What is an MP3?

A brief explanation of the term MP3

An MP3 player and headphones
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There are many audio file formats of which the first was MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 — or more commonly referred to as MP3. It is a lossy compression algorithm that removes certain frequencies that humans can't hear. When creating an MP3 file, the bit rate that is used to encode the audio has a big effect on the quality of the sound. Setting a bitrate that is too low can produce a file that has poor sounding quality.

The term MP3 has become synonymous with digital music files and is the de facto standard that everything else is compared to. Interestingly this ‘lossy’ compression algorithm was invented by a group of European engineers who used a component from an earlier invention as early as 1979.

Also Known As: MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3

For a more in-depth look, read our profile of the the MP3 format.