MP3 vs. MP4 Comparison – What are the Differences?

MP3 and MP4 are two terms we come across regularly when it comes to media files. We know MP3 for audio files and MP4 for video files. But, have you ever thought about MP3 vs MP4? Have you ever wondered what makes the two similar-sounding formats so different from each other? If you have, then this post will answer all your queries.

Here, I will present to you an overview of MP3 vs MP4. This complete comparison in the simplest word will help you to understand them better. So, you won’t be confused again in deciding which one to use.

What is MP3?

MP3 is the acronym (short-form) for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. It is a file format that is used to store audio data in a smaller size. It was invented to store audio info in a digital form but with smaller file size than the format that CDs used. MP3 takes an original uncompressed digital audio file and then selectively removes pieces of data that are not recognizable by human ears. In this manner, it is able to store the data at a highly compressed rate without compromising with the quality.

The algorithm by which MP3 compresses and stores data is known as ‘Lossy Compression.‘ The same procedure is used by JPEG. MP3 is so good at storing audio that it has been the standard for audio files for more than 2 decades now. You can use them on any operating system or device you use. It will not show the ‘not compatible’ message on either of them.

Origins of MP3

MP3 was invented by a group of engineers from Europe. They belonged to Philips, CCETT, IRT, and Fraunhofer Society working under the EUREKA 147. It was backed by them to be the MPEG audio standard in 1991. The reasons for it being selected were simplicity, absence of errors, and computational efficiency.

It was then first released for public use on July 7, 1994. An encoder was also released with it known as 13enc. And, the file extension name “.mp3” was introduced on July 14, 1995. Before then, the MP3 files had the “.bit” extension. The first realtime MP3 player was released in the same year on 9th September. It was known as Winplay3.

What is MP4?

MP4 is the acronym for MPEG-4 Part 14. It isn’t the next successor of MP3. Instead, it is a whole different file format that is based on Apple’s QuickTime MOV format. MP4 is a container file format that is able to store audio, video, image, text, and many more types of data. This makes MP4 are very useful file format in today’s world. You can use it to store any type of data in excellent quality.

You can choose from several different audio codecs while storing data in the MP4 format. For example, it supports AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) as well as ALAC (Apples Lossless Audio Codec). MP4 is definitely an upgrade to MP3 but has a completely different base. However, the basic functionalities are also retained.

Origins of MP4

The International Organization for Standardization developed MP4. They released version 1 in 2001 and version 2 in 2003. It was released for public use in 2002. Since the release, MP4 took the internet and world by storm. It became an instant success as it had many notable advantages over the other available formats at that time.

Apple’s iPod and Sony’s PSP played a significant role in the success of the MP4 file format. To this day, the popularity of MP4 is ever-expanding. It is now one of the most used digital file formats in the world.

MP3 vs MP4: All the Differences between the 2 File Formats

MP3 and MP4 seem like two similar formats. However, the truth is a bit different. They both have their fair share of differences. The key difference is that MP3 files can only store audio while MP4 files can also hold videos, images, text, etc along with the audio. Technically, MP3 is an ‘audio coding’ format. This means that it stores the code of the audio info. On the other hand, MP4 is a ‘digital media container,’ meaning that it directly holds data, and not the code.

Here are the complete differences between MP3 and MP4.

MP3 MP4
  • It was released in 1994 for public use.
  • It was released in 2002 for public use.
  • A Group of engineers developed it.
  • ISO developed it.
  • MP3 is basically an audio coding format.
  • MP4 is a digital media container format.
  • The compression is lossy.
  • The compression is lossless.
  • It is comparatively smaller in size.
  • An equivalent MP4 is always bigger than an MP3 file.
  • The quality is comparatively poor.
  • The quality is better than MP3.
  • It offers great compatibility. Any music player can read it.
  • All music players do not support it. Hence, compatibility is comparatively less.

One important difference in today’s world is that MP4 supports streaming content while MP3 doesn’t support it completely. These are all the common differences between the two popular formats.

MP3 vs MP4 Differences: Which one you should use?

Both MP3 and MP4 file formats are essential and serve their own purpose. You can’t just say that either one is better than the other. Both of them have their share of advantages as well as disadvantages. While MP4 might have an edge over MP3 in terms of quality, compatibility, and flexibility, yet MP3 still owns the music library of the masses. So, to understand which one you need to use, you must know the purpose you are using it.

If you want to store a song, you should go with MP3, but if you have a video, you’d have to use MP4. If you’d like to stream content, you’ll have to go with MP4. In this way, choosing the file format depends on your purpose.

Final Verdict

MP3 is an ‘audio codec’ file format that we use to store audio information. On the other hand, MP4 is a ‘digital media container’ file format that we can use to store audio, video, image, text, subtitles, etc. These are all the differences between these two common file formats. Now you know everything about MP3 vs  MP4.

That’s all for this post. If you have any doubts or suggestions regarding anything mentioned here, feel free to use the comment box. I’ll be happy to listen to you.

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