Advanced Audio Coding must be the future of digital sound. I mean, look at the name. It's impressive.

Perrty iPod. Apple’s device is the place where you’re most likely to use AAC

If you've heard of the MP3, then I'm thinking – and this is just thinking – that you've probably also heard of the Apple iPod. These days it seems most grandmothers – the same ones who give you a quarter for groceries – have heard of Apple's massively popular digital music player. Why is it relevant, here? For the simple reason that Advanced Audio Coding, or AAC, is the iPod's primary music format.

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Like WMA and MP3, AAC uses lossy compression technology. I know what you're thinking: this means it can't have quality sound, right? Wrong. Developed in the spring of 1997, AAC was built from the ground up to improve upon the MP3 format, and it seems Apple has seen better results than Microsoft in pursuing such a challenge. The success of AAC can be attributed to the way it works, as you might expect. It's radical thinking incorporated by Apple, and it has certainly frustrated the less-successful competition.

First, AAC completely ditches the signal components that are considered to be completely irrelevant to the music product being sought.

Second, repetition and redundancy in the audio's signal is similarly discarded.

Finally, the signal and internal structure of the file is manipulated according to the complexity of the file in question. The best sound quality – within the possible parameters – is assured before the final signal is stored and submitted.

So, the tools are there to make Advanced Audio Coding the best format possible for today's music-adoring audience. Does it work? It appears so. Why else would Microsoft – if you recall, the creators of WMA and direct opponents of AAC – make the audio format of Apple's iPod a completely supported codec for its highly anticipated Zune digital media player? The real advantage of AAC might be the freedom it lends to developers, giving those techies much more flexibility and efficiency in compressing the codecs for everyday download.

Still, there are lingering issues. Although Advanced Audio Coding triumphs over the MP3 audio format at lower bitrates, when the playing field expands to medium and high bitrates the advantage is largely lost. However, as developers become more and more comfortable with using AAC, it is expected to gain and overtake MP3 in every way possible.