Sony to Support MP3 in Future Players

MP3s are around to stay, and Sony has apparently gotten the message. The company announced that some of its new music player models will now feature direct support for MP3 audio files, in addition to its ATRAC3 format.

Walkman Gains MP3

Support for MP3 will first appear in flash-based players that Sony plans to release in Europe later this year, according to reports. The same reports also indicate that Sony plans to release MP3-compatible flash players in the United States.

Sony's Walkman NW-HD1 debuted earlier this summer, and was dubbed an "IPod Killer" by some industry pundits and journalists. But the product has been quickly bashed by reviewers for its required use of ATRAC3, a proprietary audio formatting scheme that Sony uses in its digital media players instead of the more widely used MP3, AAC, or WMA formats.

ATRAC Advantage

ATRAC, or Acoustic TRansform Adaptive Coding, still has its advantages. The format was first introduced when Sony began selling its MiniDisc-based systems, which had a limited storage capacity compared with today's capacious hard-drive players.

Sony claims ATRAC's compression scheme is more efficient than other more commonly used setups, yielding higher-quality audio at lower bit rates--one of the reasons that Sony says its 20GB Walkman can hold 3000 more songs than an equivalent IPod can.

But reviewers have complained that requiring ATRAC conversion from MP3 and other audio formats adds another layer of complexity and additional time to load songs onto a Walkman. By adding MP3 support to its next digital audio players, Sony mollifies those complaints while still offering its technological edge for users who are willing to go through the file conversion process.

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