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Informal Standard BRDocument: id3v2.3

M. Nilsson BR3rd February 199

ID3 tag version 2.3.0

Status of this document

This document is an informal standard and replaces the [:id3v2-00: id3v2.2.0] standard. The informal standard is released so that implementors could have a set standard before a formal standard is set. The formal standard will use another version or revision number if not identical to what is described in this document. The contents in this document may change for clarifications but never for added or altered functionallity.

Distribution of this document is unlimited.


This document describes the ID3v2.3.0 standard, which is a more developed version of the ID3v2 informal standard (version [:id3v2-00: 2.2.0]), evolved from the ID3 tagging system. The ID3v2 offers a flexible way of storing information about an audio file within itself to determine its origin and contents. The information may be technical information, such as equalisation curves, as well as related meta information, such as title, performer, copyright etc.


Conventions in this document

In the examples, text within "" is a text string exactly as it appears in a file. Numbers preceded with $ are hexadecimal and numbers preceded with % are binary. $xx is used to indicate a byte with unknown content. %x is used to indicate a bit with unknown content. The most significant bit (MSB) of a byte is called 'bit 7' and the least significant bit (LSB) is called 'bit 0'.

A tag is the whole tag described in this document. A frame is a block of information in the tag. The tag consists of a header, frames and optional padding. A field is a piece of information; one value, a string etc. A numeric string is a string that consists of the characters 0-9 only.

ID3v2 overview

The two biggest design goals were to be able to implement ID3v2 without disturbing old software too much and that ID3v2 should be as flexible and expandable as possible.

The first criterion is met by the simple fact that the [#MPEG MPEG] decoding software uses a syncsignal, embedded in the audiostream, to 'lock on to' the audio. Since the ID3v2 tag doesn't contain a valid syncsignal, no software will attempt to play the tag. If, for any reason, coincidence make a syncsignal appear within the tag it will be taken care of by the 'unsynchronisation scheme' described in [#sec5 section 5].

The second criterion has made a more noticeable impact on the design of the ID3v2 tag. It is constructed as a container for several information blocks, called frames, whose format need not be known to the software that encounters them. At the start of every frame there is an identifier that explains the frames' format and content, and a size descriptor that allows software to skip unknown frames.

If a total revision of the ID3v2 tag should be needed, there is a version number and a size descriptor in the ID3v2 header.

The ID3 tag described in this document is mainly targeted at files encoded with [#MPEG MPEG]-1/2 layer I, [#MPEG MPEG]-1/2 layer II, [#MPEG MPEG]-1/2 layer III and [#MPEG MPEG]-2.5, but may work with other types of encoded audio.

The bitorder in ID3v2 is most significant bit first (MSB). The byteorder in multibyte numbers is most significant byte first (e.g. $12345678 would be encoded $12 34 56 78).

It is permitted to include padding after all the final frame (at the end of the ID3 tag), making the size of all the frames together smaller than the size given in the head of the tag. A possible purpose of this padding is to allow for adding a few additional frames or enlarge existing frames within the tag without having to rewrite the entire file. The value of the padding bytes must be $00.

ID3v2 header

The ID3v2 tag header, which should be the first information in the file, is 10 bytes as follows: {{{ID3v2/file identifier "ID3" ID3v2 version $03 00 ID3v2 flags %abc00000 ID3v2 size 4 * %0xxxxxxx }}} The first three bytes of the tag are always "ID3" to indicate that this is an ID3v2 tag, directly followed by the two version bytes. The first byte of ID3v2 version is it's major version, while the second byte is its revision number. In this case this is ID3v2.3.0. All revisions are backwards compatible while major versions are not. If software with ID3v2.2.0 and below support should encounter version three or higher it should simply ignore the whole tag. Version and revision will never be $FF.

The version is followed by one the ID3v2 flags field, of which currently only three flags are used.

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