The death of MP3, rise of MP4 and Microsoft PowerPoint

Shrill headlines talking about the ‘death’ of MP3. Here’s how Microsoft Office is affected (hint: not a bit but you might start moving away from MP3 to the better MP4).

Audio and video support mostly applies to PowerPoint.  Microsoft Office supports a range of different audio formats including MP3 but also other and far better formats.

MP3 audio has been available in PowerPoint for a long time and will be for some time to come.

If you have MP3’s embedded or linked with your presentations, that’s OK.  We have more on the licensing changes to MP3 below.

MP4 is better

MP3 is OK but there are better audio formats available these days. Better sound quality and smaller files than an MP3 equivalent (depending on the settings).

Audio quality is worth considering. If you’re doing a presentation in a large hall with a big sound system.  Or a presentation where audio quality matters to you and the audience.

MPEG-4 Audio aka  .MP4 or .M4A aka  AAC Advanced Audio Coding

Better audio quality and smaller file sizes is what you get with the current generation of global audio formats.  Most commonly MPEG-4 with AAC.

MPEG 4

MPEG-4 normally uses AAC or Advanced Audio Coding.  The standard extensions are .m4a or .mp4

MPEG-4 audio uses AAC or Advanced Audio Coding.  Apple users will be familiar with AAC because it’s been the default music format on iPad and iPhone for many years (with a .AAC extension).  iTunes for Windows/Mac will convert MP3 to AAC.

As part of the Moving Picture Experts Group, MPEG-4 is an internationally accepted standard authorized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).  Just like MP3 before it.

PowerPoint and MP4 Audio

Microsoft itself recommends MP4 audio with AAC encoding for PowerPoint 2016 for Windows and PowerPoint 2013.

Redmond is silent on an Office 2016 for Mac audio recommendation but suggests MPEG-4 video with AAC audio. Presumably that applies to audio only.

.MP4 or .M4A audio (AAC) is supported directly in PowerPoint 2016 and 2013.

You can also use MP4 audio with PowerPoint 2010 for Windows but only if:

  • It’s PowerPoint 2010 32-bit edition (64-bit is out)
  • Quicktime for Windows is installed (needed for the AAC support)

What happened to MP3?

For us users of MP3 – absolutely nothing.  Your audio software with MP3 support (playing, recording, converting) continues to work and the developers can continue to update their software.  Apple, Android, Windows, Linux and anything else will still play MP3 into the forseeable future.

Hard to believe but MP3 is over 25 years old. The core patents used by MP3 have expired.  That’s led to the ending of the licensing program run by the Fraunhofer.

If you want to know more go to the Fraunhofer blog or https://www.mp3-history.com/

Or just enjoy Suzanne Vega’s song Tom’s Diner which delayed the release of MP3 and ultimately improved it.

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