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Lossless mp3HD codec revealed for trial

Lossless mp3HD codec revealed for trial

The sheer ubiquity of the mp3 format has done much to obscure its complicated origins and the licensing disputes that surround it. While the nerds know who makes OGG Vorbis, and even the general public knows that Apple makes AAC, neither camp is as quick to point out that is in fact Thomson that helps to oversee the mp3. Yet today, Thomson has popped back up on the radar with their announcement of the lossless and backwards-compatible MP3HD codec.

While services like Amazon have moved towards a noticeably superior 192Kbps bitrate, the average person’s collection has hovered (as per preference) around the passable 128Kbps mark. Mp3HD considerably ups the the ante by offering bitrates that approach 900Kbps.

The sharp increase in bitrate falls in line with what’s known as lossless compression, meaning bit-for-bit replication of the source material in a single file. An mp3HD track would represent every single bit and nuance of the CD it came from. This is opposed to lossy formats like OGG, AAC and MP3 that use fanciful algorithms to artfully disguise bass and treble reproduction that has been butchered in favor of smaller file sizes.

The format also brings generous backwards-compatability with mp3s by using the same .mp3 extension and id3 meta-data format. Thompson says this of HD’s merits:

  • mp3HD is a lossless audio codec (100% bit-exact replica of CD tracks)
  • Backward Compatible to mp3
  • File extension .mp3
  • Bitrates for music approximately 500 to 900 kbps rates (similar to other lossless codecs), depending on genre
  • Embedded mp3 track and the mp3HD file share the same id3 metadata
  • Encoding parameters (e.g. bit rate), ancillary data and meta data of embedded mp3 track are under control

The introduction of mp3HD is curious, if unprompted. Given the general public’s adoration for terribad bitrates and the incumbent popularity of FLAC in the lossless space, we wonder where Thomson is aiming their new specification. Though we can’t say mp3HD will ever gain much traction outside select circles of the multimedia elite, it is nonetheless an interesting development that is now available for public testing.


  1. digitalvision
    digitalvision I'm very interested in this format because of it's backwards compatibility. I love AAC (and it's enhanced features) but I just can't switch to it for the media I distribute because too many people don't know what to do with it if there's a hiccup.

    Pretty much everything plays MP3, so in that it has an inherent advantage.
  2. Gargoyle
    Gargoyle I'm glad my terribad ears can't tell the difference when listening to my cheap headphones or awful laptop speakers. I'll stick with 192-224 kbps.
  3. Thrax
    Thrax Yeah, that's really its big selling point. While nothing plays FLAC unless it's homebrew, hacked, or righteously obscure, mp3HD already has massive pre-installed ecosystem of supporting hardware.

    My big concern: How will the DSPs in mp3 players handle a 900Kbps track?
  4. Gargoyle
    Thrax wrote:
    My big concern: How will the DSPs in mp3 players handle a 900Kbps track?

    My Zen Stone has a hard time scrolling the file name while playing a song. I can only imagine what throwing 900kbps at it will do.
  5. Norge
    Norge How will file sizes be affected? For people with MP3 players having smaller storage larger files might not be worth the increase in bit rate.
  6. Thrax
    Thrax Really and truly, lossless MP3s are not really for MP3 players. Nobody uses headphones that offer enough fidelity to truly represent the advantages of an mp3HD track over a standard 192Kbps mp3.

    Mp3HD starts to become valuable if your car or home audio systems happen to be quite expensive and support mp3 playback. Even then, I wonder how set-top or in-dash mp3 DSPs will handle these tracks. I'll be trying this on my car.
  7. Kwitko
    Kwitko As will I. I have an aftermarket head unit, but the speakers, subwoofer, and amp are Bose.
  8. mas0n
    mas0n There are very few circumstances where I demand higher than 320kbps from an easily portable format, but I currently have to use a different format/codec for permanent audio storage and this could perhaps eliminate that need. I have a mid-range Sony head unit that eats right through variable bit-rate encodings averaging 320kbps, but have never tried to throw anything higher than that at it. Don't really need to, but would be interesting to see where the ceiling is.
  9. Masticina Akicta
    Masticina Akicta So every MP3 player can play MP3HD?
    Oh they can play the Lossy part but the data that makes it lossless is within the tag. Meaning that putting a file like this unto a MP3 player WASTES SPACE.

    That and really the situation is simple frauenhoff knows their 20 years of licensing is over. MP3 will be old hat, free to use unlicensed. Mp3 Pro required a new license guess what it didn't happen.

    Mp3HD is them trying to get you stuck into another "pay our license" situation. And worse. tag editors, part of any mp3 player software that doesn't knows about this "HD" chunk will pretty much remove this HD information as it safes the new tag.

    Meaning your once Mp3HD's are not MP3 VBR's. Jolly! This is the worst format I heared of in a while. So no this is a terrible format to use.

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