In 1989 he earned his PhD from the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, in Electrical Engineering for work on digital audio coding and perceptual measurement techniques. His dissertation research forms the basis not only of mp3, but also of MPEG-2 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) and most other modern audio compression schemes.
While at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the US from 1989 to 1990 he worked on ASPEC, the basis for mp3. In 1990 he returned to Germany to continue his research in the field of audio coding, and in 1993 he became head of audio and multimedia technology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen. Brandenburg is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Audio Engineering Society.
Brandenburg has received numerous awards, including, in December 2006, the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He also won the German Internet Award NEO (2001) and the IEEE Engineering Excellence Award (2000). The International Electrotechnical Commission named him one of the 120 most important inventors and masterminds in the field of electrical engineering and admitted him to the Hall of Fame of Thinkers Through the Ages. In 2007, he was elected in the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame. Recently, German Business Journal Manager Magazine inducted him into the German Research Hall of Fame.
Since 2000, Brandenburg has been a full professor at the Institute of Media Technology at Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany. He also is director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau. For his research in the field of audio coding, he received an honorary PhD from the universities Koblenz-Landau and Luneburg in Germany.