Allofmp3.ru is an online music store. Years of experience in the digital music industry have allowed us to create a unique service. You can browse artists by name, album or title, choose your music format and quality and download music in an easy and convenient way.
There are hundreds of thousands of albums in our catalogue — from all-time hits to hot releases, soundtracks to movies and computer games as well as audio books. Some 30 new albums are added everyday.
Listen before buying. You can either download a low quality sample or listen to it immediately in a streaming audio format.
Our audio-encoding platform offers several format and quality (bit rate) download options. This unique technology allows our users to choose the preferred file format (MP3, WMA, OGG, etc.) as well as file size — or you can simply go with the default download settings (MP3/192 kbps).
There is also an advanced "Online Encoding Exclusive" (OEEX) feature for retaining the original quality of a recording in the following formats: Monkey's Audio, WMA 9 Lossless, FLAC, and OptimFrog. OEEX enables you to encode music using the original audio source — a compact disc.
Before registering, you must first read and agree with the terms of our user agreement. If you disagree with any clause of this document, you should not use the site. Please note: you should not download audio files from Allofmp3.ru if the Terms are in conflict with the laws of your country of residence. Allofmp3.ru does not attempt to control the actions of its users, who bear sole responsibility for any illegal use.
The Allofmp3.ru website (hereinafter referred to as the "Site") is a part of the Allofmp3 system of services (hereinafter referred to as the "Services"). This document is an agreement ("Agreement") between you and the Allofmp3 administration ("Administration") that states your rights and duties while using the Site and sets the framework for the use of services provided by the Allofmp3 system. If you start registration on this site, you also confirm that:
The Administration of Allofmp3.ru and Allofmp3 reserve the right to change, amend, and supplement this Agreement on an occasional basis. Administration shall undertake to notify you of all changes to the present Agreement. In the event that you disagree with any clause of the amended Agreement, you should terminate your registration on the Site immediately and refrain from using it.
Allofmp3.ru, being a part of Allofmp3 resources, is an archive of audio recordings with a convenient file search and download system. All registered users are charged for downloading audio materials in accordance with the tariffs and rules set by the Administration. All users must register in order to obtain full access to Allofmp3.ru Services. Non-registered users have limited access to the Site materials: they can only browse the catalogue.
Every user must register to acquire full access to Allofmp3.ru Services. During registration, every user provides the Site Administration with certain personal data, such as: full name, country of residence, email address and the data necessary to make a payment to the site (see the “Using Allofmp3.ru Services” clause below). After successful registration on the Site, each user receives a unique member name (login), and an entrance password as well as a personal account for using the site and interacting with the Administration.
During registration, you should submit only true and accurate personal data. The Site Administration undertakes not to abuse any data received during registration and not to disclose it. The user agrees not to pass his/her login and password to anyone else. The owner of a personal account bears all responsibility for damage caused as a result of passing the Allofmp3.ru login and password to a third person.
Any user registered on the Site can terminate registration at any time and stop being a user of the Services. If the user terminates registration, it is impossible to withdraw any balance remaining on the personal account. No other payments will be returned and no losses will be reimbursed.
The Services provided by Allofmp3 and Allofmp3.ru are not free-of-charge. The users pay for Services before the Services are provided (prepayment) in accordance with the rules and tariffs set by the Administration. You are expected to pay for all Services in full. The Administration agrees not to introduce retrospective changes to the payment rules and not to make any additional charges not mentioned in the rules. At the same time, the Administration reserves the right to introduce changes to the Service payment rules and change tariffs on an occasional basis.
When you pay for a Service, the Administration reserves the right to request additional information regarding the details of the financial transaction necessary to verify the identity of the payer. This additional security measure is taken for the benefit of Allofmp3 clients, despite its seeming inconvenience.
While browsing the Site, you may be using third-party software and/or hardware. You are personally responsible for the use of any software and hardware necessary to access Allofmp3 resources. You are also responsible for any direct or indirect costs incurred as a result of using Allofmp3.ru (e.g., payment for Internet access, purchase of software, etc.).
Some Allofmp3.ru Services are provided with the use of software (e.g., audio encoding tools, etc.) and hardware produced by third parties. If you plan to use these Allofmp3.ru Services, you should read all the rules concerning the use of software and hardware employed to provide these Services and agree to them. If you disagree with any clause in the rules regarding software/hardware use, you shall not have the right to use these Services.
All software used and provided on the Site is the property of the manufacturer (copyright holder) and is protected by local and international legislation on intellectual property and copyright protection.
The Allofmp3 Administration shall not be liable for the quality of connection you use and is not responsible for financial or any other damage incurred due to the use of low-quality connections.
You should not use data received from the Site for any illegal purposes. The Site Administration shall not be held liable for the possible use of information received on the Site for any purposes prohibited by legislation or infringing copyright. The users are personally responsible for any unlawful or unauthorized use of any content on the Site.
If you download defective audio materials from the Site catalogue (e.g., audio recordings with odd noise or distinct clicks), you have the right to request the Administration to replace such low-quality material.
The availability over the Internet of the Allofmp3.ru materials is authorized by the license # LS-3I-05-03 of the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (ROMS) and license # 006/3M-05 of the Rightholders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively (FAIR). . Under the licenses' terms, Allofmp3 pays license fees for all materials downloaded from the site subject to the Law of the Russian Federation "On Copyright and Related Rights". All these materials are solely for personal use. Any further distribution, resale or broadcasting are prohibited.
All trade marks, trade names, company names, slogans, logos, and any other copyright items which can be seen on the Site pages in various contexts are the property of their respective owners. You have no right to copy, distribute or otherwise use them without the prior written consent of the owners.
If the Site contains links to other sites, they are provided for your convenience only. You agree that the Administration is not to be held liable for their operability, content or possible damage resulting from using them.
You agree that use of the Services provided by Allofmp3 are at your own risk and with your personal consent. All Services are provided "as is" without any guarantee obligations on the part of the Administration (apart from those mentioned above). The Administration does not provide you with any guarantee that you will profit or benefit from the use of the Services. You agree NOT to appeal to the Administration due to the quality of the Services provided, as well as due to any possible damage you experience as a result of using or accessing Allofmp3.
Planetnaya st. 29 bld 1,
phone: +7 (495) 506-5258
Before you continue registration on the Site, we ask that you first read and agree with the clauses in the following document. If you disagree with any clause, you should not continue your registration.
Welcome to Allofmp3.ru. The Allofmp3.ru website (hereinafter referred to as the "Site") is part of the Allofmp3 system of services (hereinafter referred to as the "Services"). This document is an agreement ("Agreement") made between you and the Allofmp3 administration ("Administration") that states your rights and duties while using the Site, and sets the framework for the use of services provided by the Allofmp3 system.
If you begin registering, you confirm that:
The Administration of Allofmp3.ru and Allofmp3 reserve the right to change, amend, and supplement the present Agreement on an occasional basis.
The Administration shall undertake to notify you of all changes to the present Agreement. In the event that you disagree with any clause of the amended Agreement, you should terminate your registration on the Site immediately and refrain from using it.
During registration, you should submit only true and accurate personal data. The Site Administration agrees not to abuse any data received during registration and not to disclose it. The user agrees not to give his/her login and password to anyone else. The owner of a personal account bears all responsibility for damage caused as a result of disclosing the Allofmp3.ru login and password to a third person.
In accordance with common practice accepted by the industry, our Site also collects statistics on customers' IP addresses. This data is used to improve our Services and also helps us to identify and better solve technical problems. Information on IP addresses can also be used to control the legality of payments (e.g., for Services provided). The Site Administration agrees not to abuse IP address data as well as not to disclose it.
When a user interacts with the Site, certain information accumulates on the personal account of each registered user (e.g., list of downloads, e-mail/ICQ correspondence with the Administration, statistics, etc.). The Site Administration agrees not to abuse this data and not to disclose it (unless agreed with the user beforehand).
In order to pay for Site Services, the user provides information on the method of payment (e.g., credit card details, etc.) to a payment transfer company that has a contract with Allofmp3. All details of your methods of payments are UNAVAILABLE to the Site Administration. Nevertheless, the Administration agrees to observe the security and non-dissemination of any other financial information on its users with all possible care (e.g., information on payments made).
It is in the interests of the Administration to keep all information on Site users safe and confidential. Therefore, any other personal information not mentioned above shall be stored safely and shall not be disseminated (except in specially noted cases). You agree to use the Services provided by Allofmp3 at your own risk and with your personal consent. All Services are provided "as is" without any guarantee obligations on the part of the Administration (apart from those mentioned above). The Administration does not provide you with any guarantee that you will profit or benefit from the use of the Services. You agree NOT to appeal to the Administration due to the quality of the services provided, as well as due to any possible damage you experience as a result of using or accessing Allofmp3.
Allofmp3 system utilizes a special mechanism to transmit your personal data safely, using the SSL protocol (Secure Sockets Layer). You can enable this feature in "Preferences" . When SSL is used, all your personal data (Balance, My Basket, etc.) is encoded to guarantee its safety. Server certificates (part of the SSL safety protocol) ensure protection against disclosure, falsification and distortion of the data transferred and act as a reliable "identity card" for the service you use. The digital safety certificate is issued by Thawte.
The availability over the Internet of the Allofmp3.ru materials is authorized by the license # LS-3Ì-05-03 of the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (ROMS). In accordance to the licenses' terms Allofmp3 pays license fees for all materials downloaded from the site subject to the Law of the Russian Federation "On Copyright and Related Rights". All these materials are solely for personal use. Any further distribution, resale or broadcasting are prohibited.
The works available from Allofmp3.ru are protected by the Law of the Russian Federation "On Copyright and Related Rights" and are for personal use of a buyer. Commercial use of such material is prohibited. Recording, copying, distribution on any media is possible only upon special consent of a Rightholder.
The user bears sole responsibility for any use and distribution of all materials received from Allofmp3.ru. This responsibility is dependent on the national legislation in each user's country of residence. The Administration of Allofmp3.ru does not possess information on the laws of each particular country and is not responsible for the actions of foreign users.
Yes; we believe it is legal in Russia under Articles 44 and 45 of the Law of the Russian Federation No. 5351-1 "On Copyright and Related Rights" dated July 9, 1993, as amended, (the "Copyright Law"), which authorizes Russian non-profit Russian organizations for collective management of copyrights ("Russian Licensing Societies") to grant licenses to entities such as Allofmp3. Allofmp3 has up-to-date licenses from the Russian Licensing Societies, which includes license # LS-3Œ-05-03 from the Russian Organization on Collective Management of Rights of Authors and Other Right Holders in Multimedia, Digital Networks & Visual Arts ("ROMS").
Article 44 of the Copyright Law allows holders of intellectual property rights to establish non-profit organizations such as ROMS. The Russian Copyright Law provides non-profit Russian Licensing Societies with a right to grant licenses and to collect royalties for the use of music without necessarily obtaining permission from the copyright owners, as stated in Article 45(3):
Such licenses grant the right to use (in a manner permitted by such licenses) all works of art and objects of related rights and are issued on behalf of all authors and related rightholders, including those who did not give an authorization to the organization [Russian Licensing Societies] as described in Section 2 of this Article. (emphasis added).
Although to our knowledge there is no direct precedent on the legality of accessing a service like ours from the US (i.e., using a legal music download service located outside of the US), we, however, do believe that there are at least several statutes, each of which, should allow users to access our service in the US; such as 17 U.S.C. §§ 602(a) (the "Importation for Private Use Exception"); 1008, 1001 (the "iPod Exception"); 109 (the "First-Sale Doctrine/Anti-'Double-Dip' Exception"); 107, 117 (the "Fair-Use/Backup Exception"); among others.
(a) Importation into the United States, without the authority of the owner of copyright under this title, of copies or phonorecords of a work that have been acquired outside the United States is an infringement of the exclusive right to distribute copies or phonorecords under section 106, actionable under section 501. This subsection does not apply to- ...
(2) importation, for the private use of the importer and not for distribution, by any person with respect to no more than one copy or phonorecord of any one work at any one time, or by any person arriving from outside the United States with respect to copies or phonorecords forming part of such person’s personal baggage ... (emphasis added).
Viewed one way, § 602(a)(2) says if you obtain a copy of music legally in a foreign country, there is a personal exemption to bring that copy into the US. So you should be OK if you buy a legal CD in Russia or some other country, and bring it back to the US. We think three examples may be helpful in understanding our view as to how this statute applies to the Allofmp3 service:
Example 1. If you were in Russia and used Allofmp3 to make a CD, which is legal for you to do in Russia (see the answer to Question 1, above), and you then bring that legally procured CD back to the US for your own personal use, we see that as being within the scope and spirit of what is allowable under §602.
Example 2. If you were in Russia and used Allofmp3 to download music to your iPod, which is legal for you to do in Russia, and you then bring that legally procured music back to the US for your own personal use, we see that as being within the scope and spirit of what is allowable under §602.
Example 3. If you owned an apartment in Moscow and another in New York, and if you downloaded music to your Moscow home computer from Allofmp3, which is legal to do in Russia, and then you later connect to your Moscow home computer from your home computer in New York so that you can move your legally obtained music to New York, we see that as being within the scope and spirit of what is allowable under §602.
As such, our view is that § 602 allows for the importing of a legally purchased music selection from a user's Allofmp3 space into their private music library. As part of the Allofmp3 service, with every download item you purchase, you also obtain personal space (for up to two weeks) from which you can download your selected items. As this is a user's personal space located on servers in Russia, the user's downloaded items are legally procured and held in that space under Russian Law. When a user selects to retrieve music from Allofmp3, it is not merely streamed, but it is downloaded by the user as the file is ultimately dislocated from the user's personal storage space in Russia and moved to the user's storage space in their personal library. It is important to note that when a user downloads music from Allofmp3, the music in their personal space on the Allofmp3 server in Russia is simultaneously deleted as soon as the download completes into the user's private music library; as such, there is only one copy of the work that exists.
No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings. (emphasis added).
... (2) A "digital audio interface device" is any machine or device that is designed specifically to communicate digital audio information and related interface data to a digital audio recording device through a nonprofessional interface. (emphasis added).
(3) A "digital audio recording device" is any machine or device of a type commonly distributed to individuals for use by individuals, whether or not included with or as part of some other machine or device, the digital recording function of which is designed or marketed for the primary purpose of, and that is capable of, making a digital audio copied recording for private use, except for... (emphasis added).
Additionally, to the extent users download from Allofmp3 directly to their digital audio players (e.g., their iPod), it is our view that 17 U.S.C. § 1008 prevents infringement actions against such users.
Viewed one way, § 1008 says if a consumer downloads music straight to their digital audio recording device (e.g., an iPod) through a digital audio interface (e.g., your computer, which is the only interface specifically made for digital audio devices like the iPod) for your noncommercial use, then no infringement action should be brought against you for such personal use. Unlike in A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004 (9th Cir. 2001), MP3 players such as the iPod are not general purpose computers, but are designed specifically for music, and as such, there is an argument that § 1008 would apply to protect those that download music from Allofmp3 directly to their MP3 player's storage space; i.e., users space-shift their music from their legal Allofmp3 space to their MP3 player. The case of the RIAA v. Diamond further supports the proposition of space-shifting a legal copy to a more portable device as being legal activity:
In fact, the Rio's operation [which is an MP3 Player] is entirely consistent with the Act's main purpose--the facilitation of personal use. As the Senate Report explains, "[t]he purpose of [the Act] is to ensure the right of consumers to make analog or digital audio recordings of copyrighted music for their private, noncommercial use." S. Rep. 102-294 ... The Rio merely makes copies in order to render portable, or "space-shift," those files that already reside on a user's hard drive. Recording Industry Association of America v. Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc., 180 F.3d 1072, 1079 (9th Cir. 1999).
(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 (3), the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, copies or phonorecords of works subject to restored copyright under section 104A that are manufactured before the date of restoration of copyright or, with respect to reliance parties, before publication or service of notice under section 104A (e), may be sold or otherwise disposed of without the authorization of the owner of the restored copyright for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage only during the 12-month period beginning on ... (emphasis added).
With regard to 17 U.S.C. § 109 (a), in general, it is a codification of the first-sale-doctrine. Loosely, it provides that if an individual lawfully obtains a copyrighted work, then the copyright owner cannot further restrain the subsequent distribution of the copyrighted work, and that work may be lawfully imported into the US. See 17 U.S.C. § 109(a). Or more simply put, once you buy a music CD, a copyright owner cannot stop you from selling that CD yourself; i.e., the copyright owner cannot "double dip."
As a user lawfully obtains a copy of music from Allofmp3 under Russian law in their personal space on our servers in Russia, our view is that no further authorization is required from the copyright owner under § 109(a) for the user to move that music into their personal music library. Again, it is important to note that when a user downloads music from Allofmp3, their copy in Russia is simultaneously deleted as soon as the download completes into their private music library, which exhausts the Russian copy.
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include-
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors. (emphasis added).
(a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided...
(1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or
(2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful... (emphasis added).
Finally, we believe that it is fair use under 17 U.S.C. §§ 107 and 117, among other sections of the statute for any user to make backup copies of their music. As the music obtained by the user in their personal space on the Allofmp3 servers in Russia was obtained legally, we believe it is only fair to allow users to backup copies of their MP3s. The purpose and character of such a backup is not of a commercial nature or for the user’s profit; instead, it is merely for their private use and security. Also, the act of backing-up does not affect the potential market for the copyrighted work as the work has already been legally procured. 17 U.S.C. § 107. Further, we believe users have a right to backup music under § 117 because it is essential to actually use the MP3 § 117 (a)(1), and because the users are entitled to a backup copy in case their original copy is destroyed § 117(a)(2). For example, to use your MP3s on your iPod, the MP3s must be backed-up from your computer to the iPod. In fact, if such backup of music is not fair use, then every citizen in the US that ever ripped their CD collection (for use on their MP3 players) would be guilty of copyright infringement. In fact, since your Allofmp3 purchase entitles you to a space on our servers for only two weeks, after which your files will be deleted, you must backup your purchased files to prevent their destruction. It should be noted that we believe an MP3 should be considered a computer program as it is used to instruct a computer for a specific result; i.e., the MP3 is constructed of headers and frames, each of which interact with and instruct the computer on: how to assemble a bitstream, how to allocate storage space to be used as between frames (i.e., one frame will help to instruct how much memory to allocate to subsequent frames), etc. All of which instructs the computer how to play music.
Nevertheless, as there are great political pressures at play, and as there is no direct precedent or case law on these issues, no one (including us) can guarantee that these circumstances would be viewed and/or interpreted as legal by US legal institutions. As such, it is important to know that we are in no way indemnifying or suggesting that use of our service definitively is legal; we are simply presenting information that we believe is supportive. Therefore, the user bears sole responsibility for any use and distribution of all materials received from Allofmp3. Please consult your local laws and counsel to determine the legality of using our service before engaging in this service and do not rely on any of the suppositions in these FAQs.
We do not definitively know if importation of music from Allofmp3 is legal in your country. The user bears sole responsibility for any use and distribution of all materials received from Allofmp3. This responsibility is dependent on the national legislation in each user's country of residence. The Administration of Allofmp3 does not possess information on the laws of each particular country and is not responsible for the actions of foreign users. Please consult your local laws and counsel to find out before engaging in this service.
We pay Russian Licensing Societies 15% for all music. The Russian Licensing Societies will in turn pay the copyright owners, not necessarily the artists. Despite no legal requirement to do so, we are currently considering paying original performing artists 5%, regardless of who owns the copyright to the underlying work.
Yes. Similar to Music Licensing Societies in other countries (like ASCAP and BMI in the US), all a copyright owner needs to do is contact the Russian Licensing Societies (e.g., ROMS) and show proof that they own a copyrighted work; after which they can collect accumulated proceeds.
Yes we have the authority. We have licenses from the Russian Licensing Societies (see the answer to Question 1, above).
Yes. Both ROMS and FAIR have the authority. They were both formed under the authority of the Russian Copyright Law (see the answer to Question 1, above).
No; in Russia it is legal to sell downloads without permission from the copyright owner (see the answer to Question 1, above).
From the above quote by the IFPI it seems that they are unaware of: (a) the Russian Copyright Law (see the answer to Question 1, above), (b) the notion of sovereignty of a nation state, and (c) the Berne Convention Article 9(2), which supports such sovereignty.
As a matter of Russian legislation, the Russian Copyright Law Article 45(3) allows a non-profit organization like ROMS to include artists works for licensing to third parties without authorization from the artists (see the answer to Question 1, above). Russia has every right to pass laws that benefit its people as it sees fit, and not as the IFPI sees fit.
The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Article 9 (2) states:
(2) It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author. (emphasis added).
Yes. Again, we do not know if our service is legal in every other country (see the answer to Question 3, above). We understand and support the move by the ISP Tele2 to appeal the lower court decision and hope their view prevails. However, if the Danish courts and government ultimately decide that such importation is illegal in their country, they are well within their rights as a nation state to decide what is and is not legal for their people. Although we do not agree with their stance, we absolutely support their national sovereignty (see the answer to Question 8, above) and decisions to run their government in a manner of their own choosing.
According to certain reports, it appears that charges were dismissed against an individual that downloaded copies for private use where the individual's aim was not to gain wealth. While we cannot begin to comment on what Visa's problem is, we have heard reports that payment services are being pressured by the IFPI, which claims that such activities are illegal in "virtually every country in the world." Apparently, they are unaware that Russia and other countries have chosen not to be legislated by outside cartels. They, apparently, are also unaware that many people, companies and banks are uncomfortable with a payment service acting as an adjudicating body, which ultimately controls who can and cannot enter the stream of commerce. We believe it is inappropriate for them to wield their market position, make arbitrary decisions and take on a role as arbiter of the legality of our (or anyone else's) services. We believe such adjudication falls within the purview of the government of each nation, and there is a chance they are exposing themselves to greater liability by taking on the role of an international monitoring and adjudicating body.
No. To our knowledge, the IFPI and RIAA are not licensed in Russia, and do not have the authority to dictate Russian policy. Groups like the IFPI seem to be working under the misunderstanding that it is within the purview of a private cartel outside of a sovereign nation to dictate the laws for the nation state and be the arbiter of fairness and prices for foreign governments. We would argue that such cartels have done a poor job of arbitrating fair returns to the artists or to the enjoyment of the public at large within their own countries, and as such, should refrain from attempting to dictate the policies of foreign governments. Were that the standard, then we are sure French farming coalitions, equally, would like to dictate the subsidies that the US provides to its farmers "just because they say so."
No. Russian Copyright Law allows non-profit groups such as ROMS to include those works without going to every copyright owner and obtaining explicit approval (see the answer to Question 1, above).
Although fairness is a difficult and very subjective issue, we believe, yes, it is fair. ROMS is fair and so is the Russian Copyright Law for at least three reasons: (1) The law promotes the arts by providing enough incentive for artists to create artistic works, and maximizes enrichment of the people by allowing them to benefit from a wide array of artistic works, (2) this law advances enjoyment for the arts by lowering logistical barriers, and (3) copyright owners are compensated or may opt-out.
As such, it is our view that this is a very fair system that does promote the advancement of arts for the enjoyment of the people while compensating legitimate copyright owners.
Yes. Allofmp3 follows all applicable laws and removes works that are no longer offered under license from the Russian Licensing Societies.
We are unsure. However, if the record companies were not able to prove they owned the copyrights to the works they wanted removed, then they would not be able to have them removed from the Licensing Societies.
We are unsure. In CJSC "Universal Music" v. LLC "Media Services" and LLC "Samsung Electronics Rus", CJSC "Universal Music" (a Russian subsidiary of the Universal Music Company) initiated a suit against Media Services. Ruling of the Arbitration Court of Moscow No. A40-35850/05-5-275 dated November 1, 2005. Allofmp3 and LLC "Samsung Electronics Rus" acted as the co-respondents. Universal Music asked the Russian court to prohibit Allofmp3 from allowing third parties to download Music from the Internet site owned by Samsung. The Universal Music Company failed to prove in court its intellectual property rights to the music and revoked its claim. This fact prevents Universal Music Company from initiating any further court cases in Russia with regard to the music in accordance with Article 150 of the Arbitration Procedure Code of the Russian Federation. As a consequence of not being able to prove ownership, they were not able to pull "their" works from ROMS.
Also, as we understand it, if artists do not expressly give up digital distribution rights, rights to use their music in a movie or DVD, or foreign rights, then such rights would not have been transferred. Thus, if the record companies have old contracts where such rights were not expressly granted to them, then they may not own such rights. We understand that the logistics of clearing such rights have created problems making it impossible, in some instances, for certain music (which was licensed for one medium (e.g., music for a TV show)) to be made available in another medium (e.g., music on DVDs).
Again, we must re-iterate, as there are great political pressures at play, and as there is no direct precedent or case law on these issues, no one (including us) can guarantee that these circumstances would be viewed and/or interpreted as legal by US legal institutions. As such, it is important to know that we are in no way indemnifying or suggesting that use of our service definitively is legal; we are simply presenting information that we believe is supportive. Therefore, the user bears sole responsibility for any use and distribution of all materials received from Allofmp3. Please consult your local laws and counsel to determine the legality of using our service before engaging in this service and do not rely on any of the suppositions in these FAQs.
You need to register before you can download music from Allofmp3.ru. Registration is the basis for the site’s personalized services. By signing up, each individual user can access his/her personal sections, such as Basket, Statistics, Assistance, etc. To register, simply complete an online form and choose a username and password. A real email address is essential for completing your registration, as we use this address to send you a registration confirmation link.
Every new user receives a $0.20 bonus to his/her account upon confirming the email address mentioned during registration.
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Credit card refund policy:
If for some reason the site is unable to provide you the service, you will be refunded the remainder of your balance within 7 business days after you apply for such refund.
The price of the files that you download is determined by their quality that is by the file format and bitrate.
The order total is shown on the Order screen
You will NOT be charged for either previewing tracks or for the encoding process.
Yes, there is a bonus system for our users. A certain bonus is added every time you make a new payment. This bonus depends on the sum of the previous payments you’ve made. For instance, if the sum of all your preceding payments is greater than $50, then your every new payment is increased by 1%. If the sum of all your preceding payments is greater than $100, then your every new payment is increased by 2%. And so on.
The bonus system works like this:
You may check your current bonus in the My Balance section.
Please, note. This bonus system doesn't cover Allofmp3.ru Gift Certificates and bonus sums that have been already received.
Yes, Allofmp3.ru does offer gift certificates. The Allofmp3.ru gift certificate is an "electronic banknote" issued by Allofmp3.ru. You may purchase such Allofmp3.ru gift certificate for yourself or as a gift to a friend and use it afterwards to download music at Allofmp3.ru.
To buy and send a gift certificate:
To use your gift certificate:
You can buy a Gift Certificate only by following the procedure described above. It is not possible to buy a Certificate in any other way neither by using the money on your account nor with a Xrost gift certificate.
We do not accept American Express, Cirrus, Union Card.
It is not allowed to pay with someone else's card. For transaction security reasons we may ask the cardholder for additional credit card or billing information.
Unfortunately, we cannot process international money transfers according to currency regulation rules in Russia. For the same reason, we also do not accept Western Union.
All online credit card payments to our site are made through credit card transaction processing systems that are well-known and secure. You will be offered to learn more about those systems before you make a payment.
If you've purchased a pin-code and not received it, you can find all information about this pin code at your allTunes account, look at the Balance section. There you can activate your pin code and get full information about all your purchased pin codes.
There are several major categories in the Allofmp3 catalogue: international music, Russian music, classical and soundtracks. Albums from an artist are also sorted into special types: albums, collections, compilations, singles, remixes, live and concerts.
Look for music using our search system or browse through the catalogue in alphabetical order. You can also check out genres, album and single charts (USA, UK, France, and Germany) or our bestsellers page. There’s also a special Just ADDED section where you can find the complete list of recently added hot albums.
The following icons indicate the status and availability of albums:
JUST ADDED The album has been added to the catalogue within the past 30 days
RECOMMENDED The most popular album in an artist’s collection
SOON This album will be available for download in the near future
OE This album can be ordered and downloaded through the Online Encoding system, allowing you to choose file format and quality
OEEX This album can be downloaded via the OEEX system. You can choose file format and quality, including the original quality of the source CD-DA data
The description of each album includes the list of tracks, lengths, file sizes available for download and their approximate costs (file size and cost are given for the most popular mp3 format (MPEG-1 Layer 3) 192kbps). With Our OE (Online Encoding) process, you can decide yourself on the format and quality for most tracks when you download them.
To order several tracks from an album, just tick the tracks you want and press the "Add tracks to basket" button. For the whole album, press the "Add album to basket" button near the album's cover or tick the box next to "select/deselect all songs". You can also order the whole album by clicking on the yellow price tag in the list of all artists’ albums (in this case, it will come in mp3 192 kbps by default).
Note! To order, you need to be logged in and have enough money on your account.
After the tracks have been selected for download, a new "Ordering tracks" window will open.
Online Encoding is a unique technique for audio encoding, allowing users to choose the format (mp3, wma, ogg, etc.) as well as quality. By choosing the compression method (format) and the bit rate, you decide on the quality of the files you download. If you do not select an encoding format, mp3 will be chosen by default. With the mp3 format, three quality options are available: low quality (128 kbps), high quality (192 kbps), and CD quality (320 kbps). If you prefer mp3, select the quality and proceed with the encoding. If you want to change encoding settings (another bit rate or codec) switch to the expert mode.
Note: After you have chosen the format and bit rate, you will see the expected file size and cost of the download. If you agree, click Order Music.
File encoding may take anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes depending on your connection speed. After the encoding process is complete, you can find your selection in the Basket section. Your account is charged the moment you start the download. The link to the file will be stored in your Basket till it is completely downloaded.
The OEEX system extends the possibilities of file encoding, and you can order tracks in the Lossless format. In the "Ordering tracks" window, choose a format: WMA 9 Lossless, Monkey's Audio, OptimFROG, FLAC or original WAV-file, check your order and confirm your choice by clicking "Order music". The ordered files will appear in the Basket according to the OE system queue.
Note: When using OE and OEEX, the payment sum will be put on hold until you download the files. The files will remain in the Basket section for 14 days, after which they will be removed.
Any track from our catalogue is available for preview in low-quality format before you order it. This service is free of charge.
Note! Unregistered users can listen for a preview sample with the first 30 seconds of the original track. For registered and authorized users, the preview is 90 seconds. Those users whose payments exceed 50USD may preview the full length of a track.
This icon shows that the album will appear on our site soon. If you don’t want to miss the album, you can add it to your personal Bookmaks. It will be added in the Waiting List in your Basket and it will also appear in the Collection section/ Bookmarks list. As soon as the album from the Waiting List appears in our catalogue, you will be notified immediately by email and you'll be able to download it from the Basket or Bookmarks section.
The Collection allows you to:
While browsing the site you can bookmark something interesting and return to that later. Simply press the Set Bookmark link to mark an artist, album or even one track.
You can find all your bookmarks in the Bookmarks subsection of the Collection page.
Such bookmarks are temporary marks for interesting albums and artists. Later you can sort what you have marked and add artists you like to your Checklist and move interesting albums into your Catalogue. Bookmarks are intended to be used as temporary reminders which could be deleted when you don’t need them anymore.
An album in the Bookmarks subsection can have the following status:
There are also 2 reminder icons:
You can add your favorite artists to the Checklist and thus keep track of their new additions to the catalogue. In order to do that press “Add to Checklist” button on the main page of an artist.
In the Checklist section you can view the list of albums added by you for a chosen period of time (week, month, quarter, year) or view only your Checklist of artists. Next to the artist name you can see the number of albums in our catalogue and the date when the latest album was added.
An album in the Checklist can have the following status:
To remove an artist from the Checklist go the artist’s page and press the “Delete from Checklist” button.
The Catalogue section allows you to build your own collection with album ratings and also export catalogue lists to the file.
To add an album to the catalogue check the “I already have this album” box on the page of this album or check the “Add album to Catalogue” box when you order it.
Also all albums you order can be added to your Catalogue automatically if you check the “Additions to catalogue” box in the Preferences section.
There’s an option that your catalogue will be a list of artist and all albums will be hidden under artists’ names. Also you can switch on album covers display, however this might increase the page loading time.
There are 2 reminder icons:
The easiest way to start your catalogue is to import data from existing lists.
There’re 2 options. Import to catalogue from: My rated albums | Download history
If you click on “My rated albums” then all albums which you have rated on the site will be added to your catalogue. If you choose “Download history” then all albums downloaded within the last 30 days will be added.
Please note. The system adds whole albums to your Collection even if you had downloaded just one track from some album.
To save the list of albums in your catalogue please use the links at the bottom of the page.
Export catalogue to: CSV | HTML | XML
CSV is Comma Separated Value file which could be opened with Excel and similar programs.
HTML – if you want to post your catalogue online.
XML is a format for web developers.
We do our best to provide our users with the largest catalogue possible. As a rule, we find requests from users to add some particular music helpful but cannot promise to add it the very next day.
You can find all songs you've selected for download in the section titled Basket.
The Basket contains all music files you’ve selected but have not yet downloaded. The files are sorted according to artist and album title.
When you’ve completed downloading a file, it's removed from the Basket and moved to the Download's history.
In order to download a file, you must:
Warning: do not try to download files by clicking the left button on the mouse or with any player — you may lose the file if it is played right away. If it happens anyway you can search for these files in your Temporary Internet Files folder (Documents and Settings\Administrator\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files).
Helpful hint: If you wish to download files accurately and securely, use allTunes program to download the files you’ve ordered.
You may download allTunes here.
Allofmp3 provides a special software client named allTunes. With this utility, you can download files right after they’re placed in the Basket, as well as view your balance, statistics and contact technical support. The program generates ID3Tags for.mp3 files, supports incoming files using templates and saves them in corresponding folders. It also supports multi-flow downloading, and download resumption after corruption. allTunes offers a highly convenient and intuitive user interface.
There are no download speed limitations and no restrictions on the quantity of files downloaded per day.
While we sympathize with your situation, we do not provide this sort of recovery service. If you have not ensured your own backup in a situation like this and wish to restore your Allofmp3.ru files, you are required to reorder them and pay again.
This error can occur as a result of trying to download one file using several streams simultaneously. Some downloading programs may incorrectly split the file, causing our server to assume that the file was successfully downloaded. The best way to avoid this problem is to either download one stream at a time.
If you have problems downloading using these programs, please visit their respective sites for information:
If you've searched these sites and still cannot find the answer, you may contact us for further assistance.
Our site supports download resumption with HTTP/1.1 (according to RFC 2068). Downloading problems may also occur due to malfunctioning proxy servers or bugs in the downloading software.
When you order tracks for download by using OE (Online Encoding) or OEEX (Online Encoding Exclusive) system, they are stored for a period of two weeks (14 days). After two weeks, they are removed from the your Basket. If the files have disappeared before you had time to download them, just reorder these files again. Your account is charged the moment you start the download.
Because we are unable to personally check every track in our database, our users may, though rarely, end up with poor quality tracks (according to our statistics, this occurs less than 0.03% of the time). However, if this happens to you, please contact our technical support staff under the subject heading entitled "Music Archive Errors." After we check the issue and validate your complaint, we will return the appropriate balance to your account. We will also try to do everything within our power to replace the low-quality track so you can download it again.
You must also take into account that some classic audio has been recorded from vinyl and may have characteristics distinctive to the medium that cannot be prevented. In such cases, please note that the original source cannot be improved.
Unfortunately, Online Encoding service does not support the Auto Rename feature. However, this problem can be solved in the following way:
Type the following link into your browser (for example):
The effective part of the link is as follows:
The suffix 'the_prodigy_09_climbatize_128_Lame.MP3' is variable. You can change this suffix to the name of your choice. (for example, 11.xyz).
This way, you can download ordered audio files and give them any names/extensions you want. This will help in solving possible problems you are having with local network restrictions, etc.
Online Encoding is a unique technology developed by Allofmp3.ru, allowing our users to download high quality audio files in the format and bit rate of their choice. Also, we've come up with several ingenious technological solutions that allow us to charge a minimum for such downloading.
With Online Encoding, you can choose the file format (MPEG-1 Layer 3 - MP3, Windows Media Audio - WMA, Ogg Vorbis - OGG, MusePack - MPC, MPEG-4 AAC, etc.) and quality of a song you want to download. We offer a wide choice of encoding formats and bit rates for any audio player: from an MP3player to a sophisticated acoustic system.
Why don’t we simply offer pre-encoded MP3 files at a standard 192 Kbps bit rate? We believe it's worth giving you the option to get audio files in the quality and format of your choice rather than restrict it to some standard quality to save everybody’s time.
OEEX is a new advanced feature adding more options to Online Encoding.
Most of today's popular audio codecs are so-called “lossy codecs” (MP3, ogg, wma, etc.). This type of lossy encoding is used to get a smaller file size while retaining quality as close to the original as possible. It is achieved through using algorithms that simplify the original audio signal cutting off undetectable elements and subtle details not usually audible to the human ear. OEEX allows you to download a track in its original format*, preserving every single bit of audio data from the original source. In OEEX you also have the option to download a track in the original uncompressed .wav format. Files available for this type of download are marked .
There is no additional charge for encoding a file in the format and size you want. You are only charged for downloading a track.
128 kBps bit rate: -q0 -m j (highest quality, joint-stereo)
160 kBps bit rate and higher: -q0 -k (highest quality, stereo, psycho-acoustic filters disabled)
If you are using presets, you can choose one of these:
This 384 Kbps bit rate is used for encoding MP3 files using ‘Free Format’ technology. The playback of such files is not supported by most audio players.
Here is a list of players/decoders that do support Free Format:
You can turn Free Format into WAV using the LAME encoder by inputting the following into the command line: lame --decode filename.mp3
MP3 files encoded in the Free Format also play on the MAD plug-in for Winamp.
LAME version 3.91 and the MAD plug-in are available for download from the Software section of this website.
If this is the case, it is always because we are trying to make the best decisions regarding the quality of our collection. Popularity of the OE service among our users does not cause us to doubt our decisions regarding this.
File encoding usually takes from a few seconds to several minutes, depending on how busy the server is.
Every file ordered for encoding through the OE service is placed into a queue. If you don’t see the track name in your Basket, it means either you haven’t ordered it or you haven’t finished ordering yet. If there’s no link to the ordered track, it means it’'s still in the queue. Encoding time may increase for unpopular formats and bit rates. They may also vary depending on how many files there are in your Basket.
Probably this is due to the fact that you’ve ordered, but haven’t yet downloaded some files which have remained in the Basket. If their cost plus the cost of the files you’re trying to download exceed your total balance, your order won’t be processed. You can solve this problem either by deleting files from the Basket or by downloading what’s there and then adding money to your balance.
The Balance section allows you complete control over your account balance. You can see your current balance, personal discount, add money and get all information about your payments and charges.
The money is written off your balance only after you download the files from the Basket.
To see the list of the files downloaded for the last 30 days, click on the Downloads’ history link. To request statistic for any period of time, click the same Downloads’ history link and choose desired period and press the "Receive this list by e-mail" button. Requested statistics will be sent to your e-mail.
To find all information about payments, click on the link 'Payments'. You will get the list of all payments you’ve made including date, sum and method of these payments.
Note! To access the Balance section, you must be logged in.
To see the list of all downloaded files, you have to go to the Basket or Balance sections.
To get the list of downloaded files for the last 30 days, click on the Downloads’ history link. To request statistic for any period of time, click on the same Download's history link and choose desired period and press the "Receive this list by e-mail" button. Requested Statistics will be sent to your e-mail.
Note! Your complaints about downloads are accepted only for the orders made during last month.
Your personal information like your name, surname, log-in, e-mail address, etc. is displayed and can be changed in the Preferences section. The changes come into force when you log in next time.
We do not sell Audio CDs, DVDs, SACDs, or CD-Rs. Allofmp3 database content is available only through the Internet.
If you have read through the HELPs and still do not have the answer to your question, feel free to contact us in the Assistance section. To refer to Assistance, you need to be logged in.
Clarification about audio compression.
Today we collide very frequently with an abbreviation "MP3". Computer users, music fans and many others may meet this denotation on on shop shelves, in magazines, on the internet and on various logotypes. Although once it was only a little-known innovation, MP3 has already "knocked on many doors", either through the Internet or as electronic audio products. Today MP3 is, perhaps, the most widespread, available and known format for storage of music in digital devices. Due to more and more spreading embedding of MP3 in electronic devices and home appliances, this outstanding technology becomes even more used and widespread.
MP3 has received its wide popularity quite deservedly; however this fact has played also a negative role: many skeptically adjusted users perceive wide popularity as low quality. It is sad to point out, but frequently, even quite experienced computer users, perceive this sound storage method as, admittedly, a low-standard and refer to it frivolously. MP3 has earned such undeserved attitude in the Internet. Internet already for a long time teems with audio files in this format; however most of them have very poor quality. The principal cause of such situation consists not in low sound quality which MP3 provides, but in incompetence and amateurishness of those users who share in the Internet ineptly compressed low-quality audio materials.
This article is not just about MP3. Here we will try to clear up how to use correctly today's audio compression technologies, similar to MP3; we will mention the questions concerned with modern audio encoding methods, with their advantages and deficiencies; we will clarify, how it is possible to receive a qualitative sound using MP3, OGG, AAC, MPC, WMA and other formats, and we will discuss also other accompanying questions concerning audio compression.
Let's stipulate at the beginning, that MP3 is not panacea. There are many other similar technologies (techniques) of audio encoding and on many of them we will elaborate in more details. We started this article with the discussion of MP3 because it is well known abbreviation and almost every user sees it everyday.
I. Analog and digital representation of sound signals
To make easier understanding of the further material, we will show at the beginning some well-known fundamental concepts from physics of a sound.
What is the sound and how we hear it? An acoustic wave is mechanical oscillations of air molecules, which are transmitting in space. Sound, audible signal is a set of acoustic waves. Oscillations of air, getting into human auricle, pass through the complex system of the hearing aid and stimulate nerve-endings. A brain, analyzing the received information, "hears" sound with various altitude, direction and power. Force of felt sound vibrations depends on their amplitude. In classical definition, amplitude is the greatest (maximum) deviation of a sine-wave acoustic wave (varying in time and space, strictly according to the sine-wave law) from a zero value. Discussing real audible signals (complex non-periodic oscillations), by signal amplitude in practice we denote current magnitude of a signal at present time point.
In audio equipment, sound is represented by continuous electrical signal or by set of digits (zeros and ones). Equipment which operates with continuous electrical signal is named analog equipment (for example, radio receiver, oscilloscope, etc.). Signal transmitting through such equipment is called analog signal. Conversion of acoustic wave into analog signal can be carried out, for example, by the following method. Diaphragm of a thin metal with the inductor spooled on it, being in electrical circuit and affected by a constant magnet, submits to oscillations of air and produces corresponding voltage oscillations in current circuit. These current oscillations in current circuit simulate original acoustic wave. Principally, this method is used in microphone to convert sound vibrations into analog signal. Analog signal can be stored on magnetic tape and can be subsequently played back.
As is well known from physics, audio signal can be represented as a spectrum of frequencies (a frequency spectrum). Frequency components of the spectrum are sine wave oscillations (so-called pure tone), when each of these oscillations has its own amplitude and frequency. Generally, any, even very complex oscillation (for example, human voice or music), can be represented by sum of elementary sine wave oscillations with certain frequencies and amplitudes. And on the contrary, having generated various sine wave oscillations (with different frequencies and amplitudes) and having summed them (having mixed them together) it is possible to combine various audio signals. For instance, let's consider an acoustic wave derived by superposition of three sinusoids with frequencies of 500 Hz, 2000 Hz and 2500 Hz (see figure 1).
And now let's look at the frequency spectrum of such acoustic wave (see figure 2).
As we can see in figure 2, signal spectrum contains peaks on the frequencies corresponding to sinusoids and complete "silence" in other points of a spectrum. The altitude of each pica shows amplitude of the corresponding sinusoid.
1. The human ear capable of recognizing sound frequencies in the range of 20 Hz up to ~20 kHz (the upper boundary can vary depending on age of the listener and other factors).
2. Generally speaking, our discussion about classical decomposition of a signal in a frequency spectrum is fair only concerning periodic signals. The frequency analysis of real, acyclic signals is performed by blocks: the signal is being divided and analyzed by, when each signal block is considered as one period of periodic signal.
Now let's talk about concepts which are closer to a digital sound. It is well known that a computer operates with the data in a digital form. Therefore, for further discussion, it is necessary to clarify how it is possible to represent audio signal in a digital form.
Digital sound is the analog audio signal represented by discrete numerical values of its amplitude. Real audio signal is a complex oscillation, certain complex dependence of amplitude of acoustic wave on time. A method of conversion of analog audio sound into digital form (analog-digital conversion) consists in metering of signal amplitude with certain time step and subsequent storing of the obtained amplitude values as numbers. There are some complexities in this, apparently, a simple method. Namely, values of signal amplitude cannot be written with infinite accuracy and consequently they are necessary for rounding off. Thus, during analog-digital conversion we approximate an analog sound wave at once on both two coordinate axis's - time and amplitude axis's, that is, we take values of amplitude of a wave with the defined time-step and write them with finite accuracy.
Speaking in more formal language, analog-digital conversion of signal includes two processes - discretization in time (sampling) and quantization of amplitude. The process of a time sampling is a process of obtaining of signal values with the certain time step - sampling step (see fig. 3). For simplicity sake we'll consider, that the sampling step is constant, however this condition is not necessary.
The less time step is, the more often we obtain amplitude values. Number of amplitude metering per second is called sampling rate. Amplitude quantization is a process of replacement of real signal values by rounded ones with the defined accuracy (see fig. 4).
Rounding accuracy depends on chosen number and position of quantization levels: the more levels of quantization and the closer they are, the less each measured amplitude value needs to be rounded, and, thus, the less obtained error. So, analog-digital conversion of a signal is a registration of its amplitude values with defined time step and their storing as rounded digital values. Stored numerical values of signal amplitude are named samples. It is obvious, that the more often we meter signal amplitude (the higher sampling rate) and the less we need to round obtained values (the higher quantization resolution), the more precise digital representation of the signal we obtain. It is necessary to notice here, that when we talk about more or less exact representation of signal, we mean worse or better distortion and noise pollution of sound. For example, digital signal which was obtained by realizing analog-digital conversion on low sampling rate will sound noisy. The same statement refers also to quantization resolution.
Hereinafter we will repeatedly use the notion "sounding quality". It is important to notice, that this notion is absolutely biased and has nothing in common with any evaluative physical characteristic of sounding. It is due to the fact that each listener has its own individual perception. "Sounding quality" characterizes, more likely, a degree of listener's satisfaction by the sounding. Sounding quality is defined by presence and "behavior" of high frequencies (in frequency band of 5 kHz and higher) whereas lower frequencies define sounding clearness. For example, human speech and music cannot be understood without presence of the low frequencies whereas the high frequencies make the sounding more clear and qualitative.
Obtained after analog-digital conversion, digital data (set of consecutive values of amplitude) can be stored in computer memory. This data format is called PCM (Pulse Code Modulation).
It is necessary to say some words about human perception of sounding spatiality. Human hears by two ears and due to this he is capable to distinguish a direction of arrival of sound signals. There is a simple explanation of this. Human ears are placed on a certain distance on both sides of the head. Sound wave distribution speed is relatively insignificant. Sound signal, which comes from the source located in front of the listener, comes to both ears simultaneously and the brain interprets this as it were signal source, located either behind or in front of the listener, but not sideways. If the signal comes from a source displaced relatively to the center of listeners head, then sound comes in one ear faster than in the second one and this in an appropriate way allows the brain to recognize arrival of a signal from the left or the right. If we accomplish sound recording with the help of one microphone only, then when playing back of recorded signal through one or even number of loud-speakers, the listener won't be able to feel a spatial picture of original sounding, since the recorded signal is a monophonic (or single-channel) record (recorded only from one point of space). If recording has been made with the help of two microphones simultaneously, located in two different points of space, (actually, two independent parallel records), then playing back of such signal through two loud-speakers (correctly located relatively to the listener) will enable the listener to feel almost full spatiality of sounding of an original signal. Such record (i.e. two parallel records of the same signal made in different points of space) is called stereophonic or two-channel record (see fig. 5).
Reproduction quality of original sound spatiality can be raised by supplement of additional channels when recording (that is, accomplishing of signal record from three and more points of space).
II. Audio coding methods
As we see, by simple analog-digital conversion of analog sound material with high sample rate and quantization resolution, it is possible to store audio material in computer memory without almost any loss of quality. Then a question is raised: what for is this great amount of various audio compression technologies (like MP3 and other)?
There are various reasons for that. As a matter of fact, the wish to keep original quality of audio materials after its conversion from analog into digital form, encounters definite difficulties. According to Nikewist (Kotelnikov) theorem, sample rate sets upper bound of frequencies in the signal, namely, maximum frequency of spectral components of digital signal is equal to half of its sampling rate. Bluntly speaking, to obtain full spectral image of original analog signal in frequency range 0 - 22050 Hz (the maximal range of perceptible frequencies for human) it is necessary to choose sample rate to be no less than 44.1 kHz. It means that the wish to keep original quality of audio material obliges us to choose high parameters values of analog-digital conversion. However, the higher the values are the greater amount of memory is needed to store digital data. For example, standard audio CD (650 Mb) stores audio data in format PCM 44.1 kHz / 16 bits / stereo. Such parameters correspond to two-channel record with 65536 (216) quantization levels of amplitude, which values are taken 44100 times per second. Making very simple calculation, we ascertain that standard audio CD contains about one hour of music. Basically, it is not such a big value, taking into account that medium audio collection may be thousands hours long. It is necessary to notice here, that standard file type for storing digital audio today is .WAV file. It is a universal container, which allows storing digital audio with different sampling rates and quantization resolutions.
So, as we see, to have an opportunity to store great amounts of audio at high quality it is necessary to resort to various tricks which help in storing of audio data occupying less memory. The tricks we're talking about are compression (coding) methods which gain in data size at the expense of some loosing of original sound quality. About these tricks we are going to talk now.
There are two prevalent ways of coding of audio data (except for simple storage in pure digital form "as is" which was shown above).
* Data coding - representation of the data in a certain system of coding symbols and their structures. Enciphering, and also compression of the data are special cases of coding.
* Under data stream we mean contents of a file; data downloaded from the Internet or any other consecutive digital data.
1. Lossless data compression is a way of audio data encoding which allows total-lot data restoration from compressed form back to the original stream. Such way of data compression is used when it is necessary to store data without any loss of quality. For example, working with audio in sound studio, after data was recorded, it needs to be stored in sound archive for the following processing or publishing. Today's lossless data compression methods (like Monkey's Audio, Flac, WavPack, TTA, OptimFrog, etc) allow reducing data size by 20-50% along with providing hundred-per-cent restoration of the original data from compressed stream. Such coders are some kind of data archivers (as, for example, ZIP, RAR and others), but intended specially for compression of audio data.
* Coder is a program (or hardware device) implementing certain algorithm of data coding (for example, ZIP archiver or MP3 encoder). It transforms initial data stream in its source format into certain encoded (compressed) form (format).
* Decoder is a program (or hardware device) which implements decoding of the encoded data.
* Codec (COder/DECoder) is a program / software driver / hardware device intended for data coding / decoding.
Lossless compression is ideal in respect to source data safety, but it is unable to provide with high compression.
2. There is also another way of audio compression - compression with loss of quality (so called, lossy coding). The aim of such coding: in any way to achieve sounding similarity of compressed data with original audio material, along with maximal profit in size. This aim is reached today by using various algorithms which "simplify" an original audio signal, throwing out from it "unnecessary" almost inaudible (or indiscernible by a human ear) details. After lossy coding, decoded signal sounds similar to the original material, but actually ceases to be identical to it. There are several lossy codecs available. The most known are: MPEG-1 Layer 3 (it is the correct official name of the well known "MP3"), MPEG-2/4 AAC (MPEG-2/4 Advanced Audio Coding), Ogg Vorbis ("OGG" in abbreviated form), Windows Media Audio (WMA), MusePañk (MPC) and others. The benefit of using such audio compression methods is quite obvious: compression factor provided by such coders is on average within the limits of 7-14 (times) and these results reached at almost undistinguished losses of sounding quality. Practically it means that one regular audio CD track copied to hard-disk as a .WAV-file is about 35-55 Mb long (PCM 44.1 kHz / 16 bit / stereo), but being compressed into MPEG-1 Layer 3 (MP3) it becomes 3-7 Mb long, and all this with more than satisfying sound quality.
As we have said, compression of data in lossy-coders is accomplished by simplification of audio data. The main idea of almost all lossy encoders is based on using of so-called psycho acoustic algorithms of sound analysis (psycho acoustic model), which is used to "simplify" audio data during compression. Mechanism of coder, which is based on simplification of signal spectrum (there are also coders, which are based on other techniques) works approximately as follows. The encoder analyses the signal during compression, determining frequency spectrum areas with inaudible to a human ear nuances and moving them off. These nuances are masked or poorly heard frequencies, short-term inaudible bursts, low-level noises and so on. Such processing simplifies the form of an original sound wave, making it "smoother". Compression factor of the original signal depends on a degree of its "simplification"; good compression is achieved by "aggressive simplification" when the coder considers as insignificant a great many nuances. I.e. the stronger simplification, the better compression is achieved. Too aggressive compression, naturally, results in strong degradation of quality, because many of audible details could be considered as insignificant and maybe deleted by the coder. Distinctive feature of all modern lossy-coders is the opportunity of fine adjustment of coding parameters. This feature, combined with competent approach and correct understanding of compression methods, allows achieving high data compression factors at completely imperceptible original quality loss.
Now let's talk a bit deeper about the method of signal simplification (once again, on the example of encoder which is based on spectrum simplification techniques). The mechanism of audio signal simplification can be explained as follows. Initial audio data is divided on blocks of the certain length. After division, each block is processed separately. During coding, each block is decomposed into frequency spectrum. As we have said, the less nuances the signal has (i.e., the more "simple" the signal is, or in other words, the less frequency components its spectrum contains), the more effective compression can be reached. There are some possibilities to simplify the signal. For example, it is possible to filter (to exclude from the spectrum) all frequency components above some boundary. This will null the signal in high bandwidth, improving compression, but this also will have bad influence on sounding quality. However, main way of simplification is applying of psycho acoustic model: coder analyses the signal considering which spectrum components are unnecessary or inaudible, and excludes them from the spectrum.
* Bitrate - amount of bits used for storing of one second of audio. For a standard .WAV-file in format PCM 44.1 KHz / 16 bit / stereo the bitrate is: 44100 (amplitude values per second) * 16 (bits per one amplitude value) * 2 (channels) = 1411200 bits per second = about 1378 Kbps (Kilobit per second).
It is necessary to notice especially, that using of psycho acoustics as sound simplification method during compression leads to impossibility of getting exactly the same signal as source signal on decoding. This is because of irreversible changes of original data during compression. That is why such compression method is called "lossy coding". So, every time when you use lossy-coders you should bear in mind this aspect. For instance, if you compress music for your audio collection, you should not limit the bitrate too much, because in doing so you might mar the quality of resulting audio stream. On the other hand, with competent approach, as a compression result you may get very good compression factor (as is the purpose of coding) plus high sounding quality.
III. A compression in practice
To take advantage of opportunities of audio coders and to compress required audio data in chosen format (for example, in MP3) practically, at first it is necessary to prepare the data. It touches on the data stored on some analog storage (on magnetic tape, for example). Of course, at first you need to copy the data into computer by converting materials from analog to digital form.
As we said above, analog-digital conversion process consists in sampling and quantization. In practice, these processes remain invisible to the user: all draft work is done with various programs which give corresponding commands to sound card driver (it is managing subroutine of operation system). The only things the user needs to do is to connect playing back equipment to an input of the sound card by cables, to set all necessary analog-digital conversion parameters (sampling rate, quantization resolution and number of channels), to turn on playback mode (using any of the available sound recording programs) and to wait until recording process is finished. After recording is finished, user may store obtained data in file (for example, in PCM WAV format).
Digital data (as WAV-file) can be compressed with chosen coder (whether WMA, MP3 or another). In order to compress file (or files) user should start corresponding program (we will discuss available coders later), choose compression parameters (bitrate and others) and start the compression. On today's computers, encoding of 50 Mb WAV-file takes only minutes. Obtained compressed files occupy much less memory/disk space, rather than initial .WAV-files. And as it has been noticed before, using right thought-out compression parameters, encoded audio material sounds as good as the original.
Encoded files can be kept in your audio collection or even taken with you inside of your portable audio player.
IV. Lossy audio codecs MP3, OGG, WMA, AAC and MPC in more detail
Here are some of modern lossy-coders that exist today: MPEG-1 Layer 3 (MP3), Windows Media Audio (WMA), Ogg Vorbis (OGG), MusePack (MPC), and MPEG-2/4 AAC. We shall elaborate in detail on consideration of these five codecs, which are most used today.
MP3 - MPEG-1 Layer 3
MPEG standards in general and MP3 in particular
MPEG-1 Layer 3 (known as "MP3") is most widespread and popular today. It has won its popularity quite deservedly - it is the first widespread lossy-codec which reached such a high data compression factor, together with very good sounding quality. A little bit of history. MPEG is an abbreviation of "Moving Pictures Coding Experts Group". MPEG has been started at January, 1988. Since the first assembly in May, 1988, the group began to grow, and has grown up to unusual dense experts collectively. Usually, in MPEG assembly about 350 experts participate, from more than 200 companies. The largest part of participants are the experts occupied in various scientific and academic establishments. Today MPEG group has developed the following standards and algorithms:
Let us consider the set of standards MPEG-1. This set, according to ISO standards (International Standards Organization), includes three algorithms of different levels of complexity: Layer 1, Layer 2 and Layer 3. Our well known friend MP3 in exact designation is "MPEG-1 Layer 3". The general structure of encoding process is identical in all Layers. At the same time, in spite of similarity of the Layers in the general approach to encoding, the Layers differ on target use and internal mechanisms. By the way, this fact determines the degree of similarity of the algorithms which have "grown" from MPEG-1 (such as, Ogg Vorbis and MusePack). Each Layer has its own format of data stream and decoding algorithm. MPEG-1 algorithms are mainly based on known properties of perception of sound signals by a hearing aid of human (we have mentioned above about these techniques).
Briefly about encoding algorithm used in MPEG-1. At the beginning of encoding, the source audio stream with the help of filters is divided on bandwidth. The continuation of the encoding process depends on used Layer.
In the case of Layer 3 (MP3) the signal in each obtained bandwidth is decomposed on frequency components by applying MDCT (Modified Discrete Cosine Transform - a special case of Fourier Transform) that gives a set of coefficients. Further processing is focused on simplification of the signal in order to perform re-quantization of its spectral coefficients. Obtained spectrum is cleared (by filtering) of obviously inaudible components - low-frequency noise and high imperceptible spectrum components. At the next stage, considerably more complex psycho acoustic analysis is applied (as was described earlier) on the audible part of spectrum. After all these manipulations, the source signal is deprived of more than half of its information. In completion of all, compression of obtained stream by the simplified analogue of Huffman algorithm is performed (this is lossless compression method), that allows to reduce noticeably the stream size.
In the case of Layer 2 the simplification process is quite similar. The difference consists in the object of re-quantization: re-quantization is performed on amplitude signal in each sub-band and not on the spectrum coefficients (some non-MP3 lossy encoders are based on the same technique).
Complete set MPEG-1 is intended for coding signals with sample rates of 32, 44.1 and 48 kHz. Three MPEG-1 Layers that were mentioned above have distinctions in encoding mechanisms and, thus, they provide different compression factors and sounding quality of resulting streams. Layer 1 allows keeping signals in format 44.1 KHz / 16 bits without significant losses of quality at bitrate of 384 Kbps that gives 4 times profit of data size. Layer 2 provides, subjectively, the same quality at 192 - 224 Kbps, when Layer III (MP3) gives the same results at 128-160 Kbps. It is impossible to speak about advantages and disadvantages of one Layer compared to another, because each Layer is developed to achieve its own aim. For example, the advantage of Layer 3 actually consists in allowing of data compression 8-12 times (depending on bitrate) without significant losses of original sound quality. At the same time, speed of a compression provided by this Layer is the lowest (it is necessary to note, that on modern CPU's this restriction is not appreciable at all). Layer II is potentially capable to provide higher quality of coding on account of "easier" internal signal processing during transformation. However, Layer II does not allow to reach so high compression factors, which may be reached by using Layer III.
Nuances of coding
The technique of audio coding is complex enough and has a set of nuances. All of them cannot be explained within the framework of one article; however all the most important should be considered, as almost every user meets with them when encoding.
Data encoding into MP3 (as well as into WMA and OGG) is performed by blocks: the coded file is divided on so-called frames of a certain equal length and each frame is encoded separately and is stored in a target stream. Thus, the target stream also has frame structure. Each frame can be encoded not on any bitrate, but only on one of those included in the standard table for MPEG1 Layer 3 (Kbps): 32, 40, 48, 56, 64, 80, 96, 112, 128, 160, 192, 224, 256, 320 (coding on intermediate bitrates is not stipulated by the standard, though it is possible). Because each frame is processed individually, it is possible to speak about data compression with constant (CBR) and variable (VBR) bitrate.
CBR (Constant Bitrate) is a way of encoding when all frames are encoded on identical bitrate. In other words, bitrate of the whole encoded stream remains constant all along the stream.
VBR (Variable Bit Rate) is a way of encoding when each separate frame is encoded with its own bitrate, calculated by encoder. The choice of bitrate for each frame is performed by the encoder according to performed psycho acoustic analysis.
There is also one more encoding mode - ABR (Average bitrate). Encoding in this mode (it is true, at least, for MP3 coders) is similar to CBR encoding. However this encoding is performed on variable bitrate keeping the same average. Not going into technical details, we shall note that VBR and ABR encoding is much more flexible and, often, more favorable and qualitative, rather than in CBR mode.
It is important to note, that ABR, VBR and CBR modes are used also in many coders rather than MP3.
We shall consider now existing encoding techniques of stereo data stipulated in MPEG-1 Layer 1, 2, 3 standards. These methods, probably, with some different interpretations, are valid not only in MPEG, but also in other codecs.
It is necessary to note, that usage of MS Stereo mode does not introduce any additional errors in the signal. When re-dividing <left> + <right> channels on <middle> + <side> channels, nothing occurs, except for harmless and completely convertible mathematical calculations. At the same time, this simple reception of stereo data encoding allows the coder to accomplish its potential more effectively, rather than in mode Stereo.
ÎGG - Ogg Vorbis
One of unpleasant features of codec MP3 always was its commercialization: each manufacturer creating the new MP3 encoder is obliged to pay deductions to the "fathers" of the codec. Such situation should have called for appearance of any new development in audio compression. And this has happened indeed.
Codec Ogg Vorbis was published in June 2000. Ogg Vorbis is a part of Ogg Squish project, which consists in developing of completely independent open multimedia system. In other words, the whole project itself, as well as Ogg Vorbis in particular, is open and free for distribution and for its usage as part of a new software. In developers FAQ (Xiphophorus group) it is written, that Ogg Vorbis is based on the same ideas as the well known MPEG-1 Layer II. However OGG uses its own original mathematical algorithms and its own psycho acoustic model that exempts it from necessity to pay any license deductions and to have to make other payments to exterior manufacturers of audio formats. Ogg Vorbis is designed for compression of the data on all possible bitrates without restrictions that is from 8 Kbps up to 512 Kbps, but only in VBR mode. CBR mode wasn't implemented in Ogg Vorbis. The algorithm enables to store in OGG files (containers) detailed comments about audio material, as well as all standard info (artist/composition name, year and so on). Ogg Vorbis also stipulates an opportunity of coding of audio data with several channels (more than two, theoretically up to 255), an opportunity of editing of files contents, and also so-called "scalable bitrate" - a possibility of changing stream bitrate without necessity of its decoding. Ogg Vorbis also supports streaming playback (audio stream can be played back during its downloading from the Internet) and uses its own universal file format which can store any multimedia data of Ogg Squish system.
WMA - Windows Media Audio
Today Windows Media Audio (in abbreviated form - WMA) is own development of Microsoft Corp. The developing of this codec moves ahead successfully. Initially, WMA was developed by Voxware and had the name "Voxware Audio Codec", however subsequently the company has deserted its completion, having stopped on v4.0. Nevertheless, the codec was not left to decay, and has been completely redeemed by Microsoft. Programmers have seriously rewritten and advanced this codec, and the company has renamed it in Windows Media Audio. WMA is free-of-charge for users, but it is closed for exterior development.
MPEG-1 Layer 3 has been initially standardized for the allowed bitrate values and other key parameters, and WMA was changing in parallel to its growth and development. There are some versions of WMA codec that are available for today: v1, v2, v7, v8 and v9. Version 7 differs from its predecessors in range of supporting bitrates (up to 192 Kbps versus 164 Kbps for v1 and v2), a little bit worse encoding quality and different data structure of output stream. Version 8 of the codec differs from all previous versions by obviously revised advanced psycho acoustic model. Due to this fact encoding quality has increased significantly. So, at 96 Kbps WMA v8.0 may compete in quality with MP3 128 at encoding of not too much exacting audio materials (like pop music). However, for sure, the quality strongly depends on a concrete composition and the equipment used for listening. Ninth version of WMA is logic continuation of the eighth version. Developers announced significant encoding quality improvement in comparison with WMA v8. Version 9 of the codec contains new technology called "Fast Streaming". This technology is aimed to reduce buffering time of end user's client software when WMA-stream is transmitted through the Internet. In addition, WMA 9 represents actually the set of codecs. Besides the lossy-coder, this set includes also a number of specialized codecs, like voice encoding codec and lossless codec.
According to various tests and also to the parameters used for configuring of WMA encoder, its mechanism is quite similar to the mechanism of MPEG-1 Layer 3 - the same frame-by-frame compression with presumably the same signal processing methods.
MPC - MusePack
Codec MusePack (MPC) is one more version of lossy-codecs. Its source name is MPEGplus (MPEG +), but the author of the codec was forced to rename his project in MusePack, because of problems which have appeared as a result of similarity of project's name to the abbreviation "MPEG". MusePack wasn't evolved from MPEG-1 Layer III; the codec has grown from MPEG-1 Layer II (like Ogg Vorbis do). MusePack was created by the enthusiasm of two people: Andre Buschmann and Frank Klemm. The codec is based on MPEG-1 Layer II and therefore it is orientated on coding, mainly, at high bitrates (unlike MP3). At the same time, the codec is completely an independent development. It stipulates coding only in VBR mode. The speed of compression and decompression it provides is higher than the speed of the same operations provided by MPEG-1 Layer 3.
On average, quality of MPC encoding on high bitrates (160 Kbps and higher) is sufficiently (if not to say "considerably") better than the quality provided by MP3. This can be explained by distinctions in encoding mechanisms. During encoding, MP3 divides the signal on sub-bands, then in each sub-band performs decomposition of the signal in a set of cosine coefficients (applying MDCT) with further re-quantization of obtained coefficients by applying psycho acoustics. MPC works similarly to MPEG-1 Layer 2: after splitting the signal on frequency sub-bands, it re-quantizes the amplitude signal in each sub-band (applying psycho acoustics). This difference between MPC and MP3 explains noticeable difference of encoding speed of the codecs.
AAC - MPEG-2/4 AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)
MPEG-2 AAC Standard
MPEG-2 was developed especially for TV broadcasts. In April 1997 this set of standards has received an extension, namely, MPEG-2 AAC (MPEG-2 Advanced Audio Coding). Standard MPEG-2 AAC is a result of efforts shared by a number of companies, such as Sony, NEC, Dolby and Fraunhofer Institute. MPEG-2 AAC is a technological continuation of MPEG-1. Because between publication of MPEG-2 AAC and its standardization enough time have passed, there are several versions (implementations) of this codec: Homeboy AAC, AT*T a2b AAC, Astrid/Quartex AAC, Liquifier AAC, FAAC (Freeware Audio Coder), Mayah AAC and PsyTEL AAC. Liquifier AAC, FAAC and PsyTEL AAC are those codecs, which provide highest sounding quality in comparison to MPEG-1 Layer III. Almost all codecs which were mentioned above are not compatible among themselves.
The main coding reception used in AAC is similar to MP3 and is based on applying of psycho acoustics. At the same time, AAC is furnished with extensions, providing improvement of output sound quality. In particular, another type of transformations is used; noise processing methods were improved, used new filters bank and another output stream storing technique. Besides AAC allows including so-called "watermarks" in encoded stream. "Watermarks" is the information (copyrights, for instance) built in the output stream which can not be deleted, not having destroyed integrity of audio data. This technology (being a part of Multimedia Protection Protocol) allows supervising of audio materials distribution. By the way, the inclusion of this technology in AAC has represented a serious obstacle on the way of its distribution. It is necessary to note also, that the codec is non backward compatible with MPEG-1 Levels 1/2/3.
MPEG-2 AAC provides three various encoding modes (profiles): Main, LC (Low Complexity) and SSR (Scalable Sampling Rate). Time of encoding and also the quality of output stream depends on profile used at encoding. Main profile provides the best sounding quality at the slowest speed of compression. This is because Main profile includes all that is available in AAC mechanisms of sound analysis and processing. LC profile is simplified in comparison with the Main profile that affects sounding quality of output stream, but also increases speed of compression and decompression. SSR profile also represents simplified variant of Main.
Speaking about sound quality provided by the codec, it is possible to tell, that AAC (Main) stream at 96 Kbps provides sounding which is comparable to MPEG-1 Layer III 128 Kbps. At 128 Kbps AAC distinctly surpasses MPEG-1 Layer III and the same bitrate.
Standard MPEG-4 AAC
MPEG-4 AAC is a part of MPEG-4 standard. MPEG-4 describes ways of object-oriented representation of multimedia data. The standard operates with objects, organizes their hierarchies, classes and other, builds stages and operates their transfer. As a basis of audio compression in MPEG-4, several standards are used: improved MPEG-2 AAC, codec TwinVQ, and also special speech encoders like HVXC (Harmonic Vector eXcitation Coding) and CELP (Code Excited Linear Predictive). In addition MPEG-4 AAC has a set of mechanisms which provide scalability. But as a whole, MPEG-4 AAC is a continuation of MPEG-2 AAC, providing rules and methods of audio coding (http://faac.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php?page=AAC). MPEG-4 AAC standardizes the following types of objects (the notion "profile" in MPEG-2 AAC was substituted by the notion "object" in MPEG-4 AAC):
MPEG-4 AAC LC (Low Complexity)
MPEG-4 AAC Main
MPEG-4 AAC SSR (Scalable Sampling Rate)
MPEG-4 AAC LTP (Long Term Prediction)
MPEG-4 Version 2
MPEG-4 Version 3 (âêëþ÷àÿ HE-AAC)
Apparently, first three are borrowed at MPEG-2 AAC, the fourth is an innovation. LTP is based on methods of signal prediction and it is more complex than the others. Version 2 - is the set of standards which extend encoding tools of MPEG-4. Version 3 - is one more extension of the standard. Its main innovation is HE-AAC (High Efficiency AAC) - a new standard (May, 2003) also known as aacPlus.
aacPlus was announced by Coding Tech. at 9th, Oct 2002. aacPlus is based on SBR technology (Spectral Band Replication). This technology is intended to provide better transition of high frequencies. Audio codecs based on psychoacoustics have one common drawback: sound quality of encoded files start to degrade quickly when the bitrate falls below 112-128 Kbps. SBR is intended to supplement psychoacoustics and to remove the described drawback. When SBR is used, high frequencies of the source signal are not being encoded; only average intensity of high frequencies in several sub-bands is being registered instead. During decoding, the decoder synthesizes (replicates) high frequencies by copying the low frequencies into high diapason and multiplying them by the registered intensity factor in each sub-band.
About quality and practical applicability of codecs MP3, OGG, WMA, MPC and AAC
Despite completely different origin of all considered codecs, their mechanisms are based on the same idea of "simplification" of input signal, with subsequent compression of simplified data. Each codec has its individual innovations and completely independent implementation; however, as these codecs are based on approximately the same idea, their average compression results in identical conditions (evaluated as size/quality ratio) are approximately at the same level.
Codec MP3 was the first codec which used the idea of signal simplification using psycho acoustics. As of today, disregarding contrivance of competitors, MP3 remains one of the most popular audio codecs. Certainly, it is wrong to talk about MP3 in general, as there are its various independent implementations. One of the most successful and continuously developing implementation of MP3 is Lame Encoder (it is developed by a group of independent enthusiasts and the coder is distributed as free-of-charge). Lame has a set of configuration parameters, allowing fine tuning of encoding individually for each encoded material. If you're going to encode pop-music with subsequent listening on low/average quality audio equipment, then you can obtain enough good sounding at 128 Kbps. At 160 Kbps you may get even better sounding results, not having dramatically reduced compression factor. If you need an "audiophile quality" to store encoded material in audio collection and to listen to it on high-quality equipment, then you may need to use 320 Kbps (and higher). This bitrate choice will provide the highest sounding quality of compressed materials. Thus, each time when it is necessary to compress audio material, user should consider what are the purposes of the compression and only then, depending on the answer, he may choose the bitrate (as well as other parameters). Practice shows, that it is enough to encode at 160-192 Kbps to obtain quite qualitative sounding of pop- and classical music. When encoding electronic or instrumental music, bitrate requirements maybe higher. When encoding only voice material (lectures, for example), then it is enough to use ultra-low bitrates (below 64 Kbps) as in this case not the sound quality is important, but only legibility of speech at playback.
Ogg Vorbis and MusePack, being followers of MPEG-1 Layer II, yield, on average, appreciably better results of coding on high bitrates compared to MP3. This statement is fair for bitrates of 160 Kbps and higher. Usage of Ogg Vorbis and MusePack on low bitrates is not recommended.
Codec WMA, especially versions 8 and 9, yields slightly better results of coding, than MP3. It is necessary to note, that as practice and different tests show, WMA takes special significance at low bitrates. For example, MP3 at 32 Kbps sounds just awful (on such a low bitrate the signal undergoes hard distortions) while WMA sounds quite properly. This means that at low bitrates WMA is preferable to MP3.
Codec MPEG-2/4 AAC is a direct continuation of MP3. Thus in general ACC wins against MP3 on all bitrates. Though, it is necessary to note, that this result varies from one coder to another.
Thus, user's choice of codec and compression parameters should be guided by expediency reasons, future usage plans and also reasons of digestibility (in particular, MP3 and WMA files are accepted by many of hardware players while OGG, AAC and MPC files aren't acceptable by most). User doesn't need to be afraid that original quality of materials will be irrevocably lost after compression - by using high bitrates, it is possible to obtain almost the original sounding quality, as well as great gain in data size.
Now let us consider approximate bitrate ranges, recommended when encoding typical audio materials using MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC and MPC codecs (see table. 1):
|Material type||Sounding requirements||Recommended bitrates range, Kbps|
|Speech (lectures, radio broadcasts etc.), mono||Speech legibility||8 - 64||near 16||45 and lower*||8 - 32||58 and lower*|
|Qualitative sounding||32 - 64||near 32||45 and lower*||16 - 64||58 and lower*|
|Non-saturated pop-music, stereo||Listening "on the move" (during street walk)||96 - 160||64 - 128||64 - 128||96 - 128||96 - 128|
|Qualitative listening using middle and high class audio equipment||128 - 256||96 - 160||96 - 160||96 - 160||96 - 160|
|Symphonic music, jazz, stereo||Listening "on the move" (during street walk)||128-160||96 - 160||96 - 160||96 - 160||96 - 160|
|Qualitative listening using middle class audio equipment||160 - 256||128 - 192||128 - 192||128 - 192||128 - 192|
|Qualitative listening using high class audio equipment||320||320 and higher (WMA 9)||256||256 and higher||256|
|Saturated electronic, rock- and pop-music, stereo||Listening "on the move" (during street walk)||128 - 192||96 - 160||96 - 160||96 - 160||96 - 160|
|Qualitative listening using middle class audio equipment||192 - 320||160 - 320||160 - 256||160 - 256||160 - 256|
|Qualitative listening using high class audio equipment||320||320 and higher (WMA 9)||320 and higher||320 and higher||320 and higher|
* - encoder program, possibly, doesn't allow encoding on lower bitrates
** - encoder works only in VBR mode and thus doesn't allow specifying exact bitrate value
V. Available software
As it was noted above, there are many MP3 encoders. The most known of them are: Lame Encoder, Blade Encoder, MP3-Producer and XING Encoder. We have said earlier, that Lame Encoder is up until now the most progressive and qualitative encoder among all other existing coders. Blade Encoder was also developed by enthusiasts; however, today its developing is stopped. As to MP3 Producer, once it was almost the standard of audio encoding; however, after intensive development of Lame encoder, its popularity has subsided and as of today, this program is obsolete. XING Encoder was the first encoder which used VBR mode. At the same time XING never was a qualitative encoder. As a whole, only Lame Encoder can be recommended unambiguously. Lame is the console utility (it works from command line); however, several front-ends were made for it. One of the most successful front-ends for Lame Encoder is RazorLame. You can find Lame Encoder and RazorLame in the Internet (try to search on http://www.google.ru, for instance).
There are only two-three OGG encoders available. OGG developers (http://www.vorbis.com) produce console utilities for work with .ogg files (the complete set issued by developers consists of: encoder, decoder and other additional utilities). One of the OGG-coders supplied by GUI is OggDrop (written by John Edwards). It is a very compact utility with convenient adjustment. There are also other "exterior" developments of OGG-coders, for example Ogg Encoder Decoder which is created by MediaTwins s.r.o. (http://www.mediatwins.com).
MusePack at the moment is developed by only one man. He produces console utility which one can download here: http://www.personal.uni-jena.de/~pfk/MPP/.
WMA encoder exists only as an official package of its developers http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/. It is the utility for audio and video data encoding. It is necessary to note, that WMA encoder should be used accurately, as there is an option when being switched on, it makes the coder to produce files which can be played only at the same computer.
The "story" of AAC encoders is much more complex. As it was told above, there are various AAC encoders and almost all of them were incompatible with each other (this because of a long process of standardization of MPEG-2/4 AAC). Nevertheless, today MPEG-4 AAC is fully standardized and new modern AAC encoders came out: Nero AAC Encoder (http://www.nero.com), QuickTime ( http://www.apple.com), FAAC (http://audiocoding.com/faac.php). At the moment AAC doesn't represent mass encoder, but surely AAC will replace MP3 in the nearest future.
There is an ocean of audio players available today. One of the oldest and most popular universal players is WinAMP (by NullSoft, http://www.winamp.com). Today WinAMP plays MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC, MPC (with the help of plug-ins available in the Internet), and also tracker modules, MIDI and video through built-in Windows codecs. It has fully configurable user interface, supports "skins", supports adjustment of color scale, and has wide visualization features, advanced play-lists system and many-many more.
From the combines like WinAMP, it is necessary to mention also Sonique (http://sonique.lycos.com) and Apollo (http://www.apolloplayer.org). One more remarkable combine is Steinberg MyMP3Pro (http://www.steinberg.de). It is a powerful and versatile program with a great number of very useful features and is having an excellent sound quality. Using myMP3Pro you can: open/play back MP3, Wave, Aiff, WMA, Ogg Vorbis files and audio CD tracks; Record audio and store it in MP3, Wave, Aiff or Ogg Vorbis format; Export audio in MP3, Wave, Aiff, Real Audio and WMA format; Encode and decode audio in MP3 Pro; Create, store and open Playlists in three commonly used formats; Easily create and use a database - called Pool - which allows you to enter additional information for each song; You can then use a flexible search function to display all songs in the Pool for which a certain word or descriptive term can be found in the available categories; Play back and record Internet Radio MP3 streams in real time; Cut and edit MP3 files in an Editor; Apply EQ (i.e. increase or decrease the level of bass, mid or treble frequencies) and improve the sound, using four additional real time effects; Load and apply up to four (myMP3PRO) high quality VST mastering plug-in effects to the songs that you play, save or record onto CD; Create crossfades between all tracks in the Playlist, upon file export or when recording a CD; Create gapless playback or audio file arrangement on the CD; Create a Surround mix from a normal stereo mix; Automatically normalize audio files. This attenuates all audio files that you play back, record onto CD, upload into a portable player or export as a file to the same average playback level; Store EQ and effects settings with the Playlist; Use freedb's online service to receive title names and artist information about the CD currently in your CD-ROM drive; Store your songs on data CDs and/or audio CDs; Create your own CD and CD jewel case Labels in a special CD Label Editor; Store your songs on external MP3 hardware players; Show or Hide individual program sections; Download files from the Internet with the integrated FTP Browser; Switch between different user interface skins that give your program a different look; Simultaneously play back audio and trigger music-controlled visual effects on your screen.
From among super-compact universal audio players, FooBar2000 (http://www.foobar2000.org) is the most noticeable player. This is a very small audio player with almost primitive GUI, but it is very powerful and useful for everybody who do not need these "very friendly" and hard GUI's. Supported formats: MP3, Ogg Vorbis, MPC, FLAC, Ogg FLAC, WAV, MOD, SPC, Monkey's Audio and many others; 32bit floating point audio processing pipeline, with 6dB hard limiter and conversion to 16/24bit (dithered) at the end; lossy formats (MP3, Vorbis, MPC) are decoded directly to 32bit FP so there's no clipping; transparent RAR/ZIP reading; full Unicode support, Playlist format (m3u8) storing international filenames properly (using UTF-8); built in SSRC resampler component (DSP); reads APEv2 tags from MP3 files; fully customizable keyboard shortcuts, including global hotkeys.
Audio CD rippers
Audio CD ripper is a program which performs copying of audio CD contents on HDD (for example, for the subsequent MP3 compression). In spite of the fact that audio CD is the digital storage, quality of data copied from it depends on quality of the disk, CD-drive and software used for copying. In case of "unsuccessful" combination of these factors, copied data may contain errors and noises.
From the most known ripper software it is necessary to note the following programs: Exact Audio Copy (http://www.exactaudiocopy.de), CDex (http://www.cdex.n3.net), WinDAC and AudioGrabber. By some independent tests, EAC provides the most qualitative copying. Qualitative copying is achieved due to deep integration and adaptation of copying mechanism and reading CD-drive.
VI. To compress or not to compress? - that is the question...
"So, to compress or not?" - that question might be asked after reading all this long material about lossy-coding. The answer to this question is strictly individual and everyone should answer it independently. Whether to use lossy-coders for audio compression, whether to use digital equipment or to stay with analog equipment - among music fans these disputes didn't cease till now and, probably, will never be resolved. One can say that analog record keeps "vivacity" of a sound which is destroyed by analog-digital conversion; others, on the other hand, assert that the best sounding quality can be achieved only with the use of the digital equipment. Someone keeps the data in audio collection in an original digital form on audio CDs, thinking about lossy-coding as if it was a blasphemy; on the other hand, someone else encodes all his files into MP3 (or WMA/AAC/...).
The writer of this article also finds it difficult to reach strict decisions concerning these questions; however, obvious advantages of compressed digital audio should be mentioned here. These advantages are compactness and longevity.
The longevity (with regard to digital audio data in general) consists that at the safe digital storage, the data stored on it is not deformed eventually. If magnetic tape with time becomes demagnetized and looses quality, if vinyl disk is scratched and its sound becomes noisy (with clicks and pops), - the HDD, flash memory or any other type of electronic digital storage don't have all these disadvantages: they are neither readable or doesn't readable at all.
Compactness is, first of all, small dimensions of modern storage devices. General distribution and further development of lossy audio compression technologies (MP3, OGG, WMA, MPC, AAC and others) opens broadest opportunities of audio distribution and storage. Not long ago an average audio collection was occupying several shelves or even the whole room; today even ten times bigger audio collection may be placed in a pocket player. Furthermore, thanks to audio compression techniques, the Internet allows everyone to get quality music without leaving his computer; not to mention the opportunity to talk by cellular phone, where the voice is transferred using special encoding techniques. In other words, the appearance of audio compression methods changed audio data transfer into daily routine, remitting all barriers concerned with slow communication links.
As for the quality of compressed audio materials (in lossy format), as could be understood from the article (or simply to be convinced by practice), it all depends on competence of the use of coders and on general approach to compression. With a correct choice of the coder and encoding parameters, it is always possible to achieve the necessary audio quality. As it was mentioned above, to make a correct choice, it is necessary to think about the purpose of the compression (for example, archival compression or compression for subsequent listening in a portable player), to decide what equipment will be used for listening, and also to consider other factors which can affect the choice of the codec and encoding parameters. The fact, that compressed into lossy-format audio, degrades in quality, in comparison to the quality of original digital data, is indisputable; however it is also indisputable, that the level of these losses is completely depends on the user. Competent usage of lossy-encoding is capable to satisfy the most fussy and fastidious.
The considered technologies of lossy audio compression, apparent from the article, can be the most powerful tool in the hands of the skilful user. MP3, OGG, AAC, MPC and WMA are the convenient and effective algorithms of audio compression, they are widely distributed and most of them are internally supported by growing amount of electronic audio equipment. The purpose of this article was to dispel the prejudiced attitude to lossy audio coders, and also to force music fans and regular computer users to look with renewed outlook at audio compression. The task of this article also was to help the beginners (and also the experienced users) to understand opportunities and nuances of these technologies. The writer hopes that all these goals are achieved.