How Does an MP3 Player Work

How does an MP3 player work? Few people can honestly tell you. The portability of music has come a long way since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. Thanks to improved technology in the form of MP3 files and MP3 players, people can carry their entire music collection, including thousands of songs, on a device the size of a playing card. MP3 players have become one of the most popular consumer goods in the world.

Mp3 files are audio files that have been compressed to take out the sound frequencies we cannot hear and save space. The average song on a CD takes up about 40 megabytes (MB) of space, but that same song compressed into an MP3 format only takes up 4MB.

Unlike the audio technology that preceded them (cassettes, 8-tracks, records, CDs, etc), most MP3 players do not have any moving parts, which improves playback, makes it more reliable and removes the risk of the music skipping.

While the MP3 device is useful simply as a storage device, it became immensely popular for its playback ability. In order for the user to hear the music stored on the device, the player must first pull the song from its memory. Different players use different memory systems. The main memory types are memory stick, SmartMedia cards, internal flash memory, CompactFlash cards and internal microdrive (the micro drive is the lone type that still uses moving parts).

Once it accesses the song it must decompress the MP3 coding. It does this through digital signal processing (DSP). Basically, it uses an algorithm to convert the digital file (the 1s and 0s you might recognize from "The Matrix" trilogy) into an analog signal that the user can hear. Once the file has been converted, the signal is amplified and sent through the headphones to the user's ear. 

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