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MP3 creators ready ‘son of MP3’

MP3 Pro to give CD quality audio in files half as small as MP3

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Germany's Fraunhofer Institute and French consumer electronics company Thomson are working to extend the MP3 music format in a bid to catch up with the audio quality and level of compression offered by Microsoft's Windows Media Player audio technology.

The new version of MP3, provisionally called MP3 Pro, will offer 128Kbps quality at 64Kbps file sizes, according to Thomson, which announced the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. In other words, you'll get CD quality audio at a file size that would previously only provide FM radio quality.

MP3 Pro is sufficiently compatible with the existing MP3 - aka MPEG 1 Audio Layer 3 - to allow MP3 decoders to play back files encoded using the new technology, though they won't benefit from the extra level of compression.

Thomson, Fraunhofer and an unnamed third-party will have a preliminary version of the MP3 Pro codec ready for public release late March or early April. Like MP3, the technology will be provided free to writers of non-commercial audio decoders, but producers of encoding software and commercial decoders will have to license the codec.

Thomson itself will use the technology in its own MP3 players during the second half of the year, according to Rocky Caldwell, the company's strategic audio business development and product planning manager, cited by The Week in Consumer Electronics.

Caldwell's comments suggest the trio of developers hope MP3 Pro will succeed MP3 as the de facto standard in audio compression, and presumably they will submit the new technology to MPEG for inclusion in the official spec. Fraunhofer developed of the original MP3 algorithms and compression schema. ®

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The Week in Consumer Electronics' story can be found here

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