get is a thin wheezy sound.

                      Anyways it's not a to do with the conductors - it's the insulation. You need rubber, not that nasty plasticy stuff most folks will try to fob you off with these days.

                      NURSE!

                      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                        Re: No, No NO!

                        "Wot you need is VALVES, and OUTPUT TRANSFORMERS!

                        There's nothing like the non linearity of a BH loop and a tranny running out of iron to adequately compensate for the inherent non linearity of the human ear canal. "

                        Did you ever listen to a 1960s valve amp and compare it to a 1970s transistor amp? Valve harmonic distortion is even harmonics, while transistors generate odd harmonics that are far more noticeable and annoying.

                        Even today after decades of refinement amplifiers are far more variable than I thought they might be. My Rotel receiver's fancy electronic volume control decided to die after 16 years of service and it's non-replaceable. Being short of readies until the farm sells, I replaced it with a more recent 2nd hand Sony. I'm not a golden-ears by any stretch of the imagination, but it's best described as very ordinary.

                        As for oxygen-free copper, surely elemental copper is oxygen-free by definition. Copper combined with oxygen is copper oxide. The reason "monster" cable makes a difference is down to Ohm's Law. Bass reproduction requires high currents and the lower the resistance of the conductors, the less lossy the transmitted signal. And it is audible even when you're not a golden-ears.

                        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

                          Re: No, No NO!

                          In 1969 Quad (as they were then) were testing their new current dumping amplifier. The did double blind tests with golden eared journos from the HiFi mags of the day.

                          They tests their MkII valve ampr (1% distortion) , their 33/303 transistor amps (0.1% distortion) against the 404/44 (0.01%)setup.

                          Not one of the golden ears could accurately tell the difference in double blind testing. The golden ears response was to refuse to do double blind testing and put themselves out of the valuable work of bullshitting about HiFi.

                          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                            Re: No, No NO!

                            "They tests their MkII valve ampr (1% distortion) , their 33/303 transistor amps (0.1% distortion) against the 404/44 (0.01%)setup.

                            Not one of the golden ears could accurately tell the difference in double blind testing."

                            It would be interesting to know what music they were listening to. There was a test of this conducted in the USA back in the early 1970s with a doctored Phase Linear amp (IIRC). The listening panel was presented with various music recordings — flute, piano, violin, voice etc — at different levels of harmonic distortion (THD). THD had to be quite high ~10% to be audible on some content, but was clearly audible at 1% on different content.

                            It's worth noting that THD varies with the output power of the amplifier. Traditionally it was measured at the amplifier's maximum rated output. Class B amplifiers generate high distortion at quite low levels. Most of the time amplifiers are idling along at a fraction of their rated output.

                            Two other distortions had already become apparent back then. Crossover distortion in the common Class B amps of the day, and transient intermodulation distortion. The first was overcome by Class A designs though these were only half as efficient as Class B and the second by making amplifiers capable of handling frequencies well in excess of the standard 20 kHz which being beyond the limit of human hearing was considered to be more than adequate.

                      2. Steve_K_inTexas

                        Re: No, No NO!

                        PNGuinn, your post is what prompted me to create an account with the Register. Many thanks.

                      3. dbtx Bronze badge

                        Re: No, No NO!

                        Damn straight. I made sure to get the headphones that are perspiration-resistant for exactly that reason. Normally the wires' plastic would gradually mop up the skin oil off your neck and sideburns and become brittle over time; but the signal degradation is really your first clue. That these will remain supple for a while longer is just the cherry on top. Someday, someone will get wise and use copper silver deposition to assemble a conductor strand inside a fibre optic line, making that into the sheath... then there shall be eargasms \o/

                  2. TheVogon Silver badge

                    "but signal degrades every time you do anything with it"

                    No it generally doesn't in the digital sampling rates you are referring to - a digital copy of a digital copy is identical...And you would normally be using digital processing on it.

                    In general imo 96KHz sampling rate is a waste of money. There is no extra audible audio information captured in 96KHz sampling - and the more common 48Khz is enough to allow a reasonably gentle filter roll off from 20KHz when going back to analogue...

                    However, 96KHZ usually uses a 24 bit sample size that when compared to 16 bit is advantageous as it allows a greater dynamic range...

                    1. jonathan keith

                      24bit. God Damn it.

                      <draws breath>

                      Right. Digital audio is described with two sets of numbers:

                      The SAMPLE RATE, which is a measure of the number of times an analogue wave form is measured per second, i.e frequency. This is your 44.1, 48, 96 KHz number.

                      The BIT DEPTH. (NOT, repeat NOT 'Bit Rate'.) This is your 16 bit or 24 bit number, and details the amplitude of the analogue waveform at the point where it was sampled. A 16 bit sample has 65,536 possible values (2^16), a 24 bit sample has 16,777,216 (2^24) possible values.

                      Because Bit Depth is a measure of a wave's amplitude, it can be used as an indicator of a sound's loudness, and this is where using 24 bit makes sense. All audio systems have two boundaries: the lower being the point where a signal becomes indistinguishable from background hiss (the noise floor) and the upper, reached when the signal level becomes so high that the system becomes unable to process it, causing distortion ('clipping', as the peaks and troughs of the waveform are clipped.)

                      A greater bit depth offers a wider Dynamic Range (more 'headroom') when digitally recording a sound - less background hiss (i.e. a lower noise floor) means that you can record extremely quiet sounds clearly; more numbers (2^24 at 24 bit compared to 2^16 at 16 bit) means you can record much louder sounds without the signal clipping.

                      In the olden days, even the best studio equipment was noisy, meaning that there was much less headroom available when recording. Studio engineers spent a lot of time managing input levels so that a recording would cleanly capture a performance without the quietest parts being lost in background noise or the loudest parts being clipped. 24 bit recording means that studio engineers don't have to do that any more, as the format offers them enough room to cleanly capture a performance, and if a guitarist decides to turn an amp up to 11, the engineer doesn't particularly have to worry about the signal clipping.

                      If not more importantly, considering that the vast majority of music made today is created almost entirely through software (including those beloved classic album remasters), the extra headroom that 24 bit offers means that a producer is able to pile on the signal processing effects without being forced to degrade the signal quality of the piece to do so.

                      24 bit audio is now indispensible in audio production, and people are already moving up to 32 bit floating point workflows.

                      What about for audio playback? As we know, 24 bit gives us a wider dynamic range - the difference between the quietest sound we can detect and the loudest we can cleanly process. Say you had a 24 bit audio file that consisted of a tone just distinguishable above the noise floor, which then increased to the point where it clips, and that you played this through a pair of capable speakers. By the time the playback finished, you would be in agony, and your hearing would be permanently damaged.

                      No piece of audio for playback would ever be put out that uses the entire dynamic range 24 bit offers. It would permanently damage customers' audio equipment and their hearing. All a 24 bit file gives you that is missing from a 16 bit recording is masses of dead, empty headroom in which there is nothing to hear, and that will never, ever get used.

                      Anyone who tells you that listening to a track rendered as a 24 bit file is 'better' than listening to the same audio rendered as 16 bit is a liar or a fool, and either selling you something or trying to justify something expensive they've bought.

                    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

                      ""but signal degrades every time you do anything with it"

                      No it generally doesn't in the digital sampling rates you are referring to - a digital copy of a digital copy is identical...And you would normally be using digital processing on it."

                      Here's an experiment you can try at home. Convert an MP3 to WAV, then recompress to MP3. Rinse and repeat several times. The signal deteriorates at every step as becomes apparent the more often you rinse and repeat.

                      1. nkuk

                        An MP3 isn't a digital copy though, its a lossy reproduction.

                      2. King Jack
                        Facepalm

                        RE: Convert an MP3 to WAV, then recompress to MP3

                        Because my dear deluded friend, MP3 is a lossy format. It throws information away every time it encodes. So your loop experiment just shows you know nothing about digital formats. Do your files on your computer 'degrade' when you copy them? No? Try to figure out why.

                        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                          Re: RE: Convert an MP3 to WAV, then recompress to MP3

                          "Because my dear deluded friend, MP3 is a lossy format. It throws information away every time it encodes."
                          Precisely, hence my comment that digital processing does degrade the signal, contra the original comment that digital processing does not degrade the signal. It's not me that's deluded.

                          Also worth bearing in mind that it doesn't take more than two iterations to tell the difference, so no, MP3 is nowhere near as good as FLAC.

                          1. Anonymous Coward
                            Anonymous Coward

                            Re: RE: Convert an MP3 to WAV, then recompress to MP3

                            In theory, given a miraculously good decoder and very specific fixed rate encoding settings matching the original encoding, MP3->lossless->MP3 could actually be lossless. The original encoding would have removed the features MP3 removes.

                            When it looked for masking, those frequencies wouldn't be there to be removed. When it looked for bins to eliminate it would find there were just enough present it wouldn't need to eliminate any of them. The bins would match those after 1st encoder decimated them and generate the same quantisation factors.

                            ...given a miraculously good decoder. In real life you'd see some quantisation errors slowly accumulate. In real life the settings wouldn't really match.

                            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                              Re: RE: Convert an MP3 to WAV, then recompress to MP3

                              "In theory, given a miraculously good decoder and very specific fixed rate encoding settings matching the original encoding, MP3->lossless->MP3 could actually be lossless."
                              The original experiment was done with Steinberg Clean (Fraunhofer codec). I have no idea where the artefacts arose, in the software or the DAC firmware, but they were definitely there. Much to the chagrin of the dude who first told me "digital processing does not degrade the signal".

                              Reminds me of when the Sugden A21 amplifier was theoretically inferior to its rivals because it had an order of magnitude higher (or more) total harmonic distortion. In the real world it was the best of breed.

                    3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
                      Boffin

                      @TheVogon... Mastering

                      The point of the high bit-count high-sample rate audio in the studio is that the signal gets filtered, scaled, and maybe even sped up/slowed down before outputting to CD.

                      Just like calculating with rounded-off numbers, starting with 16-bit 44kHz data would lead to rounding errors in the output, which increases quantisation noise. The Nyquist filter for 96kHz sampling can be a fairly simple affair, as it doesn't need to roll off particularly quickly. The recovery filter in CD players needs to be quite steep to prevent >22KHz sidebands in the output, which, whilst being inaudible themselves, can cause intermodulation distortion in less-that-perfectly linear devices downstream. Like speakers, for example. As a result, the phase behaviour can be a bit squirrely.

                  3. Nicko

                    > m0rt: but signal degrades every time you do anything with it, therefore you MASTER @ 24bit 96khz to ensure you don't lose any of it.

                    Not so. Digital is digital - you may reclock it, but there should be no bit-lossage.

                    Also, it's worth remembering that most studios have analogue front-ends, i.e. they are analogue through the mixing desk up to the final ADCs that convert the mixed and engineered recording to digital.

                    During that process, the ANALOG signal will travel from the microphones (analog) through maybe 100s of opamps (all analog - probably NE5534s or some of the more exotic Burr-Brown/TI/Linear Tech/Analog Devices ones), though a mixing deck (probably analog) where someone with expensive (analog) ears and (analog) monitors will mix it into something the producer likes, before committing it to digital.

                    So, the argument is about turning that hugely-messed-around-with digital representation back into something analog that you ears can handle.

                    I've spent many years designing amps, solid-state (linear & class D), valve and hybrid as well as a lot of speakers. At the end of the day, a technically perfect amplifier is a straight piece of wire with gain - it is possible (fairly easily) to design such an amplifier. Doug Self, one of the real gurus of professional audio design and a terrific engineer, hates audio-phoolishness and some years ago published a design where distortion levels were vanishingly small - these are known as "Blameless Amplifiers" (look them up). But they sound cold, because oddly, people like distortion of various types, specifically with speakers (which are a HUGE source of distortion) - this is also the reason people like the sound of valve amps - they sound "warm" due mainly to 2nd harmonic distortion.

                    The human brain & ears are infinitely complex & subtle - this is why audiology is such a complex subject. People go to enormous trouble and expense to get the "perfect" sound, but it's mainly b*llocks - it might be right for them, but it' all in the mind and won't be right for someone else. If you spend $5,000 on speaker cables, your mind will probably tell you they make a huge difference and sound fantastic; you listen to someone else's $5,000 speaker cables, and you'll probably not hear any difference.

                    1. werdsmith Silver badge

                      Gold Plate

                      People live to heap scorn on gold plate on connectors, but the idea is that it is tarnish/oxidisation resistant for contact connections. Gold plate is being used plenty inside electronic devices where you can't see it for the same reason. It has nothing to do with bling or signal. Edge connectors on 1980s computers were gold plated.

                      However, it should not make cables expensive because it's a few microns and very cheap.

                    2. Lusty Silver badge

                      @Nicko

                      "Not so. Digital is digital - you may reclock it, but there should be no bit-lossage."

                      Odd that the industry is so obsessed with error correction then, don't you find? Bit loss is common, very common. Error correction means that ultimately that doesn't matter because the copy will usually reproduce the original perfectly despite the loss of bits. The copy on disk may or may not be a bit for bit representation of the original data stream but the information should be.

                    3. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      "If you spend $5,000 on speaker cables, your mind will probably tell you they make a huge difference and sound fantastic"

                      Yep, Psychiatrists call it the placebo effect.

                  4. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    > therefore you MASTER @ 24bit 96khz to ensure you don't lose any of it.

                    No you really don't. You might choose to record at 24bit/ 96, but CDs are 16/44, so you master to that.

                    85dB has been the maximum level allowed for headphone levels on consumer music equipment for a few years now, well within the 96db of 16bit.

                    You cannot lose what isn't there in the first place. 24bits is 144db of dynamic range, so unless you are in the business of recording Saturn 5 take offs, that's not the reason, even then, finding a sound system that could actually produce that dynamic range would be a challenge. Your ears tend to fail with permanent effects above 120dB.

                    SACD potentially allowed 105db range and higher frequency range, but people really couldn't tell the difference and a year long AES study showed that in double blind tests, the chance of correctly identifying CD vs SACD was barely 50%, no better than guessing.

                    In the early days of digital recording, that 44.1K sample rate lead to some fairly unpleasant filter designs which lead to poor reproduction, but it's perfectly capable of recording sounds that beyond what most adults can perceive.

                    The irony is that the loudness wars, caused by marketing driven desires to be the loudest, have actually reduced the dynamic range of music today. Mastering engineers like Bob Katz have tried fighting back, but with limited success.

                    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                      "85dB has been the maximum level allowed for headphone levels on consumer music equipment for a few years now, well within the 96db of 16bit."
                      Really? Relative to what may I ask? One mV input, one watt? Decibels are a ratio, not an absolute quantity.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Here let me google that for you:

                        "As a result, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) amended its safety standard for personal music players.

                        Now all personal music players sold in the EU after February 2013 are expected to have a default sound limit of 85dB. "

                        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21294537

                        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                          "Here let me google that for you:"
                          Here let me google that for you:

                          "The decibel ( dB) is used to measure sound level, but it is also widely used in electronics, signals and communication. The dB is a logarithmic way of describing a ratio. The ratio may be power, sound pressure, voltage or intensity or several other things. Later on we relate dB to the phon and the sone (related to loudness). But first, to get a taste for logarithmic expressions, let's look at some numbers."
                          What is a decibel?

                  5. Captain Boing

                    *sigh*

                    "... to ensure you don't lose any of it."

                    you are still aliasing anything between any two bit counts.. step from 14 to 15, what about 14.3? it cannot be _faithfully_ encoded in a digital form .. . you have lost immediately by sampling. In a lab, virtually any sampling resolution could be shown to be different from the original. I get what you are saying but you need to qualify "perceived loss"

                    If audiophile reckon they can tell the difference if the signal comes through cable with oxygen in the insulator then this matters no?

                3. Tom 7 Silver badge

                  @ac challenge

                  Careful there - no-one has ever been able to tell the difference between un-encoded* 16 bit or higher but MP3 adds features to the stream that are audible with experience and people can tell the difference in double blind tests.

                  * presumable flac would be undetectable too but that assumes the decoding is carried out seamlessly and the spec doesnt cover how the operating system works so it is possible for flac decoding to add very small gaps which may be unnoticeable by some but observable by others.

                4. Chz

                  I'd suggest it's entirely possible that someone could tell the *difference* between some of those. What's impossible to tell is which is which, or which one is the high-quality original.

                5. katrinab Silver badge

                  If I get to choose the tracks that are encoded, I'll be able to pick out the mp3, though maybe not the other ones.

              2. Oh Homer Silver badge
                Headmaster

                Re: "they *think* makes it sound better"

                Well, maybe people do have the right to waste their own money on placebo bullshit, but that still doesn't make it anything other than placebo bullshit, and that bears repeating loud and often so their bullshit doesn't mutate into a cultural norm.

                The argument against audiophile gibberish is basically the same as the one against religion. It's not about what they believe, it's about what they tell everyone else to believe.

              3. Captain Boing

                "If they think it does, that is all that matters in that context."

                bomb detectors, fake brands, homeopathy, cheap chinese shit from ebay...

                People need to be protected from being ripped off regardless of what they think

                1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                  "People need to be protected from..."
                  God save me from people trying to protect me. It's my life, not yours. Just fuck off and let me live it the way I choose!

                  1. Captain Boing

                    when you have been treated unsuccessfully with fake meds... it is still your life. So when you get all stressy about the lack of protection from being exploited in this way, am I still to fuck off?

                    didn't think so. How big are the wheels on your goal post?

                    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                      "So when you get all stressy about the lack of protection from being exploited in this way, am I still to fuck off?"
                      Frankly I don't get all stressy when I'm being ripped off purchasing "cheap Chinese shit on ebay". I'd rather pay $AU10 for two camera batteries than $AU140 (plus a stocking fee) each from Nikon Australia. I know who I need protecting from; you obviously don't.

                      Never mind the wheels on my goalpost (whatever that means), how big is your ego that you know more about my needs than I do?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How about your magic cable rocks?

        http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina31.htm

      4. Moosh
        Joke

        "Don't forget your gold plated optical cables too!"

        Optical?

        Gold plate your HDMI cables!

        It helps you to receive a clearer signal.

        1. I just wish to be anonymous.

          You missed the gist of the joke.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed, and MQA has nothing whatsoever to do with the encoding elegance of MP3 and AAC... Heck, since the uptake of FLAC has been so slow I would say MQA is the obvious technology - for the next century!

      Incidentally, the LAME open-source MP3 project changed developers in about 2006, and the old 3.97 version has an ABR encoding quality IMO much better sounding than what is obtained from today's versions. Fraunhofer also got the 'magic' correct with their early (pirated) encoder - which sounded excellent (for the bitrate).

      1. GX5000

        and not one word on APE files?

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          "and not one word on APE files?"
          Because they don't work on Linux (or didn't). Converted all of my APE files to FLAC several years ago with dBpoweramp.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Tom Servo

      Too right..

      Everyone knows Hooli Nucleus is where it's at.

    5. Mage Silver badge
      Headmaster

      MP3 vs other formats

      Except only my Laptop/PCs and Tablet can play newer formats.

      These only play MP3 or worse:

      Phone, smart watch, Kindle DXG, ancient Archos PMP, anonymous cute credit, both my TVs (even though they do a load of fancy stuff on broadcast reception), FM Radio gadget with USB, SD card and BT, CD-ROM mp3 playback on DVD player and Car radio.

      So like AM Radio, FM Radio, CD Audio, 33rpm and 45rpm discs, cassette tapes (yes people still selling new ones!) the MP3 format needs to be still supported both by gadget makers and download providers.

      Storage for audio is no big deal on my server or laptop, so FLAC is probably best. I should re-rip all my CDs, Vinyl and tapes (reel and cassette) to FLAC.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: MP3 vs other formats

        "I should re-rip all my CDs, Vinyl and tapes (reel and cassette) to FLAC."

        Why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to change CD to FLAC? You've said space is not a problem so leave as is.

        I've been digging around for years and I've yet to find any double blind tests that can reveal anyone who can hear the difference between 16bit CD and higher res of any form and I have no doubt that FLAC will not loose any quality but it just seems pointless for 30% saving that on some devices may cause jitter during decoding when it could be directly streamed to the DAC.

      2. Jamesit

        Re: MP3 vs other formats

        If it is supported try installing Rockbox. www.rockbox.org.

        On some devices it supports video and games ever is the original firmware doesn't.

        1. Jamesit

          Re: MP3 vs other formats

          Note to self : remember to preview before hitting submit.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vinyl and tapes (reel and cassette)

        Pah! I keep my music on punch cards.

      4. Red Bren
        Linux

        Re: MP3 vs other formats

        "So like AM Radio, FM Radio, CD Audio, 33rpm and 45rpm discs, cassette tapes (yes people still selling new ones!) the MP3 format needs to be still supported both by gadget makers and download providers."

        One of the barriers to linux on the desktop has been the hoops that have to be jumped through to rip and store music in a format compatible with other devices. It's no good telling consumers how much better/worthier FLAC or OGG formats are if their MP3 players only support MP3. Now that the patents are lapsing, Fedora (my preferred linux flavour) are including it as standard.

        1. Chemical Bob

          Re: MP3 vs other formats

          "One of the barriers to linux on the desktop has been the hoops that have to be jumped through to rip and store music in a format compatible with other devices."

          What are you talking about? I've been ripping and listening to MP3s on my Linux boxes for over 15 years! No more difficult to download and install the relevant MP3 bits on Red Hat, Fedora, SuSE, Umbongo and Mint than on Windows.

        2. Steve Graham

          barriers to linux?

          I've been ripping CDs on Linux to both OGG and MP3 for 23 years.

          (My current phone will play either, plus FLAC.)

    6. uncommon_sense
      Facepalm

      As one would expect..

      MP3 = A music format for the hearing and thinking impaired(thereby including 98 percent of Millennials) , unless you up the bitrate to MAX!.

      Of course, I would not believe that many other REG readers are Adults, so any praise of the excellent work Stereophile has done over the years would be wasted, like pearls on philistine pigs...

      1. Brenda McViking
        Megaphone

        Re: As one would expect..

        Obligatory xkcd

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My old teacher...

    ...once told me I have cloth ears.

    Thanks to this I've never spent more than £5 on headphones. Ive saved a fortune.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: My old teacher...

      I'd like to be able to spend more than £5 on headphones/earphones - not for the sound quality but so they don't fall apart on me - but everything seems to be Chinese (other low cost economies are available) thin plastic and thinner cable and plugs which must have been fitted with blutack instead of solder.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: My old teacher...

      Some people seem very proud that they reckon they can tell the difference between a MP3 and a FLAC file vs vinyl or cassette.

      I just feel sorry for them, I get all the same enjoyment of listening to music, but I don't have to shell out for hundreds of pounds worth of equipment :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My old teacher...

        >MP3 and a FLAC file vs vinyl or cassette.

        the latter 2 are easy as they sound shit, hiss for compact cassette tapes and the awful pops crackle scratches etc of vinyl. Vinyl is easy to spot because the signal to noise ratio is dreadful, fucking dire medium and glad to see the back of it when CD came out but I do miss the great LP cover artwork.

      2. jeffdyer

        Re: My old teacher...

        Not necessarily. There are lots of subtleties you won't hear that are on the studio recording that won't be reproducible on budget systems.

        Think muddy bass lines and missing high frequency effects.

        There are quiet timpany "bongs" on Bruce Springsteen's Brilliant Disguise that only appear using good equipment with low (not loud) bass reproduction and many high frequency squeaks and squawks on various Pink Floyd albums that will be missed on cassette for example.

        1. BongoJoe

          Re: My old teacher...

          Quite.

          On one Stevie Wonder track, on a decent rig, one can hear a squeaking bass pedal and on one of my favourite Van Halen tracks, on a similar rig, is utterly spoiled by the fret buzz on Alex' acoustic which isn't audible on other kit.

          Sometimes good kit, which need not be expensive, is too good for stuff which was recorded years ago that the engineers then couldn't hear.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: My old teacher...

            "Sometimes good kit, which need not be expensive, is too good for stuff which was recorded years ago that the engineers then couldn't hear."

            many recording formats required some form of level compression to avoid distortion and poor SNR . Cassette tape would've been the worst in this regarde. Vinyl ALWAYS sounded better than cassette [I used to tape my old vinyl on good quality tape, which sounded better than pre-recorded, but still "different" than vinyl). And when you listen to some of the old stuff that sounded GREAT on vinyl, but it was digitized to CD without the level compression, you hear things that weren't there before. "better dynamic range" isn't always "better sound".

            so maybe if I run it through Audacity and convert to MP3 or OGG...

          2. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: My old teacher...

            "On one Stevie Wonder track, on a decent rig, one can hear a squeaking bass pedal "
            The first CD I ever listened to was Ashkenazy playing a Beethoven piano concerto on a pair of Stax electrostatic headphones. I found his grunting while he played quite distracting.

            "Sometimes good kit, which need not be expensive, is too good for stuff which was recorded years ago that the engineers then couldn't hear."
            The engineers listened to the music at a very high volume so they could hear the quieter bits better. Naturally this fucked their hearing and led to a great deal of excessive treble in the masters they created. Now that I'm suffering high frequency hearing loss I no longer need to compensate. Probably the only positive aspect of becoming senile unfortunately ;-)

            1. Justin Case
              Joke

              Headphones?

              >> The first CD I ever listened to was Ashkenazy playing a Beethoven piano concerto on a pair of Stax electrostatic headphones.

              Why didn't he use a piano?

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Headphones?

                "Why didn't he use a piano?"
                He did. He just chose the wrong dude to tell the story :-)

      3. Oh Homer Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: "FLAC file vs vinyl"

        Even better: the 24-bit FLAC recording of vinyl, to demonstrate the "superiority" of analogue audio ... by digitising it. o_O

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: "FLAC file vs vinyl"

          Joking aside...

          Sound is analog. Yet if you have a high enough rate of capture, your digitized sound can capture the sound beyond your ability to distinguish it from the analog copy. (Remember your intro to calculus and trying to find the volume under the curve?)

          Yet that's beyond what we see happening and then the loss of quality when you run it thru a codec to reduce the size of the data....

          I also don't know if you can say no one is interested in FLAC. There's more to the story than just saying you have a new and improved codec.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Nobody noticed"? The so-called "death" of MP3 has been all over the tech media, complete with catchy-but-misleading headline.

    The patents have expired? Do Fraunhofer even have the *option* of "renewing" them anyway? If not, it's hardly surprising they chose not to continue their licensing programme; hardly constitutes the "death" of MP3.

    Of course, MP3's popularity and cultural importance has been in decline for several years with the rise of streaming, but that's nothing to do with this misleading story.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Do Fraunhofer even have the *option* of "renewing" them anyway?

      Not as far as I know. It would appear that you have to pay "maintenance" fees during the lifetime of an EPO or UK patent (the UK explicitly calls them "renewal" fees) or the patent lapses. However, once the patent expires, it expires.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      AFAIK MP3 is streamable. Its close cousin MP2 streams perfectly well on broadcast UK SD DVBT every day. AAC hasn't completely displaced MP3 even for pure audio streaming and all my legal music downloads so far are still 320k MP3 or FLAC.

      You don't really need to know what encoding a stream is using, it's an invisible change to most users. mp3 hasn't fallen out of fashion as such, it's just a detail no one cares or need to care very much about.

  4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    I don't understand how it 'died'

    If the patent is not renewed, then the technology moves into the public domain, which could mean that we could see more use of it, not less.

    Whether we do or not is another matter, but I would guess that there are still a lot of optical players and media devices which are happier with MP3 files than some of the later (patent encumbered) audio formats.

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I don't understand how it 'died'

      Indeed. Finally even ultra careful Linux distributions can include MP3 software in their standard repositories, instead of requiring users to build them from source, or use semi-underground repos like Pacman for OpenSuse.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: I don't understand how it 'died'

      Cue Arlo Guthrie...

    3. AdamWill

      Re: I don't understand how it 'died'

      It seems to be Fraunhofer messaging - of course it's dead so far as *they're* concerned, they can't wring any more money out of it - that otherwise-mostly-sensible sites seem to be picking up uncritically. This isn't the only place I've seen that weird description of the actual news here ("some patents expired") - AV Club said almost the same:

      http://www.avclub.com/article/rip-mp3s-255322

      1. LaeMing Bronze badge
        Joke

        Re: I don't understand how it 'died'

        Didn't you hear? Now when a patent expires, the IP doesn't become public domain, it is banned for eternity so corporations can milk the Next Big Thing (TM).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MP3 is dead?

    Guess I'll have to buy the 'White Album' again.

    1. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: MP3 is dead?

      MIB reference. What's my prize?

    2. W.O.Frobozz

      Re: MP3 is dead?

      You might want to, all the gapless parts on the White Album sound like crap on MP3.

  6. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Blamestorming

    Someone's going to take the FLAC for this?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Patents expired whether Fraunhofer like it or not

    More a case that the patents have reached their maximum lifespan, and cannot be renewed by the Fraunhofer Institute even if they wanted to. Also with no patents, there is nothing for Fraunhofer to licence, and so the programme is defunct by default, I expect.

    1. CommodorePet

      Re: Patents expired whether Fraunhofer like it or not

      There is an important point that the commentary on this is missing. Sure the final patents expired and the technology is now free to use. But the source code that Fraunhofer provided to implement that technology is still their IP. Companies paid a licence fee for the source code and the patent. Since they are discontining both, companies can no longer ask for new licenses to Franhofer source code either.

      LAME and others are GPL'ed implementations of the technology - still can't be used by companies to embed inside a little audio player. So this cuts off access to one known good source code that isn't GPL, it's not just about the patents. The fraunhofer code included efficient fixed point encoder and decoders that worked well on chips from 20 years ago. Cheap and powerful processors are easy to find now, but you still don't want to waste cycles.

  8. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
    Facepalm

    MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

    If it's imperative that you have to hear every squeak and twiddle of knobs when you listen to your music, than have it with your CD rips coming in at 1GB audio files. However when you listen to 80's and 90's thrash, death and black metal as I do then a) you're ears are pretty shot already after 30 years of abuse and b) the original "master" recordings were made on pretty cheap and cheerful studio recording kit so ripping it in anything greater than 160kbs VR MP3 is a waste of time and space!

    Now let's add to the fact most kids these days listen to music through crappy little phone speakers or naff Apple ear buds, MP3 is still going to be around for quite a while methinks!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

      MP3 is good enough for me, but I'm from the school of audiophiles that use solid core mains cable for speaker wire because it's cheap and I can't tell the difference between that and "proper" speaker wire when connected to a decent DAC and amplifier...

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

        "use solid core mains cable for speaker wire because it's cheap"

        type of wire OBVIOUSLY doesn't alter sound quality, yeah, unless it's corroded. Solid may be less susceptible to this. But corrosion will happen regardless. After all, you're running electricity across a junction of dissimilar metals in an atmosphere with moisture in it. Give it time, and you'll need to clean or replace the wires. until then, enjoy!

        and cheap wires save money. and probably last just as long.

        and gold plating rubs off and doesn't stop the corrosion. it just looks shiny.

        SILVER, on the other hand, tends to oxidize into a material that is reasonably conductive, but it's black and doesn't "look pretty". So, how come nobody is doing THAT for consumer gear? The military uses solid silver connectors in critical applications for this very reason. it's uber-reliable.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

          "gold plating rubs off and doesn't stop the corrosion. it just looks shiny"
          For the last ten years I have been getting out of bed at around 1 am and having a cup of tea. To avoid disturbing Mrs Git, I plug in my headphones and listen to some music. As it happens, the 3.5 mm jack plug is gold plated. I just inspected it with my jeweller's loupe and there is absolutely no sign of either wear, or corrosion. I suspect you are doing something wrong bombastic bob...

    2. Joe Drunk

      Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

      Add the fact that if you have MP3 files they will play on practically ANY device - from an old Motorola V3 cell phone, DVD player, PCs from 2000 on, modern car stereos, tablet/smart phones etc. Rarely if ever will you be presented with an "unsupported media /no CODEC available" when playing MP3 audio.

      Although certainly not the best or most efficient it truly has become an ubiquitous audio format.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

      I pondered this, but I think today AAC (M4A) is a better balance of wide compatibility, and vastly superior audio quality or vastly smaller file sizes, it's also far more friendly decoding battery use for mobile devices.

    4. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

      Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

      I had a professor in college who claimed he could hear the digital "steps" in CD playback. Back in 1993-94. It's supposedly impossible for the human ear to detect, but he claimed he would get headaches listening to CDs. He would correctly identify cassettes recorded from CD against store-bought cassettes or recordings from LP, and we even tried to fool him once by switching between LP and CD for sources on a mix tape. He offered a 5% bonus on your final grade if you could fool him - to my knowledge no one ever claimed it.

      But then he was a huge Grateful Dead fan, so who knows??

      1. King Jack

        Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

        There are no "steps" or "staircases" in a digital recording. You can digitize a sine wave and play it back perfectly, you can see the results on an oscilloscope to prove it. The steps thing is a myth perpetuated by people you don't understand how sampling works. Visit youtube where you will find videos that prove this as well as the truth about 24bit and 16 samples.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

          "There are no "steps" or "staircases" in a digital recording."

          Why Difference Between Analog, Digital Isn’t What Most People Think

    5. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: MP3 is good enough for 90% of people.

      The last ABX test I read put AAC at only slightly more efficient than mp3. Something like 128 kb/s vs 136 kb/s for equivalent quality. Nowhere near enough to go through and re-rip an entire collection that's already in ABR256 or CBR320 anyway.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MQA is the new MLP

    Or worse considering the buy in has to be immediate and exclusive. While I would need a DVD-A capable decoder (cheapest buy in), I would neex a MQA certified device. Assuming any computer can be a MQA certified device, I'll have to track the license. Assuming you won't be playing MQA back on headphones (nor MLP), that leaves the device in a room of some form. Back to the domain of "I don't care where it is".

    I'm not sure how popular DVD-A ever became (or other decoders similarily), but mp3 trumped them all due to being portable. Without that, MQA will forever be niche and dying from birth. Audiophiles can't suspend any given format without uptake, and from that perspective, MPEG (or can I just call them Sony now?) will always has an advantage over other players (sadly).

    Opus seems the best canidate for uptake right now, don't dismiss it because it's not "loseless" (but it can be that too you know).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MQA is the new MLP

      MQA will forever be niche and dying from birth.

      Especially with the large support of FLAC already.

      It supports 8 channels, 32 bit sampling, and up to 655K sampling rate

  10. Julian Bond
    Trollface

    M8!

    DO U EVEN CMPRS? 320 or GTFO!

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: M8!

      Only if you're a bit LAME

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More like didn't care, because software patents are a yanky thing. Safe to ignore unless selling physical goods to yanks.

  12. lozhurst

    Nobody noticed? I've been getting emails all week about it

    ....from Linux distros so happy they can include support without violating their self-imposed rules preventing them from doing so before.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Nobody noticed? I've been getting emails all week about it

      Er...patents aren't self-imposed rules.

  13. simpfeld

    It was quite well noticed

    Stories in everywhere about Fedora agreeing to add this into the distro now it's expired.

    Also stories of MP3 decoding being open in December.

  14. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Fail ship has arrived

    It is a long time since The Register had an article as misguided as this one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Re: Fail ship has arrived

      Yes, it's been days since Andrew's last article.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fail ship has arrived

        Re: Fail ship has arrived

        Yes, it's been days since Andrew's last article.

        ---------

        Hehe, upvoted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fail ship has arrived

      It is a long time since The Register had an article as misguided as this one.

      You know, I think the patent on Aspirin expired also, what on earth should I use now?

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Fail ship has arrived

        "the patent on Aspirin expired". No no no, Aspirin is a trademark and has not expired.

        If in doubt, try acetylsalicylic acid.

        PS. one could compare Aspirin to Gillette and Hoover and why not Trumpism if you see what I mean.

  15. KenJ

    AllofMP3

    I guess that means I have to give up my carefully curated collection of music obtained at no great expense from AllofMP3 then.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AllofMP3

      I'm happy with my 96khz, 24bit vinyl rips from whatCD. I can hear every grain of dust, every scratch, needle jump, cross talk, groove wear blah blah etc and all in wonderful high res.

  16. I am the liquor

    If mp3 is outdated, what should I use instead?

    If mp3 is outdated now, in terms of bit rate vs quality, what's the best alternative that's fully open and not encumbered by commercial licensing?

    I kind of get the feeling that this article is more about the rebirth of mp3, as a format that's now open for anyone to use however they like, as well as being good enough and widely supported. But if there's something better out there then I'm interested.

    1. Al 6

      Re: If mp3 is outdated, what should I use instead?

      Probably opus - if you can play it on your devices.

      http://opus-codec.org/comparison/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If mp3 is outdated, what should I use instead?

        Probably opus - if you can play it on your devices.

        http://opus-codec.org/comparison/

        No mention of FLAC on that page, I wonder why?

        Also, I don't really care about which codec to compression really lo-fi material with.

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: If mp3 is outdated, what should I use instead?

          No mention of FLAC on that page, I wonder why?
          Not to mention now it's wrong since it categorizes codecs by 1) open-source, 2) free but closed, and 3) requires licensing. So it's wrong on the status of MP3 as a 3), whereas now it should be 1).

    2. Ramazan

      Re: If mp3 is outdated, what should I use instead?

      The closest thing to The Next mp3 right now is AAC. But I don't give a damn and keep ripping my CDs to VBR mp3s anywayc.

  17. Peter Galbavy

    Many audiophools who complain about (high bit rate) MP3 are idiots. Most are older males (like me) who's hearing has already deteriorated to the point that they would be lucky to hear above 12kHz.

    I rip all my CDs using FLAC not specifically for the audio quality but for the lossless nature - just in case I want to reproduce a bit-rotted CD or some such in the future - and storage is cheap. Many of those I know in the electronic music making scene deliver 320kbps MP3s (rarely AACs) as the masters to their labels.

    If you ever want to have a great baiting session with a less knowledgeable audiofool start asking about FM vs DAB and how "analogue" FM is so superior. The point them at http://www.bbceng.info/Technical%20Reviews/pcm-nicam/digits-fm.html and see if they get it.

    1. Ramazan

      Re: I rip all my CDs using FLAC

      "just in case I want to reproduce a bit-rotted CD or some such in the future"

      Do keep .cue sheets though. Or better yet rip your CDs into .clone images (man 1 wodim/cdrecord, -clone option).

    2. simpfeld

      MP3 'died' and nobody noticed

      I rip to FLAC, for the very simple reason that if I ever want to re-encode to a newer format I don't have to pull out the CD's again.

      With the additional problem that a number of my early 90's CD's have degraded to now having some tracks unplayable, the FLACs have preserved my collection.

  18. Mage Silver badge

    FM vs DAB and how "analogue" FM is so superior.

    DAB *COULD* be better than FM, if there was about x6 as many fill in relays (coverage in UK poor forget Ireland, it has less than 50%). Problem is that most DAB is 128k MP2, and DAB+ (AAC) is often 64K to give nearly same quality at 1/2 cost.

    256K MP2 and 256K MP3 are not much different and pretty good. But does anyone anywhere transmit 256K DAB (MP2)?

    I used to rip at 256K MP3. I think I might have done some at 320K, but some players won't play more than 256K. For archive, I think FLAC is the way to go.

    Also BT earphones or speakers involve re-encoding. So I use analogue plug earphones and HiFi amp. The speakers / earpieces / ears are analogue.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: FM vs DAB and how "analogue" FM is so superior.

      DAB is great in my car, I've yet to have a journey where it hasn't worked. As for quality vs FM, I don't know, there is too much background noise in a car to distinguish.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FM vs DAB and how "analogue" FM is so superior.

        >DAB is great in my car,

        Move to where I live, DAB coverage is crap due to the hills.

  19. DropBear Silver badge
    Devil

    Considering that among other preciousssssss "intellectual property", patents are apparently one of the few main pillars of Human Civilisation as we know it, I fully expect poor, poor Fraunhofer - now cruelly robbed of its vital essence - to speedily go bust, cats and dogs living in harmony, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse etc.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Still, it's nice to see a company patent something that A) they invented and B) they were actively selling. Unlike every patent troll out there.

      1. JLV Silver badge

        ...and letting the patent die after its allotted time, rather than tweaking a formula and re-patenting the whole shebang as "new" - (cough), big pharma, (cough).

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    your greedy grasp should always exceed your ability

    This rebirth of vinyl we keep getting pushed on us is probably due to its being a lot of faff to try

    and rip and encode them.

    A sort of empire strikes back by some ancient accountant in the record industry.

    Meanwhile more old folk with money buy the vinyl to look at and caress before filing it away forever.

    The ideal customers as there are no returns for undiscovered clickes on the quiet bits.

    You do wish the music industry wasn't so full of paranoid coke heads out of their depth when

    MP3 and the internet came along as people were used to paying for stuff

    and would have continued at say £2.99 per album.(not £14.99 greedy bast level)

    But there were so many middlemen and snouts in the trough to please I suppose.

    Amusingly napster even came bundled in the desktop build at a telco I was at around the beginning of the noughties

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: your greedy grasp should always exceed your ability

      Actually, there are turntables out there with built in DACs that encode and transmit the analogue output from the stylus; also TTs with optical outputs, USB outputs and various other modern conveniences.

      As for all the sneering at HiFi, I enjoy listening to mp3's but I also have a (once upon a time) expensive HiFi set up; parts of which are now over 40 years old.

      It is not that mp3 sounds "bad", it just misses bits out (no pun intended); the enjoyment you get from listening to even a fairly low end "proper" HiFi system is the EXTRA detail you can hear. Sometimes you are not even concious you are hearing more, but realise later that it sounds a bit richer, or smoother - or you just seemed to enjoy it more than usual.

      I agree with one of the posts above, mp3 is more than good enough for 90% of all music listeners, their players, car radios and micro systems cannot even extract all the detail from a low bit-rate mp3, so a "better" format would be wasted on them.

      I also agree about the snake oil, though you missed one of the best - tiny black triangles that you were supposed to stick on everything to give a miraculous improvement in sound.

      A proper HiFi nut gave me a sample set, they are still making my 650Watt electric drill sound superb.

      (Really, I stuck them on the plug as a joke)

  21. TRT Silver badge

    "The designers of the codec (AAC)...

    obviously decided not to waste the limited bit budget by encoding information that would most probably not be heard even from the CD."

    Funny. I wasn't aware of being able to hear DRM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The designers of the codec (AAC)...

      What's even more puzzling is MP3 also throws away the bits you shouldn't be able to hear! Acoustic masking means you can drop entire frequency bands with few people noticing. It's how lower bitrate mp3 achieves most of its compression.

  22. Kraggy

    "and it's taken three weeks for anyone to notice"

    Er, no it didn't, within a few days several Linux distros noticed, such as:

    https://fedoramagazine.org/full-mp3-support-coming-soon-to-fedora/

    1. AdamWill

      Re: "and it's taken three weeks for anyone to notice"

      "Er, no it didn't, within a few days several Linux distros noticed"

      Well, no, our legal departments have had the patent expiry dates on their calendars for, oh, a decade or so.

  23. MOV r0,r0

    Throw Away Comment

    'Alth thr r > efnt aud cdcs w/adv feats vailbl tdy, mp3 stll v pop amgst cnsmrs', the Institute said in a compressed statement.

  24. JLV Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Dead?

    Last I checked, Google Play and Amazon were selling mostly, if not only, in mp3 format.

    Sure, it's not perfect, but it is ubiquitous, which sure beats a brilliant format that plays nowhere and can be acquired nowhere. Of course, you could buy CDs and rip - I tried FLAC for a while - but face it, with all the record stores pretty much gone, that's a major hassle.

    Besides, my liking of music, and appreciation for various genres, far surpasses the quality of my hearing - it's about the music, not the .0001 vs .00001 harmonic distortion. Going to concerts too often certainly doesn't help there.

    The patent died, long live the format.

  25. Dr. Ellen
    Megaphone

    The perfect is the enemy of the okay.

    My ears are far older than the MP3 codec. Perfection would be wasted on me. Nor am I alone in this situation.

  26. User-1

    Wow I just realized why I never went down the "quality audio road"! Thanks guys!

    I guess there's also being brought up during the punk era didn't hurt either.

  27. Jim-234

    Such Blatantly wrong headlines, MP3 is NOT dead, it's just now FREE

    All these headlines about "MP3 is dead" are so blatantly stupid.

    the MP3 format is NOT "dead", it is now Free, as in free of patents & greedy licence corporations trying to extract ever more money. If anything this will make sure it lives on for a very long time.

    There are better formats, some free, many that require payment, but MP3 is one of the most widely inter operable audio formats that produces decent enough sound quality for most people.

    Yes the institute shut down their licencing program for MP3 as they legally can't charge you any money for it any more.

    This is the whole point of the balance between allowing patents & making sure they have an expiration date. All human knowledge is built on the back of previous knowledge, so while you make sure that people can get profit and incentive from their inventions, eventually it becomes free to use and other people can use it & build on it from there, much like the original inventor did. It also gives the inventors an incentive to go out and make more new stuff & not just stop there.

    1. Graham Cobb

      Re: Such Blatantly wrong headlines, MP3 is NOT dead, it's just now FREE

      Corrected headline:

      MP3 now FREE so use set to explode! Fraunhofer get Andrew to reprint press release in desperate attempt to drum up licence fees for their next patent.

  28. I Like Heckling

    I do 2 things with my music

    I listen to my music collection in 2 ways... Via my computer through an amp and surround speakers and although 99% of it is in mp3 and the rest Flac, I only rip my CD's at 320kb. I refuse to purchase music online because it's tied to a single account and is normally in 128 or 192 and I do consider them to be sub standard because you do get clipping on high/low frequencies when you crank the volume up.

    The other way I listen is in my car, and that either means filling one of the 6 discs with a CD of mp3 files (because it won't play anything other than mp3 or wav) or hooking up my phone via the headphone socket to the aux input because Bluetooth streaming doesn't give me the best audio.. now my car does have the top end factory fitted premium sound system complete with sub and sounds great... so it could be my car has crappy BT because my BT headphones sound great streaming from my phone/tablet.

    I am not storing 20,000+ songs in multiple formats just so I can listen to them in the best quality possible in my home and car. MP3 is fine for what I want and whilst I can tell the difference between low bitrate mp3 and my preferred settings, my ears are now 40yrs old and have been put through thousands of gigs standing too close to speaker stacks, hundreds more gigs as a drummer and countless hours listening to reasonably loud music on good quality headphones (meaning not ear buds).

    If there does actually come a time when mp3 really has become obsolete and no one is supporting it anymore and I no longer have any devices that will only play those filetypes... I may consider ripping my CD's again into a newer format... or acquiring replacements in a newer format... whichever is most convenient/quickest for my legitimately purchased music.

    For the audiophiles & cinephiles out there... as some one who has had surround sound home cinema setups for about 20yrs now and always had a fondness for DTS over DD (AC3)... Can you tell me if the AAC codec provides a better sound quality than either of the other two in their various formats. It's just that I'm thinking about replacing my ageing Yamaha HC amp and relegating that to my office and getting something with all the new toys for the lounge. Not looking to spend more than 300-400 for the amp as I have decent JBL control 1's for the corners and Yamaha sub/centre

    1. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

      Re: I do 2 things with my music

      My main opportunity to listen to my music is while I am driving. Initially it was to keep me awake on long drives - driving itself provides insufficient stimulation to prevent my brain going into powersaving mode after a short period - and music upped the inputs without distraction (although mechanical noises are no longer noticeable). Commercial radio sets off my idiot-o-meter, seems to be populated by wannabe celebrities trying to launch a TV career - and ads... its almost as bad as the web!

      I actually prefer entirely instrumental, or lyrics in a language i dont understand - latest area of interest is Finnish psychedelic black metal.

      So its a noisy environment and a fraction off my attention. Lossy mp3 format is entirely adequate.

      New music I am getting through bandcamp, who offer a good range of formats to download, but by their nature dont offer older music.

  29. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    MP3: May you now no longer RIP

    Surprised to be the first to say it.

  30. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Best Music Ever versus audiphile nonsense

    Mark Coles podcast 'The Shed' (since closed) has occasionally included some 1970s-era Cambodian Rock-and-Roll, originally recorded around a campfire onto cassette tape, copied over several generations, lost, found, purged, found and then finally brought forth into the modern world. It's an amazing back-story and wonderful music.

    Meanwhile the audiophiles listen to "hi res" recordings of Björk fighting with a rabid honey badger.

  31. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    I use Lame VBR

    Best of both worlds, and so far I've not come across a player that doesn't handle it.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: I use Lame VBR

      "Best of both worlds, and so far I've not come across a player that doesn't handle it."
      Double din Kenwood in our Subaru Forester doesn't. :-(

  32. Lomax
    WTF?

    "like Nokia"!? What's that supposed to mean? If it hadn't been for Stephen Elop they would still be the leading handset innovators. I can only assume you never used the N9/N950.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      @Lomax, I was wondering about that sentence too, but I think Andrew Orlowski claims that Nokia "saw change coming, but reacted badly", that is, too late and then the board made a stupid decision. I do agree.

      1. Lomax
        Facepalm

        "As the first new Nokia smartphone to operate without the chains of legacy software, the N9 finally demonstrates some of that dormant software innovation from the labs in Espoo. I first saw it at Nokia’s introductory event in June of this year and, though my expectations were low, was blown away by how intuitive, responsive, and fluid the whole interface was. I wasn’t alone, either. Just about everyone who got a chance to play with the N9 remarked upon its superlative design and wondered aloud why Nokia was abandoning such a promising platform. Because, oh yes, Nokia had decided a few months earlier to transition its entire smartphone strategy to Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS and consign MeeGo to the status of a one-hit (i.e. the N9) wonder."

        "The thing that ties everything together on the N9 is Nokia’s new concept of a Swipe UI. There are no physical or capacitive menu buttons on the N9 because of this one devastatingly simple and equally effective innovation. Swiping in from any edge of the screen drags the app you’re in out of the way and brings up your most recent homescreen. It’s so easy and natural that I honestly started doing edge-swipes on other phones, an experience that filled me with equal measures of disappointment and embarrassment."

        "The N9′s onscreen keyboard is sublime. Every key is just about the perfect size, the comma and full stop sit either side of the space bar (where they belong), and there are three levels of haptic feedback. For the first time in my life, I didn’t switch off the haptic option, it actually contributes to the experience of typing exactly the way it was always meant to but never managed before this exceptional phone."

        "It’s hard to overstate how much of a departure the N9 is from Nokia’s old comfort zone. Whereas the company’s previous effort at building a new touchscreen OS, once known as Symbian^3, was all too timid and reluctant to move too far away from its roots, this new MeeGo stuff has no qualms about dispensing with the old."

        "The only other company that has shown this kind of immaculate care with keeping design themes consistent is Apple. Ultimately, what Nokia has put together in the N9′s UI is nothing short of a triumph. It feels cohesive and, remarkably, lives up to the fantastic elegance of the phone’s physical design and construction."

        "From the moment you unlock the N9, screen animations flow around your finger like gentle waves of awesomeness. Transitions between homescreens, scrolling, and pinch-to-zoom are all delectably smooth and fluid. That applies to the full range of preloaded native apps, like the browser, maps, gallery, and mail and messaging clients. Both recording and playback of 720p video work flawlessly, and though there’s no Flash support in the default browser, the YouTube app does a perfectly fine job of playing back web content."

        "The Harmattan UI is fresh, slick, and as natural as anything the smartphone world has yet introduced, while the physical design is unmatched. Not even the shiny new iPhone 4S feels as luxurious in the hand as the N9."

        "Stephen Elop has personally shut the door on future consumer products running MeeGo Harmattan, which renders the N9 and its developer-focused sibling the N950 the only exhibitors of this essentially abandoned OS."

        https://www.theverge.com/2011/10/22/2506376/nokia-n9-review

        1. Lomax
          Unhappy

          But then of course, Orlowski - and you - have never used Nokia's iPhone killer, because if you had you you wouldn't be spouting garbage about them being "too late". Nokia made precisely *one* mistake, and that was hiring Stephen Elop, the Microsoft shill who ended up being their butcher.

  33. WatAWorld

    MP3 didn't die, it became license free

    From the article it sounds like MP3 didn't die, but rather it became license free.

  34. Tannin

    Bahh ... The only way - repeat the only way to get a truly accurate sound for perfect satisfaction is to avoid all electronic pollutions of the aural purity. Simply purchase an instrument of your choice and learn to play it. Most people should be able to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency on almost any instrument in less than 30 years if they practice regularly ... by which time they will be old enough for their ears to have lost full HF sensitivity and thus ruined their ability to appreciate that perfect sound.

  35. Sil

    MQA is a joke

    MQA is a joke, insofar as Meridian refuses to explain anything about it, providing us instead with ample marketing bs. Not asking for the patented details/industry secrets but a few scientific hints.

    Kind of reminds me of devialet in this sense, the two companies should merge.

  36. localzuk

    Another media outlet reporting this incorrectly?

    I expect it from the non-tech media, but this not from The Register.

    The "ex" owner of the MP3 patents can do whatever it wants with its licensing scheme, but it isn't killing MP3 in any way or form. They simply can't charge anyone a fee to use the technology any more.

    If anything, a more accurate report would be "MP3 has now been freed from the shackles of patent protection".

    Simply put - MP3 is not going anywhere.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't Jimmy Savile an audiophile ?

  38. Number6

    I tend to listen to music in a room with one or more computers with multiple fans, an occasionally barking dog, lots of obstructions and reflective surfaces and other stuff that would screw up an ideal sound recording. Oh, and my PC has a pair of cheap Logitech speakers on it, one of which is occasionally hanging off the back of the desk if the cat has pushed it off.

    Given all of that, a decent bitrate MP3 sounds just fine, and is still good enough to hear the imperfections of the vinyl on the tracks I ripped from LPs.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "Given all of that, a decent bitrate MP3 sounds just fine, and is still good enough to hear the imperfections of the vinyl on the tracks I ripped from LPs."
      Shush! You'll scare away all those numpties paying $AU60 for virgin vinyl pressings.

  39. soulrideruk Bronze badge

    Woohoo

    So now I can make my own MP3 playing and recording software, and don't need to worry about paying a licence!!

    Win-Win

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MP3 is far from death but AAC is better

    I believe MP3 will still exist in our life and many of us will also use it. AAC is a good replacement of MP3. It is smaller and the audio quality is better. This article introduces about it and you can take a look http://bit.ly/2rypx5B

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