MP3 vs MP4

MP3 vs MP4

Newer MP4 and better MP3? Oh no, that’s not it.

The first difference is the number, it usually refers to this more or less than the other but not always the case. They have their own uses, history and strengths. So let me reiterate again that MP3 and MP4 are not two versions of the same product.

In this article, we will explain the differences of MP3 and MP4 that people need to know. At the same time, after reading the reader will know exactly what type of file you need.


Before going into the differences, you should know the origin of these two file types.

MP3 stands for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. In the early 1990s, it was considered one of the two standard MPEG audio formats. Philips Electronics, the French research institute CCETT, and the German Institute for Information and Communication Technologies can back up the format thanks to its simplicity, fault tolerance and efficiency.

The MP3 file was released in 1991 and was used in the republic in 1993.

MP4 stands for MPEG-4 Part 14. This technology is based on Apple’s QuickTime MOV format, but adds many other features of MPEG. This file was first released in 2001 but was reissued in 2003 and widely used today.

Only Audio and Digital Media

The main difference between MP3 and MP4 is the kind of data they store.

MP3s can only be used for audio, whereas MP4 can store audio, images, text, even video. In technical terms, MP3 is the “backup audio” format while MP4 is the “multimedia storage” format.

MP3: Prince of audio

Because MP3 files backup very good audio, they become the standard applicable to music software, music players, and music websites.

No matter what operating system or device you own, believe that you do not need to do anything, it will still do its job.

The main reason why MP3 is widely used is its way of working. This will remove all data that contains sounds that a normal person can not hear, and then compress the remaining data to the maximum.

MP3 allows users to balance between audio quality and file size. If you are an audiophile, you can adjust the large file size to match the higher bit rate and better audio quality. On the other hand, if you want to compress multiple songs to a portable device, you can reduce the file size and audio quality accordingly.

In addition, MP3 files are usually smaller than MP4 files. If your music player or smartphone is full, you should transfer audio from MP4 to MP3.

MP4: Diverse and More Flexible

MP4 files are like containers – instead of storing encrypted files, they store the data. As such, we can not handle encoding of MP4 files by common sense. In order to process encrypted and compressed files, they will have to migrate to special encodings.

Currently, there are hundreds of different encodings but only some new encoders incorporate with many MP4 players. One line can read and run an MP4 file, it must contain homologous coding. Some common support codes are:

  • Video — MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264) and MPEG-4 Part 2.
  • Audio — AAC, ALS, SLS, TTSI, MP3, and ALAC.
  • Subtitles — MPEG-4 Timed Text.

These codecs make MP4 files more versatile than MP3s. For example, M4A files – which contain only MP4 audio, can handle Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) and Apple Lossless Audio Coding (ALAC).

Users can choose quality at will. Or the flie will be like an MP4 file but the data will be relatively different.

In addition to audio, MP4 can also contain videos, pictures and text. But you often see that its variations. Eg:

  • MP4 — The only official extension.
  • M4A — Non-protected audio.
  • M4P — Audio encrypted by FairPlay Digital Rights Management.
  • M4B — Audiobooks and podcasts.
  • M4V — MPEG-4 Visual bitstreams.

Understanding Metadata

Both MP3 and MP4 formats support Metadata. Without this type of data, we can not fully utilize the features of music players (such as Itunes) or media applications (such as Plex).

The Mp3 format uses ID3 info storage, which allows us to save information such as song title, artist, album into a file. The information is saved at the end of each code of the file. The contents of the information can be read using code compilers or paralyzed as “non-MP3”. Valid information such as ReplayGain or DRM restrictions can also be stored in the metadata.

The Mp4 format can also interact with metadata such as the EXTENSIBLE METADATA PLATFORM (XMP). XMP metadata is compatible with the MP4 file format, as it can interact with a wide variety of formats such as PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, HTML, TIFF, Adobe Illustrator, PSD, WAV, and PostScript.


So, I brought you the most general view of MP3 and MP4 formats in the simplest way possible.

Hope you have a better understanding of these two types of formats.

If you intend to download music to your portable music player, MP3 is the ideal choice. In contrast, if you want to save video or share videos online, the new MP4 is the format you need.