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Digital Audio Basics #2: Best Practices.

Which sample rate should I use? What are inter-sample peaks? Dithering. Headroom. Bit resolution. Learn all these critical digital audio concepts to enhance your recordings and optimize them for playback & streaming.

In Digital Audio Basics #1: What You Need to Know, we covered the basic elements of digital audio. Now, let’s take a deeper dive, and find out how to use digital audio to its maximum potential.

Hardware Resolution vs. Recording-Software Resolution

Recording resolution, as discussed in Part 1, describes the accuracy with which your system can capture audio and convert that data into numbers. However, once those numbers are in your computer, they’ll be manipulated—which brings us to a different kind of resolution.

Here’s why it’s needed, and how to optimize it in your software.

Changing levels in your software involves multiplying and dividing the numbers that represent digital audio. So, it’s easy to end up with totals that require higher resolution. Consider this simple example: If you multiply 2 x 2, you need only 1 digit (4) to represent the result. But if you multiply 2 x 9—which are both single-digit numbers—you now need two digits to give the result of 18.

So, performing mathematical operations on a 24-bit number can create results that require more than 24 bits of resolution. If you round off the result to 24 bits, after multiple mathematical operations the rounding off could lead to errors that might be audible.

As a result, the resolution that’s used by the audio engine inside your computer to process audio will have a higher resolution than, and be independent of, the recording resolution. This audio engine resolution, also called processing resolution, will be set in your program’s preferences.

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