Digital compression is an important advancement in technology that has made cell phones and digital television practical. It also plays a big part in how we listen to music these days. Vinyl records and cassette tapes are long gone and now all music is stored in digital computer files. These files can be stored on a CD or saved in the memory of an MP3 player or smart phone for future playback. With limited storage capacity available, you can see the advantage of making these files as small as possible. That is where digital compression comes in.
Think of compression as a sort of digital short hand. When taking dictation, a stenographer will write down one symbol to represent a whole word. That significantly reduces the amount of writing he or she has to do. Digital compression works the same way to make files smaller.
CDs were first introduced back in the 80's and they made use of compression to fit an album of songs onto the disc. When you buy a CD in the store today it still uses that same compression format. As you can imagine, compression technology has improved a lot since then.
MP3 is a popular format for music because it shrinks the file size more than ten times that of standard CD audio while preserving the sound quality. In MP3 format you can fit dozens of albums worth of music onto one CD. No wonder CD changers have gone the way of 8 track tapes!
WMA is another popular compression format for audio files created by Microsoft. Most MP3 players can play back both MP3 and WMA files. Apple has their own proprietary compression format for iPods and iPhones. Marine stereo manufacturers have to pay a licensing fee to Apple in order to make their products iPod and iPhone compatible. so you should expect to pay more for that feature.
Other music sources that make use of digital compression are satellite radio, which is very popular, and HD radio which is, sadly, very unpopular. Pandora, I Heart Radio and similar audio streaming services also use compression.
Check out our other videos for more information about using digitally compressed music with your marine stereo.