ZD Labs Proves Windows Media Sounds More Like CD-Quality Music at Half the Size of MP3

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 13, 2000 — Microsoft Corp. announced today a new consumer study that proves digital music in the Microsoft® Windows Media TM Format sounds more like CD-quality audio in half the size of MP3. ZD Labs conducted a study that compared Windows Media- and MP3-formatted content to original CD recordings. The study found that when compared to the CD-quality originals, nearly 90 percent of consumers tested preferred or could not tell the difference in quality between music in the Windows Media Format and songs in the MP3 format that were twice the size. In addition, this study revealed that consumers overwhelmingly chose the quality of Windows Media for live streaming of audio at 32k bps and at 64k bps over MP3.

The ZD Labs report stated that
“the test participants chose the Windows Media Audio codec over the RealNetworks/Xing MP3 codec in all our major test scenarios.”
The ZD Labs study tested two major consumer usage scenarios. During the first test scenario, participants listened to a live streaming-quality usage scenario, which included listening to Internet radio, live music events over the Internet, and Web-based jukeboxes. Results showed that 97.6 percent of test participants responded that the music created with the Windows Media Audio codec sounded more like the original than the music created with the RealNetworks/Xing MP3 codec.

For the second test scenario, consumers were asked if they thought the Windows Media-formatted clip or the MP3 clip sounded more like the original CD recording. Each participant was asked to listen to 15 seconds of three clips. The first clip was, unknown to them, always the original CD music. The second two clips were a random ordering of the same 15 seconds of the Windows Media- and MP3-encoded files across different genres of music. Each file was encoded at CD-quality bit rates of 64k bps for Windows Media and 128k bps for MP3. Results from this test showed 8.9 out of 10 people either preferred Windows Media at 64k bps over MP3 at 128k bps or could not tell which of the two more closely resembled actual original CD clips, even though the Windows Media Audio clips were 50 percent smaller than the MP3 clips.

“This study confirms that Windows Media offers a technological breakthrough,”
said Dave Fester, director of marketing for the Streaming Media Division at Microsoft.
“Using Windows Media, consumers can overcome the storage barriers on music devices and double their digital music storage by getting two hours of CD-quality music on a 64MB portable music device, compared to only one hour using the MP3 format.”

Windows Media Format has garnered rapid support among the leaders of the digital media industry because of its quality and size advantages. This support includes the top four manufacturers of portable music devices: S3 Inc./Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc., Creative Labs Inc., Sony Electronics Inc. and RCA Electronics/THOMSON multimedia; the top digital music players and jukeboxes, including nullsoft WinAmp, Sonique, Sonic Foundry, RioPort Audio Manager and MusicMatch; and four of the five major record labels providing extensive content in Windows Media: Sony Music Entertainment Inc., EMI, BMG Entertainment and Warner Music.

ZD Labs performed the double-blind study using audio tracks encoded in Microsoft Windows Media Format and the RealNetworks/Xing Technology implementation of the Motion Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3 (MP3) audio format. The 96 participants ranged in age from 18 to 44 and listened to 18 sets of six different 15-second audio clips representing a range of musical types, including classical, adult contemporary and pop/rock genres. The full study results can be viewed on the ZD Labs Web site, at http://www.zdnet.com/zdlabs/stories/main/0,8829,2352352,00.html .

About WindowsMedia.com

WindowsMedia.com ( http://windowsmedia.com/ ), part of the MSN TM network of Internet services, is among the fastest-growing major audio and video guides on the Internet. WindowsMedia.com provides access to localized audio and video content worldwide, including major music and video events and entertainment from more than 1,000 content providers.

About Windows Media

Windows Media is the leading digital media platform, providing consumers, content providers, solution providers, software developers and corporations with unmatched audio and video quality. Windows Media Technologies, which includes Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools and the Windows Media SDK, is available for free* download at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/ . The Windows Media Player is the fastest growing media player. More than 50 million copies have been downloaded to date – growing by more than one every second.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
“MSFT”
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

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