Difference between Mp3 and Mp4

MP4 and MP3 are different types of data storage formats used to store media. Mp3 is used to store the audio while mp4 can be used to store video, audio, subtitles, still images, and text. MP4 or MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) is a file format released in 1994 and developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).MPEG audio Layer-3 a.k.a. MP3 is a file format released in 2003 and is developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). Although they are created by the same group they aren’t the same in any sense except the fact that they both can be used to store the audio data.

Mp3 vs Mp4

The table given below provides an insight into the basic difference between mp3 and mp4.

Only audio data can be stored in this format. In this format we can store videos, still images, subtitles, texts, and audio as well.
Extension used is .mp3 Extension used is .mp4
It is an audio coding format. It is a digital multimedia container format.
Mp3 is a compressing technology that doesn’t reduce the quality of audio. Mp4 is also a compressing technology that reduces the quality of both audio and video.
MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 is also known as MP3. MPEG-4 Part 14 is also known as MP4.
It is a less space-consuming format. It consumes more space than the mp3 format.
It was released in 1994. It is new and was released in 2003.

Now let’s discuss in detail what is mp3 and how it is different from mp4.

What is MP3?

MP3 is a short term used for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. It was developed with the purpose of storing audio information in digital form, but with smaller file size than the format used by CDs at that time. This reduction in file size is achieved by a process known as “lossy compression” in which the uncompressed audio file is taken and the selected chunks of data are removed such that the human ear can’t notice the change. The same trick is used by JPEG files in which the size of pictures is reduced but there is no noticeable change in the quality of the pictures. We can observe the usefulness of this format from the fact that the reduced mp3 file occupies only one-tenth of the space as used by the CD audio track for the same information.

Mp3 format is so popular that almost every device supports it. It is due to its good audio storing ability that it has become the de facto standard for audio software, digital audio players, and audio streaming sites like Spotify, Wynk and Saavn.

What is Mp4?

MP4 is a multimedia facilitator. It is used to handle the video, text, subtitles, or stills. MP4 is a “container” format that stores data rather than just code. It is based on Apple’s QuickTime MOV format. Since its release in 2003, it has become one of the most popular formats for the storage of audio and video information. It also uses the same technique of “lossy compression” for storing the information.

So far we have known that besides audio an mp4 file format can contain video, text, and images, so to determine which type of data is present in the file there are some most common extensions which are being used.

They are as follows:

MP4 — It is the only official extension.

M4A — It is used for non-protected audio.

M4P — It is used for Audio encryption by FairPlay Digital Rights Management.

M4B — It is used for audiobooks and podcasts.

M4V — used for MPEG-4 Visual bitstreams.

Now a question may arise, as to which one should you use?

If you are concerned about the available hard drive space and the compatibility with the device, you should go with mp3 and if you are not worried about the space and you are more concerned about the quality of the sound, you should definitely go for mp4.

We can convert a file from mp3 to mp4 and vice versa. We can utilize this fact to save memory for example if you are worried about the space in your device, you can convert all the mp4 files to mp3 this will make a lot of space available on your device but at the cost of reducing the quality of audio. But converting a file from mp3 to mp4 will be of no use since the file will take more space but the quality of sound will not improve. This happens because once an MP3 has been created (parts of the original audio information discarded in the compression process) we can’t get it back by converting it to MP4/ALAC. This will provide us with a file of larger size but at the quality as the mp3.

Deepak Yadav
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh


1. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/501447/difference-between-mp3-vs-mp4
2. https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/technology-explained-what-is-the-difference-between-mp3-mp4
3. https://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/mp3-vs-mp4
4. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/difference-between-mp4-and-mp3

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