Advantages & Disadvantages of MP3 Players

by Jason Artman

    The MPEG Audio Layer III file format revolutionized the music industry in the 1990s by allowing consumers to "rip" tracks from audio CDs and compress them, greatly reducing their size. The MP3 format has since become the de facto standard for music distribution, and portable MP3 players have been developed to allow consumers to take their music anywhere. You don't need to be a computer expert to use MP3 players, and they have several clear-cut advantages over portable CD players. However, the higher audio quality of CDs has prevented them from becoming obsolete.

    Storage Capacity

    MP3 players have a significant advantage over CDs in terms of storage capacity. While a standard CD holds approximately 700MB of data or 80 minutes of recorded music, a typical MP3 player holds between 2 and 80GB of data depending on the type of device. In addition, MP3 compression allows you to use the storage space on an MP3 player more efficiently. While one minute of CD audio consumes about 10MB of storage, one minute of MP3 audio consumes about .93MB. MP3 compression allows a 16GB MP3 player to hold the equivalent of more than 220 CDs.

    Sound Quality

    MP3 compression removes information from a digital sound file to reduce its size. During the compression process, information outside the normal range of human hearing is discarded permanently. MP3 compression may discard as much as 90 percent of the data from an original recording without a significant drop in sound quality. Nevertheless, listeners with exceptional hearing or high-end earphones may detect slight differences between an MP3 file and the original uncompressed CD recording.

    Physical Media

    When you purchase a CD, you get a tangible product that may include items such as a booklet with lyrics and photographs. Some MP3 files purchased online may also include these items, but they can be difficult to see on the small screen of an MP3 player. On the other hand, tangible products also have disadvantages; you have to allocate space to store a CD collection and must protect the discs to prevent damage. An MP3 player does not grow in size as you add music and scratches do not cause it to skip.

    Player Size

    Compared to MP3 players, portable CD players suffer from a lack of portability brought on by the size of the media they play. A CD player cannot be smaller than a CD, which is 4.7 inches in diameter. MP3 players have the advantage of becoming smaller with each new generation as technology improves. Few MP3 players are larger than a deck of cards and most are significantly smaller.

    Additional Features

    Many MP3 players have the ability to perform other tasks in addition to playing music. Some features available on high-end MP3 players include the ability to play videos, run applications and browse the Web. These features are common on MP3 players with large touch-sensitive displays.

    About the Author

    Jason Artman has been a technical writer since entering the field in 1999 while attending Michigan State University. Artman has published numerous articles for various websites, covering a diverse array of computer-related topics including hardware, software, games and gadgets.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images