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MP3 Goes Multichannel
Contributed by: G3nu1n3, at 1/15/2005 01:07:00 PM.

The file format that inspired millions of downloads hopes to inspire music fans to do something else: buy more speakers. Now officially released by the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS and Thomson, coinventors of the MP3 format, the new MP3 Surround supports 5.1 multichannel sound.

Software to play MP3 Surround tracks in all their multichannel glory will remain free of charge, and the files will be backward compatible with existing MP3 players. Older players, however, will play back the files as conventional stereo tracks. Consumers will have to purchase new MP3 players and CD players if they want to decode the full MP3 Surround experience. Thomson officials claim that the encoding technology, developed by Agere Systems, increases MP3 files sizes only "marginally."

The new MP3 format may also inspire people to get more powerful systems. According to Thomson, encoding music in surround-sound mode increases the computational workload by about 50 percent over stereo encoding.

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