The creators of the original MP3 format, now a decade old, have launched an updated version of the codec which promises more CD-like sound quality in a smaller file.
Thomson Multimedia and the Fraunhofer Institute, the companies responsible for creating the most popular music storage format on the web, yesterday released MP3Pro.
The updated format claims to offer near perfect sound quality in a file half the size of current MP3s.
Although the release is limited, with full functionality available to companies licensing the codec at around $7.50 per device, it includes a ripper for users to play with, allowing songs to be pulled from CDs.
MP3Pro claims to offer "parity or better" in terms of quality with Microsoft's rival music encoder, Windows Audio 8.
Like Windows Audio 8, MP3Pro records at 64Kbits per second but also allows two minutes of music to be stored in one megabyte of space, about half the size of current MP3s.
Unlike the original codec, MP3Pro also has a second track which includes the high-frequency sounds omitted in the original, allowing for better quality recording.
However, older MP3 players will still not be able to pick up this second stream: an MP3Pro compatible player is needed to hear the better quality sounds.
The new format still doesn't include any form of copy protection, an omission that made the original MP3 format so popular because of tools such as Napster. Thompson has said it is toying with the idea if it becomes the only way to appease the recording industry.
Users have expressed some concern over the MP3Pro format, however, saying it will receive competition from other codecs such as Vorbis.
"It's horribly patent encumbered, and even more expensive than MP3 to licence," said one user.
"At least we have Ogg Vorbis to make up for it. Sure, it may not be quite so small, but at least it's completely free, and storage isn't so much of an issue these days."
The MP3Pro codec can be downloaded here.
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