MP3 is a very popular file format for music, because it is usually indistinguishable from a normal CD track, yet the files are much smaller making it possible to download it over the internet without waiting too long. Of course the name "MP3" has been tinged with controversy because of the ease with which copied copyright material can be distributed. However all the mp3 files on the mfiles site are totally legal and free to download for personal use. Our MP3 files are created largely from our Sibelius sheet music files, which are adapted to provide realistic playback, and you can find out more about this overall process in our description of file types.
Many PCs and other devices already come with the software necessary to playback MP3 files, so you shouldn't have to worry about this. However if you have any difficulty playing our MP3 files, there are a number of specialist players available with lots of additional features. WinAmp and Real Player are two such free players which play videos as well as MP3 files and support functionality such as favourites and "Play Lists".
MP3 is essentially just a compressed form of digital sound as stored on a CD, on a DVD or in "WAV" files. The compression process removes those parts of the sound that the ear is rarely aware of, so that the degradation in quality is not noticable under most circumstances. We recently completed an exercise to upgrade all our MP3 files to improve their quality, and all our mp3 files are now rendered at a standard compression factor of 128kbps. This results in file sizes approximately a 10th of the equivalent CD track or wav file, so depending on your download bandwidth you may have to be patient while you download our largest files.
In addition to improving the quality of our files with respect to the MP3 compression factor, we are also using better quality samples to produce the sound. While some mp3 files are recordings of musicians playing, ours are created electronically to save costs. However for most casual purposes where you want to find out about a piece of music, you will not hear a major difference.