Burning MP3s to CD

Week  22, 2003

Q) I own a 2001 Dell Dimension 4100 running Windows 2000.  I have dual CD trays and can burn CD’s.  I have Easy CD Creator 4.  My question is, what are MP3s? Can I burn them onto a blank CD? Will I be able to play them, and where do I find MP3’s?

-Clarence Richey, Whitehall

A) MP3s are digital sound files, usually used as a way to store music.   MP3s are created using a computer process called MP3 encoding.     When a song is run through the MP3 encoding process, the result is the same music, but in a much more compact digital form.
For example, a store-bought music CD is 700 MB in size and can hold around seventy minutes of music.     In contrast, that same 700 MB CD can hold around twelve hours of music that is MP3 encoded.  

The small size of MP3 files lends itself to a plethora of applications.   The most famous use of MP3s is Napster, the music-swapping website that allowed illegal downloading and trading of copyrighted music.   Napster in the free-trading form has been shut down and has largely been replaced by other websites where you must pay to download the music.  

There are many other ways to use MP3 files.   Some people play MP3s over their computer speakers.   Very small MP3 players with built-in memory or removable memory cards are very popular, as are portable CD players that can play MP3s burned to CD.   More and more home DVD and CD players can now play MP3 CDs.   Automobile MP3 CD players could largely make car CD changers a thing of the past.   Imagine- 12 hours of your favorite music on one CD!   Who needs a changer?

As is often said, there is no free lunch, and the MP3 encoding process is not without some drawbacks.   Some sound quality is lost as the sound files are encoded to MP3.   On a portable CD player with headphones, an MP3 player, or a car stereo, the difference between the original music and an MP3 would not be objectionable.   On a truly high-fidelity sound system, the difference would be more apparent.   Serious hi-fi buffs to not consider MP3 to be a high quality sound format.   Everyday users, however, are likely to be satisfied with MP3 sound quality.

Now that you know what MP3s are, we can discuss your computer system.   Your computer can play MP3s with Windows Media Player, which should be included in your Windows 2000 operating system.   You can visit www.mp3.com and download a few free MP3 samples to see how it works.

Easy CD Creator 4 can burn existing MP3s to CD, but it cannot create new MP3s because the software does not have MP3 encoding capability.   I recommend you upgrade to Easy CD Creator 6, which you can see at www.roxio.com.   You can use Easy CD Creator 6 to create MP3s from your CD collection (converting a song from CD to MP3 is popularly called “ripping”).   Once they are encoded you can store a large music collection on your computer, burn them to CD to play on an MP3-compatible CD or DVD player, or download them to a portable MP3 player.   You can create any kind of music mix you want- the possibilities are endless.

Please note that if you burn a bunch of MP3s to a CD and pop it into your home or car CD player, chances are it isn’t going to work.   You need a special CD or DVD player designed to play MP3 files, which are much different from the way music is normally stored on a CD.

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