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Real Audio – The Streaming Solution

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Real Audio – The Streaming Solution

With the popularity of computer-based music and audio, the need has grown to find a compression method that preserves audio quality while reducing the size of files. Uncompressed CD-quality audio takes up about 10MB per minute of music, so codecs (compression / decompression) are used to provide good sounding audio with the minimum file size. Real audio is a codec that has been in use since 1995. It was developed by RealNetworks, a company specializing in Internet media.

Real audio is primarily designed as a streaming format which means the sound is played as it is downloaded. Many radio stations use real audio to stream their broadcasts in real time. There are a few audio players that can accept real audio streams, but the main one is RealNetworks own RealPlayer.

The current version of real audio is RealAudio 10. It is designed to provide high-quality audio over a broad range of data transfer rates. It can automatically scale from 12 to 800 Kbps allowing even the slowest Internet connections to benefit from audio streaming.

Real audio selectively removes parts of the audio spectrum for slow Internet connections. This is done by dividing the frequency spectrum into distinct regions and discarding the least important. Faster Internet connections benefit from higher quality audio that preserves more of the frequencies.

Real audio is increasingly being used for new purposes. As the audio capabilities of cell phones and PDAs increase, real audio is finding new applications in these mobile devices. Real audio is finding new ways to compress audio and can now offer smaller file sizes and better sound than MP3.

New versions of real audio include RealAudio Lossless and RealAudio Multichannel. RealAudio Lossless provides perfect CD-quality in files of half the size. RealAudio Multichannel allows more than one channel to be encoded in the audio stream. It is designed for five or six channel home audio systems with distinct channels for subwoofer, left, right, left surround, right surround, and front-center.

Real audio is one of the most popular audio codecs in use today. The continuing innovation from RealNetworks provides useful compression while preserving the best quality sound.

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