Finer bits

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There sure is a lot of controversy over bits and depth. One group feels that dividing 96dB of dynamic range into 65, 535 slices (16 bits) is enough, while others are more comfortable dividing 120dB into 16,777,215 slices (24 bit).

Bit depth: the difference between the softest and loudest captured sound. How important is it?

We know that CDs have a dynamic range that blows the doors off analog recordings of any kind. And we know that we’re not limited to just Red Book standards, that it’s trivially easy to get better.

Does it matter?

Of course, the arguments fly as fast as manure at a political rally. The truth lies somewhere in the middle (doesn’t it always?).

It’s all in the hands of the recording and mastering engineer, not the technology. If the engineer decides to use 24 bits but then shoves all the audio in the upper 16 bit space, ignoring the lower 8 bits, then nothing’s been gained other than a marketing advantage when they print “24” on the label. So, it’s rarely the technology at play and more in the hands of the engineer.

Which is a shame because most engineers aren’t interested in the highest fidelity.

We have the means, just not the will to use it.