What Is an MP3 CD?

The term MP3 CD is a generic term that describes the storage of digital audio files (usually MP3) on compact disc (CD). These files are stored just like any other file on a regular CD-ROM using the Yellow Book CD standard. This storage method differs from audio CDs where the recorded audio data is encoded on the optical media in an uncompressed format (in the Red Book CD standard). Although the term MP3 CD suggests that only MP3 files can be stored to conform to this type of CD, you can create a compilation of audio files (songs, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.), which can be a mix of different audio formats.

However, by deviating from the MP3 format, there is no guarantee that CD and DVD based consumer electronic devices (like some CD players) would be able to play all the audio formats stored on your custom made MP3 CD.

Advantages of Using an MP3 CD

A normal audio CD usually only contains a single music album or a collection of songs with a maximum playing time of approximately 80 minutes. By creating an MP3 CD, you can significantly extend this maximum playing time and store many more songs than a standard audio CD. This is because music stored in a digital audio file (like MP3) is encoded in a compressed format and therefore takes up a lot less storage space on a CD. In fact, by using an MP3 CD you can on average have between 8 to 10 albums on one disc -- this figure is very much dependent of course on the format, encoding method (VBR, CBR, etc.), and bitrate (kbps) used.

Disadvantages When Compared to a Standard Audio CD

MP3 CD discs may offer the advantage of being able to store more music than a regular audio CD, but there are disadvantages too.

These are:

  • Inferior Audio Reproduction -- the sound quality of the audio with an MP3 CD is far less than a normal music CD. This is because the stored audio data in the MP3 format is a lossy one. This contrasts with audio CDs where the recorded audio is uncompressed and therefore is lossless.
  • Reduced Compatibility -- MP3 CDs are less compatible with consumer electronic devices than audio CD. Although many modern hardware devices like DVD and CD players support the MP3 format (and others like WMA, AAC, etc.) there is still hardware that only supports the playback of audio CDs.