The Rise of MP4: A Brief Overview

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Music or sound gets most people out of bed, motivates them to finish an additional rep at the gym, or stays encouraged throughout the day at work.

It is not just the music industry that has evolved over the years, but formats for digital files have also changed. Even though it is not the sole file format, MP3 has come to be associated with audio in a way that Google is associated with an online search.

However, other file formats like MP4 are rapidly overtaking MP3 and how. So, irrespective of the similarity in their names, don’t assume that MP4 is a mere replacement for MP3. It is much more than that.

There’s also the rise of M4A files that are essentially MP4 files but only handle audio.

While MP3 is still not dead, and changing M4A to MP3 or MP4 to MP3 is possible using converters, the rise of the MP4 format cannot be ignored.

In this article, you’ll learn about the MP4 file format, its benefits, and how it is better than MP3.

What is the Meaning of MP4?

MP4 is short for MPEG-4 Part 14, and it is a container file used to store video, audio, and other data like subtitles. It is a global standard and compatible with most devices.

Due to this, it sometimes becomes tricky to precisely explain an MP4. to reduce the confusion, Apple has started using the .m4a file extension for MP4 files, which only contain audio. On the other hand, the .m4v extension is used to indicate that the file is a video.

If you wish to understand how MP3 differs from MP4, it is because the former is both a codec and a file format. MP3 can only handle audio using lossy compression. However, MP4 being a container, can select from different audio codecs according to the user’s needs. Generally, MP4 files use the AAC codec, a lossy compression codec that does an excellent job of preserving nuances and details in music at the same file size as an MP3.

ALAC, Apple’s hi-res capable lossless audio codec, is also an option for MP4 files. This codec preserves the details of a vinyl album or CD while ensuring the file size is smaller than the original. Therefore, it is an excellent choice for archiving music.

MP4 Features

  • It is an open-source, free file that anyone can use. Also, it is compatible with most devices.
  • It is the best option for formatting or streaming web videos.
  • A majority of video-related programs support this file format.
  • Offers complete support for several operating systems, facilitating distribution.
  • Preserves the original quality of the converted file format.
  • It offers higher compression levels, resulting in lower file formats than MP3 and other file types.
  • Thanks to its high level of motion, the format is an excellent choice for capturing content. It helps in producing pictures that are precise, crisp, and sharp. Therefore, it is perfect for video recording.

MP4 Benefits

  • Easier to use and distribute because the format can be used across platforms and operating systems.
  • The format has a high degree of compression while producing smaller file sizes. Therefore, the format is perfect for the compression of high-definition audio-video files and video streaming.
  • Offering support for metadata means that the files can be integrated with menus, 3D graphics, user navigation options, and other user interaction features.
  • MP4 files can contain Extensible Meta Data Platform and metadata, including images, subtitles, PNG or JPEG format, etc.
  • Several open-source players like VLC Media Player offer complete support for this format.

Is MP4 Better than Other Formats?

The MP4 format is mainly compared with the MP3 format, and experts would argue that an AAC-encoded MP4 audio file offers much better sound than a similarly sized MP3 file. This is because AAC is a newer compression technology.

If you intend to archive your analog or digital music, it is best to opt for an MP4 using ALAC. This is far superior to MP3. ALAC is a lossless format that preserves all the details of the source material and lets you create MP3s if you want. However, the same is not valid for the reverse.

So once you have created an MP3 file, parts of the original audio information are discarded. So even if you convert the file to MP4/ALAC, you will not get the original audio information back. Also, attempting this will create a much larger file of the same quality as MP3.


The MP4 file format has become the standard and is used nearly everywhere. Most handheld devices and mobile platforms use this format as their default. Also, this format allows users to watch and stream videos and movies. Most people use this format to record audio and digital video.

So you cannot ignore this format anymore or deny its rise.

Steffy Alen

Steffy Alen