By using MP4 you will probably think that these are the simple evolution of the MP3, in reality the two formats are profoundly different, even if in their names only one figure changes. In this article you will find out which the difference between MP3 and MP4, also explaining in which scenarios it is advisable to use one and in which the other. At the end of the guide you will know precisely what you mean when you use MP3s and MP4s.
Differences between MP3 and MP4
What does MP3 mean
MP3 an acronym that stands for Moving Picture Expert Group-1/2 Audio Layer 3 (or even MPEG-1 Audio Layer III or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III). This audio file format used to contain digital audio tracks, which undergo a variable compression process based on the final quality to be obtained and the file size you want. It will then be possible to listen to the audio using the various mp3 players available. The codec is identical to the file format, so when you talk about MP3 you can indicate both the codec and the file format in an indifferent manner. The bit rate of the MP3 can provide an (approximate) indication of how compressed the original audio was and what quality you should expect. The minimum bitrate to listen to music with sufficient audio quality should be at least 128 kbps, but many prefer to listen to MP3s at 256 kpbs or better at 320 kbps, with a noticeable increase in the size of the MP3 file as the bitrate goes up. MP3 can also contain information on the track played thanks to IDTags (title, artist, album, track number, description, cover image and other information). IDTags are added when the MP3 file is created or later using specific programs.
MP3 files can only contain audio, no other type of data can be stored in this format (except for the data contained in the IDTag).
What MP4 means
MP4 an acronym that stands for MPEG-4 Part 14 and a container format, ie a particular file format that can contain audio and video data with different types of codecs. So as a file format much closer to AVI than MP3 (both codec and audio format). The MP4 format is much more advanced than MP3 because it can contain video tracks, audio tracks and other types of data (subtitles, etc.). ) in a single file, often using higher quality codecs than MP3 (obviously referring to audio). The most used codecs on MP4s are:
- Video: H.264 and MPEG-4
- Audio: AAC, ALS, SLS, TTSI, MP3 and ALAC
- Subtitles: MPEG-4 text
How could you see the MP3 can be one of the codecs used to provide audio tracks in MP4, although often better audio codecs are preferred, such as the AAC format (which allows a better sound compared to MP3) .
MP4 files can contain audio and video (with and without subtitles), video only and audio only, according to the needs of the user. The MP4 format can also appear with different extensions, so as to better understand the type of content present in the container:
- .MP4: generic extension, valid for all purposes
- .M4A: extension for MP4 files containing audio not protected by DRM
- .m4p: extension for MP4 files containing DRM protected audio
- .m4b: extension used for audiobooks and podcasts
- .m4v: extension used for MP4 files that contain video
Where to use MP3s
The MP3 is the audio format par excellence, surely the best audio format for portability since every player and multimedia device that came out on the market since 2002 can read the mp3 format. Although over time, different formats have been devised which, for equal bitrates, provide a better audio quality, with the MP3 audio format you will be sure that your audio track will be played correctly on any type of device you want to listen to it, from your car's radio to the latest-generation smartphone. Its audio compression algorithm allows you to get small files, but this is achieved by sacrificing a lot of quality compared to the original audio source (for example if you take the tracks from an Audio CD). If you need to create one or more songs in MP3 or you have to convert songs to maximum quality into smaller files, I suggest you use MP3s only at maximum bitrate, or 320 kbps: only then will you be able to bring out the maximum quality from this audio format, sacrificing compression (now the devices are so capacious that they can certainly hold MP3 files of 10-15 MB per song).
Where to use MP4
MP4s are definitely more advanced than MP3s and they are the ideal choice if you want to get a file containing both audio and video tracks (for example if you need to convert from a DVD or a Blu-Ray). Any device released after 2005 has included a mp4 player, so it is quite difficult to find a device that is not compatible with this container.You can also use it to contain only audio tracks, making sure to use a quality codec like AAC during the conversion process: the remarkable quality difference, even compared to the 320 kbps MP3 (but a lot also depends on the type of system that reproduces the file).
Programs to convert to MP3 and MP4
After doing this overview on the difference between MP3 and MP4, here you will find the best programs you can use for free to convert to MP3 and MP4.
Format Factory is definitely one of the best programs to convert to MP3 and MP4. You can choose any type of source, customize the format according to your needs and choose the final quality of the file format.
Exact Audio Copy
If you have a large collection of Audio CDs, you can convert them to MP3 or MP4 using Exact Audio Copy, which will import all the tracks at the highest possible quality by performing a very sophisticated conversion. You will be able to listen to your Audio CDs anywhere with a really high quality.
Another good program to convert any type of XMedia source or file to MP3 and MP4 files. Recode, which provides many settings to configure and allows you to choose the final quality of the file created.