An article in the now defunct magazine Business 2.0 revealed that “Tom’s Diner” was also used by Karlheinz Brandenburg to develop the audio compression scheme known as MP3 at what is now the Fraunhofer Society. He recalled:
I was ready to fine-tune my compression algorithm…somewhere down the corridor, a radio was playing “Tom’s Diner.” I was electrified. I knew it would be nearly impossible to compress this warm a cappella voice.
In a 2009 documentary about the history of the song by Swedish SVT, Brandenburg said:
I was finishing my PhD thesis, and then I was reading some hi-fi magazine and found that they had used this song to test loudspeakers. I said “OK, let’s test what this song does to my sound system, to mp3”. And the result was, at bit rates where everything else sounded quite nice, Suzanne Vega’s voice sounded horrible.
Brandenburg adopted the song for testing purposes, listening to it again and again each time he refined the scheme, making sure it did not adversely affect the subtlety of Vega’s voice. While the MP3 compression format is not specifically tuned to play the song “Tom’s Diner” (an assortment of critically analyzed material was involved in the design of the codec over many years), among audio engineers this anecdote has earned Vega the informal title “The Mother of the MP3”.