Is the AAC format gaining popularity?

by Chris Josephes

While it could vaguely be considered system/application news, Nintendo announced a new version of "Photo Channel", will be released in December. For those that own a Wii, Photo Channel is that icon that is mostly ignored, right next to "Wii Shop Channel".

The update includes the comment that they'll be dropping MP3 support for AAC support, and it has a few Nintendo users a little upset. The rumor was that the change was brought about due to licensing costs for the MP3 codec, but nobody knows for sure.

I'm one of the few people I know that's made the switch from MP3s into AAC files, and burn CDs directly into AAC. I didn't gain anything in quality from the MP3 to AAC conversion, but there was a slight savings in hard drive space. I still have my music, and it can still be played on the iPod, the Zune, or other players put out by Creative, SanDisk, Sony, etc, etc.

So my question is, is the MP3 file format really more popular than AAC; or does it only appear to be more popular because the term MP3 is slowly becoming a lost trademark in the same vein of Xerox and Coke?

AAC is superior to MP3, since it is the successor format; but do people actually use the extended features? Or is this a case where Betamax is technically superior, but for some reasons the markets prefer VHS?


2007-11-16 07:25:02
I'm sure it's gaining popularity thanks to it being the default format for iTunes CD rips, and it's technical superiority. And it'll only gain traction.

But MP3 will always have the mindshare that came from being what pretty much sparked the digital music wave. I don't think people will be referring to their portable players as "AAC Players" anytime soon, ya know?

Chris Josephes
2007-11-16 07:42:24
I don't think people will be referring to their portable players as "AAC Players" anytime soon

True, and I blame the market for that. If you're the manufacturer of a MP3 player that isn't an iPod; you're going to say MP3 as much as possible to go for the compatability angle. Never mind the fact that MP3 is a dead-end format.

Also, never mind the fact that every player on the market can play almost every non-DRMed commercially available codec out there.

2007-11-17 02:48:08
It's very unfruitful to see companys switch from mp3 to aac because of license cost.
To make it clear aac is not free. True, you don't need a license and don't have to pay if you stream or distribute content in aac. On the other side you need a patent license if you manufacure or develop your own aac codec.
That is why faac and faad are only distributed in source code.
AAC is proprietary technology.
Very sad to see such a switch when there is a similiar effective codec out that is completely free of such backdraws, that could use more popularity.
I'm talking of vorbis.
Just because apple uses something it doesn't mean it's the best.
Chris Josephes
2007-11-17 11:45:12
Just because apple uses something it doesn't mean it's the best.

True, but just because it's freeware doesn't mean it's any better, either.

Ogg Vorbis gets an A for effort in programming, but a D in marketing. The players that support Ogg only list it as a supported format in a huge list of codecs that mean nothing to the average consumer. In order for it to really succeed, you need to seriously market to the masses.

But don't sell the fact that it's free or unlicensed, because that means nothing to end users. Highlight the audio quality, the compression, and talk about how a ripped CD in Vorbis can sound better than either MP3 or AAC. If you can get superior quality, you should attract more users.

Ogg needs to have a consumer product behind it. A great music player that can literally pushes O.V. as the format of choice. So far, the closest thing to that might satisfy that product could be Songbird.

2007-11-21 05:53:01
All my music is in MP3 because of my players. I have an iPod (MP3/AAC), an old Frontier NexIIe (MP3/WMA), a Tivo (MP3) and various computers (everything). MP3 plays on every device I have.

IIRC, the licensing fee for AAC is lower then MP3. Because of iTunes' popularity, default format, I see AAC support growing. WMA's license is much cheaper, but I imagine it's harder to get an open source player.

2007-11-22 18:50:21
Its MP3 for me, for two reasons. 1) its compatible with everything. DVD players, my ipod, my car stereo (mp3 and wma only), my mobile phone. 2) I have a lot of music already in mp3 format and am not willing to re-code it. Also its free for non-commercial use. Not that licensing ever bothered me back before that was cleared up anyway.

The fact that mp3 requires more space for the same quality as aac is not relevant. Space is cheap these days, and mp3s are small enough for what I need.