The Stair step myth

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The Stair step myth

Most of us have just come to believe that digital audio is choppy. A stair step of discrete levels that are different than an analog waveform.

Like this:

Am I right?

Our mental image of the two types of audio we listen to—analog and digital—fits the picture above even if intellectually we may question that.

How did we come to this conclusion when we don't actually hear those chopy bits when listening to digital?

Perhaps this image helps.

Stair steps. Looks pretty choppy, but the image is misleading. In the same way it's true that a smooth looking motion picture (film or video) is really made up of a series of discrete photographs, this choppy image isn't what actually comes out of a DAC.

What comes out of any modern DAC is a clean, continuous waveform that is pretty much indistinguishable from the analog source.

Why does the stair step myth (image) persist?

Probably the same reason that people always caution us not to go to a sausage making factory.

The creation process has little to nothing to do with the final output.

We just think it does.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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