Do MP3 Files Play on a CD Player?

By Alexander Abbott

Updated February 09, 2017

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Today, the most popular format for music is digital MP3 files. While compact-disc players are still quite common, the shift toward a digital rather than physical format for music is more and more evident. While CD players are typically not capable of playing MP3 files, there are exceptions to this rule.

MP3 Files Burned to an Audio CD

Normal CD players are not typically able to play MP3 files. They can only read audio CDs that have recordings that conform to the Red Book audio standard. For this reason, the only way to enable regular CD players to be compatible with MP3 files is to first burn these MP3 files onto an audio CD. To do this, you will need a computer with a CD burner and CD-writing software such as iTunes, Windows Media Player or Express Burn. These applications will first convert the files into an audio format compatible with CD players and then burn the files onto the compact disc. Use the software to create a playlist that contains the MP3 files that you wish to put on the audio CD. The normal capacity of compact discs is approximately 80 minutes, so you will need to create a playlist that has less than 80 minutes of playing time. Insert a blank CD-R or CD-RW into your computer, and click the "Burn" or "Write" option on the CD-burning application. The writing time will vary depending on the speed of your CD burner and the number of MP3 files you are writing to the blank CD. Once the burning process has finished, you can eject the disc and play this CD, which contains recordings originally formatted as MP3 files, in any regular CD player.

MP3/CD Players

While most CD players are not capable of playing MP3 files, some of the newer compact-disc players include advanced technology that allows the player to read CDs that contain MP3 data files. This is an advantage because MP3 files that are written on CDs as data instead of audio will take up much less space, enabling you to put 150 or more MP3 song files onto each disc. A typical blank CD-R has a capacity of 700 MB, while an MP3 file of a 5-minute song at a bit rate of 128 kbps will be approximately 4 MB. In order to burn a CD that recognizes MP3 files as data instead of audio, you must first download and install software that is capable of burning data CDs or simply adjust the settings on your current software to burn the MP3 files as data. In an application such as iTunes, you can do this by choosing the "Preferences" tab, clicking the "CD Burning" tab and enabling the "MP3 CD" option before you begin burning your playlist of MP3 songs. Once you have successfully burned an MP3 CD, you must use a compact-disc player capable of reading MP3 CDs, such as the RioVolt SP50, the Philips EXP401, or the Panasonic SL-SX430, to play the disc.