In popular culture, the MP3 has acquired the status of object. Users buy, exchange, and collect them. Writers often even represent MP3s as inert objects that ‘impact’ an industry, a social environment, or a legal system 13. However, they are not objects – the MP3 simply refers to the format used to compress the data.

Cultural theorists like Sterne urge us to take a closer look at the passage of technological objects like MP3 in society in order to understand their importance and the real role they play. In addition, they question our linguistic use of the terms that designate these technologies.

In particular, Sterne 13 argues that MP3 has effectively become an artifact of culture, that is to say a product which has undergone a transformation by man, and which is thus distinguished from another caused by a natural phenomenon 15 . He points out that the word MP3, as used today, is the product of transformations undergone by several parties: the electronics industry, the audio recording industry, and consumers and their practices. hearing music. So in The MP3 as a cultural artefact 13the reader is in a hurry to reconsider the simplification that MP3 ‘impacts’ society. Rather, MP3 does what it was supposed to do – eliminate redundancies, and travel longer distances more often and with less effort.

Regarding the nature of possession of the MP3 as an object, Knott 14 states that to use an MP3 we need other intermediate objects. If these objects that store MP3s cease to exist, the MP3s are unusable, which is not the case with CD’s or Vinyls. CD’s and Vinyls exist independently of the objects that are used to listen to them – they are not stored in the intermediate objects themselves. Knott calls MP3 quasi-posessions – full possession of the MP3 is difficult. Legally, for example, users are prohibited from sharing MP3s for copyright reasons. For this reason, he points out that the users are rather stewardsas owners. Under this metaphor, Knott points out that consumption methods have changed – rather than focusing on the music itself, users are focused on creating playlists and accumulating music.

Sound quality

Some audiophiles and sound technicians in the image of Neil Young denigrate this format that distorts significantly the sound 35 to such an extent that they never use 36 . Conversely, certain experiences including blind listening in the studio tend to show the difficulty for the human ear to distinguish a CD listening from a weakly compressed MP3 listening. Even more surprising, experiments like that of MusiClassics in 2009 37 classified the CD format in front of the MP3 320 kbit / s but behind the AAC 192 kbit / s and WMA 320 bit / s . The debate therefore remains open, and inthe majority of high compression uses , the loss of quality is often masked by the low quality of audio equipment: portable music players with headsets (also including mobile phones, audio players and tablets) as well as the on-board speakers of portable computers.

One of the causes of the a priori negative towards MP3 comes from the fact that at the beginning of its use by the general public (end of the 1990s), users encoded their audio CDs in MP3 most often with a bit rate of 128 kbit / s (the maximum in MP3 in Microsoft Windows XP). Nowadays (2015), it is generally accepted that an acceptable sound quality is obtained from 192 kbit / s. The speed at 192 kbit / s is often considered to be of good quality, that at 256 kbit / s of very good quality and that at 320 kbit / s of excellent quality 38 .

The use of a variable bit rate (VBR) allows better taking into account the complexity of the sound signal and significantly improves the quality of the result. A constant speed is only necessary for very specific use cases (streaming for example). In all cases, the sound quality of an MP3 file varies significantly depending on the encoding used (type of algorithm, compression rate, etc. ). Strong compressions (file at 64 or 128 kbit / s for example) strongly distort the audio signal and are more suited to voice (audio books) than to music.

The MP3 format has the drawback of not being suitable for encoding chained pieces, for example concert recordings or classical music. When playing, switching from one MP3 file to the next necessarily cuts off the sound for a few tenths of a second. This is due to the empty data ( padding ) located at the end of the file. The only way to really remove this silence is to modify the LAME MusicLength 39 tag which indicates the exact duration of the song by excluding ID3 tags at the end of the file.

MP3 and virtual communities

To understand the MP3 format from a social point of view it must be placed in the context of the Internet phenomenon.

The fundamental idea of ​​interactivity and free exchange of ideas and files which is intrinsic to the Internet, has been extensively exploited in the case of MP3. In 1999, the Napster website was created. This site was a platform for the free exchange of music tracks in MP3 format. In such digital platforms, individuals could find a wide range of open access music resources. Indeed, this has created a virtual community of individuals who have come together due to their similar consumer interests 16.

This is the process that sociologists, notably Kozinets, call re-tribalization or e-tribalization 17 . Indeed, the technology of MP3 and its direct application in the field of music has had the subsequent effect of creating various virtual communities such as Napster or which focus on music. For this purpose, there are now an extensive number of websites which are dedicated to the free transfer of music where users can exchange their music files 16 .

The increasing influence of virtual communities has also had the effect of developing the so – called E ‒ Tribal Marketing 17 area of ​​thought . Reflections in this area qualify consumer behavior in the Internet Age and suggest additional considerations necessary to design more modern Marketing strategies 1

MP3 Software


  • Grip  : allows you to rip an audio CD to MP3 (designed for the GNOME graphics environment , hence the “G”).
  • k3b  : allows you to rip an audio CD to mp3 (designed for the KDE graphics environment , hence the “K”).
  • LAME  : create mp3 from audio files. Command line interface . Usable with or without options (ex: ID3 tags possible).
  • XCFA  : capable of coding in bitrate variable .

Software suitable for MP3 playback

  • Under Windows  : VLC , Groove Music Windows Media Player , iTunes , RealPlayer , GoldWave , Audacity , Winamp , Foobar2000 , KMPlayer , Zinf , musikCube , BSplayer , Konvertor , XnView , MediaMonkey , MusicBee, etc.
  • On OS X  : iTunes , VLC , Audacity , Audion 3, QuickTime , RealPlayer , Amadeus II , SoundEdit , Sound Studio , Peak , etc.
  • Under GNU – Linux  : Xmms , Audacity , Amarok , JuK , Listen, Rhythmbox , Banshee , VLC , Exaile , Zinf , Mplayer , etc.
  • On Android  : VLC , and most music players integrated into the devices.

Materials adapted to its reading

  • The computer  : via software (see above).
  • The music players  : they can listen all MP3s stored.
  • The CD MP3: portable or not, they can listen to MP3 files stored on CD.
  • The multimedia hard drives  : most have this capability; the others do not support it in order not to pay the license.
  • Some DVD players or DVD / DivX  : portable or not, they can often play MP3 files on CD or DVD.
  • Of radios or television recent analog and digital DAB : they can sometimes read (and even more often Register) MP3 files on flash memory cards and / or USB storage devices .
  • Recent game consoles : like the PSP , PS3 , PS4 or the Xbox 360 .
  • Recent cell phones ; only those who claim to be very “simple” do not do so at present.
  • Recent amplified music technology devices . Like HiFi and all its derivatives via a CD or DVD deck and / or flash memory cards and / or USB devices and / or a network.