16 Bit vs 24 Bit Audio

Quote: (dannyraymilligan @ Oct. 07 2010, 5:08 PM)

Did audio techs and home recording enthusiasts have to worry about all this back in the days of analog???

OY VEY!!!!

Yes - tape alignment! Also, gain structure, tape degradation, wobble, spindle fold and mutilation...

I'm not sure the discussion up to this point addressed my original concern. Even if you record at 16 bits, when the DAW processes it, it's at a much higher bit rate, e.g., 64 bits. Why? This is needed because so many computations are going on that the numbers quickly get really big. And all of those numbers represent audio information. Now, imagine you have info at 64 bits going into a plugin that truncates everything after 16 bits. All of that other information is just lost. This results in degradation in audio. And it is totally audible. I think it was MDA who had a plugin that tracked the actual bits used in other plugins.

In sum: you may be recording at 16 bits, but the calculations in the program use a much longer bit rate, to preserve the audio. If no calculations were done ever with the signal as it came in right after AD conversion, it wouldn't matter, but lots of calculations are done, and hence it matters if a 16 bit bottleneck is inserted in the middle of them.

lol Tom, going from lower to higher is useless too, ya know? Imagine taking some old 64 kbps audio file (anyone remember real audio format? :p ) and trying to resample it as FLAC… all you’ll get is a lossless copy of the old crappy track :p

“No matter how long you polish a turd, it will never shine”



So, back to the blueline plugins. If you like what they sound like, then use them! But it might be interesting to compare them side-by-side with some newer ones. I dunno how the newer ones would work for you, given how far along things have come since the version of n-Track you are using, but you should absolutely be able to hear a difference. Perhaps not one you like, but then again perhaps one you would.

Quote: (dannyraymilligan @ Oct. 07 2010, 9:39 PM)

lol Tom, going from lower to higher is useless too, ya know? Imagine taking some old 64 kbps audio file (anyone remember real audio format? :p ) and trying to resample it as FLAC... all you'll get is a lossless copy of the old crappy track :p

"No matter how long you polish a turd, it will never shine"



Different issue. There is no loss of information going lower to higher, so no dither is needed. But - if you go lower to higher and then do something with that new file, and then go back to lower (which is what is going on in the DAW) then you will necessarily lose information.

Anyway, no one here records turds! We are brilliant!
Quote: (bax3 @ Oct. 07 2010, 8:02 PM)

I think we worry about all this technical stuff because now we have the capacity to mess with it.
You can do some great stuff with digital recording and I love it -HOWEVER,
With analog, you went for the performance, that was the first measure of the recording and should still be!
Think about a recording session in about 1930: everyone is in one room and the recording is literally cut into the record as the performance is done.
You get it right or you do it again.

I was a performer in the late 50's and 60's.
We went to studios and paid good money to record on mics that were not as "good" as today's, with 2 tracks if we were lucky - some of that stuff sounds great!
Not pristine like a digital, but the performance is there and if it wasn't there, then little or nothing we could do about it, except record it again.
All that said - I still love what I can do with NTrack to make a "professional" sounding recording.

I often think about that, Bax. What would "Let It Be" or "Hey Jude" have been if the Beatles had possessed the technology we have now?

Can you imagine Elvis Presley toting around a laptop back in 1959, and noodling around on a guitar in some motel room while he tried to figure out which plug-in sounded best on the guitar for "Hound Dog"?

Some of the greatest records in the world were cut in a matter of a month or two, altogether, and are still LOVED 30 years later, yet bands will go in the studio now and spend a YEAR making a record, and not one memorable song or anthem in the lot :( ....

Anyone remember Hotel California, Back In Black, or Dreamboat Annie?


I dunno, it’s not like the Beatles didn’t have really fine equipment. I will never own a Fairchild compressor. Sadly. Or a really good room. Or have their talent.

Personally, I think that if they had had all this great stuff, they would have made records that were even better. If possible. :)

Mix magazine has a review of a new version of the Fairchild 670 for only 19000 usa dollars. here:


To be honest with you, Tom, I believe the Beatles talent lay in songwriting skills. Musically (as in instrumental proficiency)… well, I won’t bash anyone’s deities, but the Beatles weren’t the Gods they thought they were. True, it’s quite possible that the technology of the time limited the scope of what they could do, yet I believe that the idolatry of this group proceeds from the fact that they were really the first to do what they were doing at the time.

As an example, mind you, I point to my favorite group of all time, KISS. I love their early records, and am the first to admit that Ace Frehley is the reason I first picked up a guitar. However, when I look at it objectively, I realize that I can play circles around Ace as a musician, but I can recall back in the early 1980’s when I would have beat the snot out of anyone who suggested that Eddie Van Halen was better than Ace Frehley… pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

I think my attitude when I was younger reflects a lot of what people think about groups such as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Because they influenced those of us who came later, somehow we’ve put them on a pedestal, yet, if you actually look at what they did, it wasn’t earth-moving compared to what we can do now.

Tom, I’ve listened to a great deal of your own music, and let me tell you this, in all candor: I would buy a CD of yours much quicker than I would anything of the Beatles catalog.

Still, one wonders what the Beatles might have been, had they grown up with the influences that we grew up with, and had the techniques and technology available to them that we have, or others of our heroes… what would Rock Guitar be now if Jimi Hendrix had stumbled across tapping, instead of Edward Van Halen?


Danny, I totally agree, I’ve been saying for years that this was not an overly talented group of musicians, not technically! Paul by far the best. But what musicality!

KISS - when we put on the paint - and, yes, we did! - my buddy Jim was always GS and I was always AF. We gave concerts on top of the dog house in the back yard.

Back in Black and those other two songs are, for better or worse, etched in my mind like an epitath on a gravestone…

Also- that is a really nice comment about the music and stuff.

An interesting discussion for sure - maybe not the origional reason for the post, but interesting.
The whole thing has got me thinking. Maybe we are really talking about two different reasons to record music: one reason might be to reproduce as faithfully as possible the art of the performance; another reason might be to record a performance with the recording itself an integral part of the art. The difference between, let’s say, a well-done photograph of a beautiful scene that captures as well as enhances the beauty of what is actually there. The other an oil painting that comes not just from reality but what the artists can add with technique and imagination.
The Beatles have been mentioned a great deal here. As I look at their career, I think that one of the reasons they may have quit live performance was that they became enmeshed in the art of recording. They used every trick in the book and wrote some pages that others had not seen before. I don’t believe that the technology of the time would’ve allowed them to reproduce some of their more innovative productions on a live stage. So not only was their music creative, inventive and of the time, what they did in the recording studio became an integral part of Beatles music.
When I was a young feller on the road with an acoustic guitar a few folk songs and a few I made up, the only thing I carried into a club (coffeehouse) was my guitar and me. Most of the better places supplied a Shure D35 microphone (if we were lucky) and a home entertainment sound system. More than likely the stage lighting consisted of some colored yard lights that we can operate with a foot switch. My friends that still perform all own at least a van so that they can carry all the equipment that they require to sing a few songs. And that’s if they’re working as a single!

Brian Eno isn’t a musician - but, he plays a mean studio.

Entirely agree, Bax. I try hard to do things that can actually be played, even though I’m often just step-programming keys, or whatever.

Tony - Eno plays keys, and guitar, doesn’t he? Here Come the Warm Jets was one of the most important albums for my in my salad days. Still a great work.

I agree, too. My life long drummer mate, sadly no longer with us, hated anything to do with drum machines, but would insist that programming should reflect what can actually be done - I took that on board.
I quite like Eno’s playing but he doesn’t. He doesn’t regard it as his thing.

I haven’t a clue who brian eno is, lol, but I will tell you one thing, I think music has become too polished, and that’s also bad for us home musicians. We’re trying to compete with Evanescence and the like, huge theatrical orchestrations, etc. They spend MILLIONS on making a record, and most of us spend TIME.

Don’t get me wrong, I think each one of us is obligated to make the best product we can, but when it comes down to it, what is music? IT’S ENTERTAINMENT. Some of the most beautiful songs in history were done in a few hours inside a ratty old garage studio, and yet every human being on earth knows them by heart. Sit down sometime and really listen to Simon & Garfunkel do “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The Entire Hotel California Album was done in less than two months, and Glenn Frey said most of that was spent partying… now, I find myself obsessing that my music isn’t on a production footing that is equal with someone like Creed or Evanescence, when the truth is that I have the technology available to me right now to do BETTER than anyone did back in the 50’s, 60’s or even most of the 70’s. If I render each track down once I’m happy with it, I can easily run 24 tracks on this computer, pristine digital. John, Paul, Ringo and George didn’t have anywhere close to that.

But I’m not competing with the Beatles, am I? LOL! When someone listens to a song I record now, they compare it against Alice In Chains, or Creed, or Evanescence, or other modern musicians, and needless to say, my output doesn’t measure up to theirs.

I will say this, however: I know that it can measure up, if I work at it hard enough, because I listen to what you others do with yours, and much of your work is on a par with the pros, so that gives me hope :)

Danny, I am not sure that we need to be competing whit the “big Money productions.” I shall continue to maintain that it is the performance that matters. listen to what Johnny Cash did when he took some of the hard metal songs and did them with an acoustic in his home studio, while he was dying.
You give several examples of the music winning out over the technology - go with that! If I somehow end up with my radio tuned to a “country” station I am blown away with the interchangeability of the music - the words are different but the approach to the music is uniform in it’s over-production. I’m pretty sure it’s the same in every genre.

There’s a moto that I can’t quite remember, it goes something like; Song, Sound, ___, ?

I don’t know the quote - could the other word be soul? A good friend of mine and a great song writer wrote, “Sing for the song, boy . . .”

So much plain sideways almost right but not quite information in one thread…

Here we go…

Bit depth (not bit rate as is used in MP3s) is a measure of dynamic range. Not bandwidth. So yes, 16 bit has a dynamic range of 96db and 24 bit 124db. Nick was the most correct in his post. The benefit here is that you A) don’t need to record things as hot to get great resolution B) Differences in dynamics are more accurate as you have more “steps” with which to measure volume. These additional “steps” are an advantage at mix time too. The final mix is a complex calculation of everything in the project. 16 bit is like doing your taxes by 10 dollar increments rather then to the actual cents. At the end of all the tax calculations, you’ll be much more accurate had you used all those pesky decimals for cents.

Sample rate: sample rate simply determines the maximum frequency you can record. The Nyquist theorum states that at a given sample rate, the highest frequency that can be recorded is one half the sample rate itself. Therefore, in a perfect converter, at 44.1 khz, the maximum frequency you can record is 22.05khz which is well above what a human can hear. The problem is finding a perfect converter. Converters have filtering on the high end and crappy filters can effect frequencies much lower that ARE in the audible spectrum. The advantage to higher sample rates, especially on less than great gear, is that any filtering that happens can be done way up in the inaudible spectrum and any lower frequencies effected by the filter are still well above the audible range. A great 44.1khz converter will still sound better than a crappy 96khz converter… but recording at 96khz can help make some crappy converters sound less crappy.

Dither: I won’t get into the theory, but will get into the rules. Dither is necessary when truncating from any FIXED bit depth source to a lower fixed bit depth format. Therefor dithering when going to MP3 is worthless as it is not a fixed bit depth format. Dither when going to a 16 bit wav/FLAC… otherwise forget it. You can dither coming out of the 32 bit mix buss to 24 bit, but it is hardly worth it as any truncation artifacts are well below the threshold of hearing.