Mp3 is one of those things we say, use, and just accept, with the majority of people having no idea what it actually means, other than they can fit a lot of songs onto a CD or USB stick.
Designed in the late eighties and standardised in 1994, it was the creation of many years work by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) who are a body put together to create universal standards in audio and telecommunications data , and to give it its full name is MPEG-2 - Audio layer 3.
It was designed as a way of compressing the size of audio data for digital storage and playback, to sizes significantly smaller than the original recording would be, without too much loss of quality. An Mp3 recorded at the standard rate of 128kbits/s is approximately 1/11 the data size of CD quality. This amazing reduction is done by certain parts of the original source being discarded during compression, parts that are considered inaudible to human hearing.
It is probably the most significant event to happen to music since the creation of vinyl and music playback. It changed the portable music device market overnight, making the old world cassette tape or the cumbersome CD walkmans of the early 90s immediately obsolete. It's incredible storage capacity, ability to include embedded information on track names and album artwork, and that it's stored and played back from solid state, non moving part electronic devices, has meant it's become an integral part of daily life.
The Dj based Mp3 units available basically take the already established CD rack players, and remove the mechanics in favour of the newer format, with the CD slot or tray being replaced with its digital storage equivalents of SD card and USB socket. The controls remain mostly the same, with the standard speed control and cue functions, but the removal of the CD elements means it's all in one box now. Screens are often larger to allow the information available to be displayed properly, and many of these units feature direct inputs for microphone, and output level controls, which remove the need to have a mixer connected entirely if you are not using it for mixing purposes.
Generally built into 1U sized 19” rack mount enclosures, they are perfect for portable PA rigs, or for Karaoke use, and require no computer or laptop for software, with music sourced directly from the USB or SD inputs, or from a connected ipod or smartphone, either via a 3.5mm auxiliary input, or from the onboard bluetooth receiver that many are now equipped with.
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