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I know that the MP3 file format essentially supports mono and stereo audio with a number of sample rates and bit rates, but can it contain true surround sound audio? Is there a way to pack more than 2 channels into an MP3?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

No.

You could use MP3 surround (an extension of MP3, not part of the MP3 specification) if you really want to. It is backwards-compatible with MP3 (which, I assume, means that most MP3 players will simply play it back as a stereo MP3). You'll probably have to pay for an encoder or decoder, though.

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Perfect answer. –  Griffin Feb 19 '13 at 0:41
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You won't be able to do this with MPEG-1 layer 3. You would need to use MPEG-2 part 3.

For real-world encoding, you'll probably want to use an AC3 or AAC 5.1 encoder. Audacity with the ffmpeg plugin can do this for you if you're just concerned about encoding audio.

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