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Home / News / MP3 inventor: high-def audio is “more than humans really need”

MP3 inventor: high-def audio is “more than humans really need”

Want a better listening experience? Get a better car, says MP3 creator Professor Heinz Gerhauser

Professor Heinz Gerhauser – pictured above in Playmobil form with the rest of the Fraunhofer Institute team – was one of the boffins behind the creation and development of the MP3 file format in the 1980s and 90s. He’s just accepted a Lifetime Achievement award at the Lovie Awards 2012 – so we thought we’d pick his brains about all things MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. 

Technically we can do much more than humans really need. 

If we talk about sampling rates of 96khz or a 24 bit dynamic range, you cannot actually take advantage of it. You can do it technically and therefore it will be sold. Whether you need it or not, that’s a different question.

A high end car can make a difference. 

I think it makes a lot of sense to think about what is important in music: many people are listening to music in a car where there is very loud ambient noise so then it’s not 24 bit you need. On the other hand a well designed listening environment, especially in a high end car, can make a difference. 

Our listening studios in the Institute allow a quality which is absolutely unbelievable. 

You can just sit in there and it’s breath-taking. We use something like 50 speakers in a listening room and it costs the same as a small family home. It is also a room within a room, sitting on rubber cubes to isolate any sound coming from the outside. 

You shouldn’t be able to hear the difference between the unprocessed original and the coded one. 

[At the Institute] this is always evaluated in double-blind tests where you do not know which you are listening to. If you cannot hear a statistically significant difference then it’s transparent quality. 

I always use headphones when listening to music on my own. 

They can reproduce music in an excellent way. If you can make sure the earbuds [when using in-ears] don’t fall out, it’s a big achievement. 

I go to concerts to feel the atmosphere. 

I like to see people around me, getting excited. Sometimes the musicians make a little mistake – it’s real life. It’s wonderful. 


Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home

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