Electronic Design

MP3 Developers Win Prestigious German Award

The inventors of the MP3 coding algorithm for compressing audio data—Karlheinz Brandenburg, Bernhard Grill, and Harald Popp—received the German "Zukunftspreis 2000" (Future Award 2000). German Federal president Johannes Rau presented it at an October ceremony on the Hannover Expo campus in Hannover, Germany. Rau praised the three innovators, who are affiliated with the Fraunhofer Institute in Erlangen, as "pioneers of new ideas."

Now a widely accepted coding algorithm, MP3 was developed as a file-compression technique in 1991. Without compression, a digital audio signal typically consists of 16-bit samples recorded at a sampling rate that is more than twice the actual audio bandwidth. That's 44.1 kHz for compact discs, or over 1.4 Mbits per second of CD-quality stereo music.

By using MP3 coding, engineers can shrink the original sound by a factor of 12. A five-minute song on a CD gobbles up about 50 Mbytes of memory. Compressing the song in an MP3 format slashes memory requirements to approximately 5 Mbytes. And, the compressed source produces virtually the same sound quality.

MP3 is the most powerful member of the Motion Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) audio coding family. It requires the lowest bit rate for a given sound quality level. Also, it achieves the highest sound quality for a given bit rate.

MPEG approved the compression technique as an official standard and dubbed it "MP3-1 Audio Layer 3." Since then, it has come to be known simply as MP3. For more, go to www.iis.fhg.de.

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