With the advent of the MP3 (Moving Picture Experts Group, Layer 3) digital audio standard, music has taken leaps and bounds into the world of information and technology. MPEG works under the joint direction of the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) that codes algorithms for audio-visual information in a compressed digital format. The MPEG standard comes in three varieties: Layer 1, Layer 2, and Layer 3. The latter, MPEG Layer-3, is an extension of the MPEG format that initially began as a plan for creating a suitable coding scheme for transmitting and recording moving pictures. From Layer 1 to Layer 3 the encoder for the standard increases in complexity and performance, thus yielding higher sound quality per bitrate (bitrate denotes a given level of encoding such as 112kbps – kilobits per second). The MP3 standard utilizes compressed audio signals in what is known as PCM encoding (used in the WAV audio format) to create near CD-quality audio at a 16-bit sampling rate of 44.1kHz on a computer. MP3 files compress one minute of music into approximately one megabyte of storage, assuming a bitrate of 128kbps. Bitrates play an integral role in the quality of audio playback of the MP3 standard in that they represent the compression ratio of MP3s. Essentially, the higher the bitrate a MP3 possess, the higher the audio quality.
The MP3 standard has been embraced by many to provide CD-quality music to the public via the Internet. Through various MP3 utilities and players, users have been able to bring high quality music to the desktop by making and downloading MP3s. However, the MP3 standard has not had such a warm welcome with the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA) and other special interest groups advocating strict regulation of the medium in order to prevent the illegal pirating of copyrighted music. Besides the piracy of music, the music industry has claimed that the MP3 standard has resulted in the losses of billions of dollars and still continues to fight against the legality of the standard.
Though MP3 has had its share of fights, it has come out on top alive and still kicking in the media industry. As the popularity of MP3s grew, so did the idea of making MP3s mobile with portable MP3 players. Diamond Multimedia made headlines with the introduction of the first portable MP3 player known as the Rio 300. The portable MP3 allowed the digital standard to make the leap from the speakers of the desktop computer to the hands of many. The Rio 300 laid the foundation for other companies, including Sony, RCA, Creative Labs, and D-Link to name a few, to introduce their own respective line of portable MP3 players. MP3 players are attractive to the public due to the lack of moving parts, which allows for no skipping during audio playback, and long battery life when compared to CD players. However, CD and minidisc players for the most part offer better audio performance though they utilize moving parts. In addition, MP3 players offer better battery life due to the lack of moving parts though CD and minidisc players are beginning to offer better battery life as well. The recent advancements made in digital technology have provided MP3 players with a wide array of more advanced features for the consumer as well as producing smaller players.
Best Data’s CABO MP3 is another portable MP3 player that adds its name to the growing list of players currently on the market. Best Data has been in the networking business for the past fifteen years manufacturing their own line of modems and network cards, not to mention sound and video cards as well. The CABO is the first MP3 player to be tested in the AnandTech labs and, with a sticker price of $239, it has the potential of becoming a contender in the portable MP3 player market.