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Interview With Suzanne Kantra

Aired September 14, 2003 - 08:10   ET


STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Technology is moving so quickly, it wasn't really that long ago that music was presented on eight-track tapes or LP long-playing records. Nobody remembers that. But these days, an MP3 player is a must have for die-hard music fans who want to take their tunes with them.
Now, if you're not in tune with the high-tech gadget don't worry, because you can read up on the ABCs of MP3s in the October issue of "Popular Science" magazine. And here with more about the article and the technology is "Popular Science" technology editor, Suzanne Kantra.

Ms. Kantra, welcome to CNN. Thanks for joining us.


FRAZIER: Now, this is music that real aficionados say comes in a portable form, but isn't as high fidelity as the old fashioned stuff. Do you believe that's a true argument?

KANTRA: Well, it depends on how much you're compressing the audio. One of the things that people complain about is the fact that it is compressed and you do lose some of the music. When you compress at 128 kilobits per second, which is about CD quality, you are losing a little bit of information. But you can compress at 256, and it's very difficult, even for an audio file, to tell the difference at that point.

FRAZIER: All right. You're using a word here called "compressing" that some audio files aren't used to hearing. In fact, some people wonder how is it that these things, which have no moving parts, make sounds?

KANTRA: Well, what they're doing is it's reading the information in ones and zeros, and then it's transferring it from digital to analog. And, in that way, they're able to move the drivers, whether that's a pair of headphones or it's a pair of speakers, to create that sound wave.

FRAZIER: Replacing the old kind of analog thing we had a needle on a vinyl record and the needle actually vibrated because of the grooves in the records.

KANTRA: Exactly.

FRAZIER: So they last forever and there's no deterioration the more you play it? KANTRA: Well, you have to worry about file corruption. So you will want to recopy your files, whether you have them stored on disks or you have them stored on a flash memory card -- as you said, that has no moving parts -- you will want to make sure that there isn't any kind of file corruption and you would want to run software to ascertain whether that is actually happening.

FRAZIER: Just a little bit of housekeeping here. MP3 isn't the only digital music format, but it's really the one that's beginning to own the marketplace?

KANTRA: MP3 is definitely the pervasive format, but Microsoft is really making a big push with their WMA format. And there are other ones out there like OGG Vorbis. So there are definitely different ones out there.

Sony is behind Eight Track Three (ph). So when you hear MP3, it's sort of like Kleenex. You know Kleenex is a tissue, and nobody says "tissue." The same thing with MP3.

FRAZIER: All right. The show and tell is important here now because what you're really talking about is the ability to put into your pocket a whole jukebox worth of sound. Why don't we go first to the most portable of all of the players you're carrying with you today.

KANTRA: Well, today I have this device from iRiver, and this has 512 megabytes, which means about 500 songs that you could put on to this device if you're willing to go down to about AM or FM radio quality. If you want CD quality, you're talking about more like 250 songs, which is still pretty good.

FRAZIER: And that's astonishing. That and a pair of headphones and you're good to go. That's all it takes.

KANTRA: Exactly.

FRAZIER: All right. Then you can take these and put them in your car?

KANTRA: You can. And one of the problems with the car systems is that you have had to go into your car and sit there and feed disks into it. And what we have from Kenwood is the music keg (ph), and these cartridges that I have in my hand you take out of the car, bring it to the desktop, and you can synchronize all of your files with it. So you don't have to worry about spending a lot of time in the car.

FRAZIER: And you mentioned the desktop because that's where you initially transfer all of this music to.

KANTRA: Right.

FRAZIER: And finally, you have got a big -- almost like a home boom box-jukebox kind of thing.

KANTRA: We do. And it's from Echelon, and it's called the Fireball. And what happens is you would be able to store from 10,000 to 50,000 songs on this device. It takes the CDs, or you can hook it up to your home network, and really you would have to be a serious music addict to be able to fill up this device.

FRAZIER: Yes. And also a seriously well financed one, too. As you say in the article, it's about $2,000 to $4,000. This is brand new technology for some people. It's very much the mainstream for very younger listeners. But we're grateful that you explained it as well as you did today for us.

Suzanne Kantra, thanks for joining us.

KANTRA: Thank you.


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