When Fraunhofer IIS introduced the MP3 audio codec to the world, the world couldn't help but take an interest. By giving people the ability to store whatever audio they may have at near CD levels of quality in a fraction of the space, MP3 quickly became a boon to anyone wanting to have access to their entire music collection without the hassle of lugging around a stack of CDs. On the flip side, MP3 became the nemesis of the recording industry as people could now easily distribute music all over the internet without paying anything to the record companies.
After witnessing the MP3 explosion, it didn't take long for other companies to look for ways to make their own mark in the compressed audio arena. Microsoft introduced its WMA format, Apple came up with a proprietary version of AAC, and Sony has its ATRAC3. Unfortunately for the masses, most of the new codecs being introduced were owned by the corporations who introduced those codecs to the world. I'll not go into a discussion of why this could be a bad thing, but I will point out that generally, corporations exist to make money.
Luckily for people like me, Xiph.org introduced Ogg Vorbis. Ogg Vorbis is a free and open-source audio codec for compressing...uh...audio. I haven't done a side-by-side listening test, so I am unable to support any claims about quality, but the web site claims that the codec can acheive the same quality as MP3 with a smaller file size. Really though, that's not what prompted me to learn more. What moved me was the open-source nature of the project. Anyone with the necessary skills can contribute and feedback is always welcome. There's also a note on the website that Ogg Vorbis will never support digital rights Management (DRM). Needless to say, I was excited.
Unfortunately, the number of portable players which support Ogg Vorbis is relatively small when compared with those that support MP3. It is growing, and hopefully, by the time I'm ready to purchase a portable player, I won't be forced to choose a player based on Ogg Vorbis support. On the other hand, the format is more widely supported by various media players, most notably Winamp. One could argue that Winamp is one of the most popular, if not the single most popular, software audio player on the planet.
For my part, I'm going to choose Ogg Vorbis over other formats once I've finished ripping all my music to the lossless FLAC format (a discussion for another day). Others may want to read up on the format first. A good place to go are the Hydrogenaudio Forums. The members of these forums have a phenomenal amount of knowledge in this area and are well equiped to perform whatever tests are necessary to compare various formats. Some may find that Ogg Vorbis needs to mature a bit more before they switch, others may want to start playing around with the format first, and still others may decide they're fine with whatever format they use now. However, I encourage everyone to at least take a look at Ogg Vorbis.
Well, that's all for now. There are many, many more topics I could write about, but they'll have to wait for future posts. I'll be putting in a new motherboard and hard drive soon, and going back to a dual boot system between Linux and Windows XP, so I'm not sure when those future posts will appear. Hopefully, it won't be as long as the time between my last post and this one!