Exactly 20 years ago today, on 14.07.In 1995, the "Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS)" in Erlangen, Germany, decided that the extension for a new audio compression algorithm – technically called ISO MPEG Audio Layer 3 – would from now on be used exclusively for audio files .mp3″ is supposed to be. What no one suspected at the time was the incredible worldwide triumph of the format and with it the player described in the following blog, to which the format gave its name: the MP3 player.
How it all began
In the meantime, it’s been more than 15 years since the first MP3 player hit the German market. So this genre of mobile music players is basically old news in our fast-paced times. But the MP3 player is still the first choice when you want to listen to your music on the go. Although not always in the form of a stand-alone player, but at least as part of smartphones or tablets. Because today almost every electronic device can play MP3s – even some digital cameras would like to become an all-rounder in this way. However, modern MP3 players such as the iPod Touch and other similar devices are no longer limited to playing music. The end of the MP3 player era may already be in sight, but they will probably not disappear too quickly.
Like the MP3 file format, the MP3 player is also a German invention. The first prototype that can really be called an MP3 player was already 1995 by the company Pontis built in Schwarzenfeld. The decisive factor was the availability of the first data carrier for MP3 players: the MMC (Multimedia Card), which was the result of a collaboration between Siemens and SanDisk, a manufacturer known for its memory cards. The first models had a memory size of about 16 or 32 megabytes, which seems ridiculously small from today’s point of view. So these devices held about a single CD in MP3 format. Due to its small size, this was a real milestone from the point of view of that time.
The development over time
As is often the case in the consumer electronics industry, it didn’t take long for the devices to become better and cheaper. That’s why MP3 players were already spreading rapidly in the early 2000s. As early as 2001, the first version of the best-selling MP3 player to date was released: the iPod. The device does not rely on the smallest possible dimensions and a flash memory (internal or as a memory card) as many of its competitors do, but on a real hard disk. The iPod of the first generation was a bit bigger than most other devices, but offered an enormous memory of five gigabytes. In the beginning the iPod was only compatible with Mac computers, which stood in the way of success for the time being.
Less than a year later, the second generation was released, with a choice of Mac or Windows versions. From now on it went steeply uphill with the iPod and also with the company Apple. However, it should be mentioned here that the first generations of the iPod were anything but cheap, which is why the impression of a luxury MP3 player always remained a little, but which set standards for it. In addition to the iPod, several other MP3 players were also widespread in the 2000s. Many of them came from low-wage countries and were printed for the European market only with the labels of the different manufacturers (pictured above).
There were hardly any big differences between the devices, but almost all of them could score with a favorable price. So they also contributed to the spread of mobile MP3 players. A few large manufacturers also tried to enter the market, but most of them did a poor job. With the expansion of the product range and the introduction of the iPod Mini and Nano in the mid-2000s, there was no getting around the iPod. This has changed little to this day, the iPod is almost synonymous with an MP3 player.
MP3 players today
Today, the MP3 player is usually part of the car radio or smartphone. Although there is still a market for pure MP3 players, it is becoming smaller and smaller. On the other hand, the market for very special MP3 players is growing. Because almost anything is now possible in terms of size and storage capacity, there is plenty of scope for special developments – such as Waterproof MP3 players. Especially among athletes, the stand-alone MP3 player is still very popular, because only a few people want to carry their smartphone with them for physical exercise, not to mention the stresses and strains that an MP3 player has to endure while jogging. Headphones are also adapting to this trend, such as our Teufel Move. Especially among athletes there is still a demand, which would like to be served in the future.
But also in the pure music and primarily the HiFi area a successor is already emerging. Lossless – i.e. lossless – is the motto for the mobile players of the future. Concepts and devices for this are already in the starting blocks. First and foremost, Neil Young’s Pono player, which promises a sound quality comparable to that of a master tape. Likewise Sony had recently presented a brand new version of the good old Walkman. It, too, is supposed to give the listener the very best sound quality, but it also costs a hefty 1.200 euros. But these high-end players are still at the very beginning of their development. How it could go on with that, and what Lossless players are currently already available, you will find out in the next article about FLAC players and Co.