Back in the eighties, if you’d have told someone that in the future they’d be able to carry around a tiny music player the size of a lighter which was effectively a jukebox with thousands of songs on it, they’d probably have laughed at you. “Ha!”, they would have said, “And I’ll bet the Prime Minister’s a robot too.” Now that would be silly. Although admittedly John Major came very close.
Even though the average MP3 player can hold tons of music, it’s amazing how quickly you can fill them up with your tunes, particularly the smaller capacity models. And this is where ShrinkMyTunes comes in: you take an album, put it through this program, watch it diminish in size and then run out into the garden screaming “Honey I shrank the tunes!” Or maybe not.
What ShrinkMyTunes actually does is employ algorithms to tighten up an MP3 file (and also WAV files), compressing them by up to a factor of four. It does this by converting the files to a variable bit rate format (if they aren’t already) and then applying “content sensitive heuristic optimisations.” Which essentially means getting rid of dud data that’s mostly just taking up space.
The crux of the matter is that the bits chucked away by the program only cause a very minor difference to the sound quality, or so the theory goes. The makers claim that on a standard MP3 player, the alterations made are barely – if at all – perceptible to the majority of folk.
Using the program couldn’t be easier. Simply point it at the folder where your music collection lives, then click on the “shrink” button (an option is given to backup the original tracks). An average sized album will take about eight minutes or so to be compressed, so it’s a reasonably speedy process, and the results in terms of space savings are more than reasonable.
For example, on one typical test run we observed a shrinkage from 42MB to 17MB, in other words a reduction to 40 percent of the original size. This is a compression factor of two and a half, not quite the maximum quoted factor of four, but it still represents an impressive space saving. Of course, whether it’s really impressive or not depends on what the finished article sounds like.
And that’s actually fairly good. We could detect a slight loss of detail in places – particularly in a section of delicate string sounds for example – and the overall “liveliness” of the music seemed to have had its edge slightly dulled. However, we were straining to hear the differences through a pair of quality headphones, and the average person listening on the bus with an average MP3 player probably won’t notice these negatives.
Having said that, audiophiles and those with sophisticated ears (and/or sophisticated listening equipment) probably will notice the difference, and it’ll annoy the Hell out of them. Then again, they’re unlikely to be listening to MP3 tracks in the first place.
Company: Z Group