Opus is a lossy audio coding format developed by the Xiph.Org Foundation and standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force, designed to efficiently code speech and general audio in a single format, while remaining low-latency enough for real-time interactive communication and low-complexity enough for low-end ARM3 processors. Opus replaces both Vorbis and Speex for new applications, and several blind listening tests have ranked it higher-quality than any other standard audio format at any given bitrate until transparency is reached, including MP3, AAC, and HE-AAC.
this format is free, which apparently is one of the reasons for its popularity. The used codecs supports variable bit rates (as a default), and .ogg files usually play back easily on all platforms. All things being equal, the sound quality exceeds that of mp3 somewhat.