I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about what bit depth is and how it works in digital audio. This is a common misconception not only among consumers and audiophiles but also in some schools and even among some professionals.
You might think, more “bit depth,” means better sound quality when you listen. There are now 24 bits of digital ones and zeroes as opposed to the pathetic 16 bits that remained after the end of the CD format. Of course, you’ll have to shell out more money to get better-quality goods and services, but isn’t it true that more bits are better?
No, not always. Rather than being founded on scientific fact, the demand for ever-increasing bit depths is the result of misrepresentation and an attempt to exploit a lack of public knowledge of basic science. Let’s get into details about 16-bit vs 24-bit.
The dynamic range of a musical instrument or item of electronic equipment is defined as the ratio of the tiniest sound to the loudest sound. The word “resolution” might not be the best choice here, since many people think it’s like changing the screen resolution on their computer.
But if you turn down a file’s bit depth, you’ll hear more and more low-level noise. This sounds like hissing tape.
And that’s why the ratio of signal to noise (SNR or S/N) is sometimes used to talk about dynamic range. Even though they are different in some ways,
The one and only thing that is different between 16-bit and 24-bit is an extra 48 dB of dynamic range (8 bits times 6 dB equals 48 dB).
This is not a question about what you think or how you feel. Digital audio is based on logical math that can be proven and cannot be argued against.
What Is 16-Bit Audio?
If you want to listen to music, you’ll need at least 16-bit audio. Even with 8-Bit audio, there is a great deal of noise. With low-bit audio, you’ll hear a distinct hiss in the background.
Since audio on CDs is 16 bit, we’ve been able to enjoy it for a long time. The identical piece of music has been reproduced in 16-bit audio, so you won’t hear any hiss. This is because audio has 256 potential binary digit combinations, whereas 16-bit audio has 65,536, which is an exponential rise in the number of possible choices.
Despite the fact that CDs are all but dead, 16-bit audio is still widely used. In many cases, 16-bit audio files are still used to deliver music. Editing may be a problem with 16-bit audio, which is why a greater bit depth is required.
Here are some 16-bit microphones
Sennheiser Electronics Corporation MK4 Digital
The Sennheiser MK 4 Digital is an excellent choice if you’re trying to take your music or podcast to the next level but can’t use XLR microphones because of your all-digital setup.
An entry-level XLR condenser, the MK 4 Digital sounds great when used with a computer’s USB port. In terms of voice clarity, it possesses a wonderful balance of near-transparency and mild sharpness in the high-mids.
In terms of USB microphones, the Rode NT-USB is one of the finest available for around $200. It provides outstanding USB performance without any need for extra drivers or any other 3rd party hardware. It isn’t cheap, but it doesn’t sacrifice on quality either, offering a sturdy and long-lasting construction.
It’s a bargain compared to the more expensive ones, yet it outperforms them all hands down. Currently, the best USB microphone by far is the Rode NT-USB. You’ll see the difference when using it beside each other with another PC mic. No flaws, simple to operate, and most importantly: great sonic quality make this product a no-brainer.
Due to its deep, rich sound and extended frequency response, the Audio Technica AT2020USB+ Cardioid Condenser Microphone is one of the most popular podcasting mics on the market.
This fantastic USB condenser microphone from Audio Technica (AT2020USB+) is well-liked by podcasters, and it’s not hard to understand why. This USB microphone is one of our favorites because of its excellent quality and durability, as well as its adaptability.
What Is 24-Bit Audio?
24-bit audio is a more advanced format than 16-bit audio. Bit depth is often mistaken for audio quality by the general public. Because of this, many believe that 24-bit audio is crisper or more high-definition when they see it. However, this isn’t really the case. The dynamic range of 24-bit audio is greater (16,777,216 potential binary combinations), and the noise level is lower as a result. Is there a value to 24-bit audio if we can’t hear all the noise in 16-bit audio?
24-bit audio is preferable for studio audio editing despite the fact that noise is almost nonexistent in both bit levels. Audio begins to distort at greater volume levels. A larger dynamic range indicates that the audio may be played at a higher level without introducing distortion. In terms of editing, 24-bit audio is the best option.
Here are some 24-bit microphones
Lewitt Audio DGT 650
Lewitt’s DGT 650 USB microphone is more than it seems to be. A stereo X-Y microphone is what you receive. The Lewitt DGT 650 is an excellent mobile recording solution that works with all major operating systems.
You can record high-quality audio on the move with this gadget, whether it’s linked to a laptop or an iOS smartphone. For smaller studios or simple home-based setups, combining the USB microphone with audio interface saves space while delivering all the required audio recording functionality.
Apogee Electronics MiC 96k
Designed for iPad, iPhone, and Mac recording, the Apogee Mic 96k is a professional cardioid condenser microphone, preamplifier, and A/D converter. Despite its little size, the metal body and solid tabletop stand provide a strong foundation.
All-in-one iPad and Mac audio interface with easy operation, sturdy hardware and competent preamplifiers/converters. With the exception of one little annoyance, the app is a delight to use and makes iPad recording more enjoyable and professional.
Cardioid MXL Studio 24 USB
An FET condenser microphone with USB output, the Studio 24 USB has a tiny diaphragm and 24-bit ADC. A few 24-bit USB microphones are available, but this one is one of the better ones. Instead of a transducer of 22mm diameter, the microphone is characterized by its mount as having the same diameter.
The MXL Studio 24 USB strikes the perfect blend between high quality and low price. Professionals and amateurs alike love it, and it doesn’t sound any worse than any other mic in its price range.
Which formats allow 16-bit vs. 24-bit audio?
16-bit Delivery Format
Compact Disc Digital Audio (CD) was introduced in the 1980s, long before many of the customers were even born. Several sources say that streaming music services recently made more money in the US than CD sales and are getting close to digital downloads as the biggest source of income in the music industry’s biggest market.
24-bit Delivery Format
DVD-Audio and Blu-ray Disc can play audio with up to 24 bits. SoundCloud will happily accept 24-bit (or other bit depths) audio files and allow them to be downloaded in their entirety. There are also more and more online music sources and services that offer 24-bit audio. These include Acoustic Sounds, ATMA Classique, Blue Coast Records/Downloads NOW!, Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound, The Classical Shop, HDtracks, iTrax, and Pristine Classical.
How does 16-bit vs. 24-bit affect sound quality?
Some people believe that larger bit depths mean decent quality audio or more fidelity. Is 24-bit sounding better than 16-bit? The term resolution’ is sometimes used interchangeably with the term ‘bit depth,’ which has led to some misunderstanding. This conjures up visions of digital pictures, in which the greater the resolution, the clearer and much more detailed the image seems. As it turns out, this is not the case here.
Information resolution is what we’re referring to here. This means that the sound quality of a 24-bit audio file will not be superior to that of a 16-bit audio file. It simply implies that a greater bit depth has a lower noise floor, as we’ve previously proven. There should be no noticeable difference in noise levels between high-bit-depth and low-bit-depth conversions as long as dithering is used.
When recording, what is the best bit depth to use?
Even with 16-bit recording, the noise level is quite low. The dynamic range would be acceptable even if you recorded in 16-bit mode. However, 24-bit recording is a more prevalent technique and has become something of a standard. Because 24-bit recording provides you greater dynamic range to deal with, it’s a simple fact. It allows you to record at lower settings while still being over the noise floor, allowing you to stay away from clipping.
32-bit recording has just recently been available on a few interfaces. 32-bit fixed point is what I’m talking about; we’ll get to the floating-point version in a second. More than 4 billion values and 192dB of dynamic range are available in 32-bit mode. What’s the point of having so much dynamic range? Even at 24 bits, the dynamic range is higher than the range of human hearing. The threshold for hearing in the human ear is 0 dB SPL, but the threshold for pain is 120 dB SPL. Because 24-bit audio has a 144 dB dynamic range, it can record sounds less than we can hear as well as noises louder than we could ever tolerate. So, 32-bit fixed point’s 192dB dynamic range is entirely unneeded.
16-Bit is Still the Best
A decent-sounding music master may be made with only 12 bits of data, which is more than adequate for most listening situations to handle. Examples of voice and environmental recordings on television may employ a broader dynamic range than what most music does, since digital audio conveys more than just music. Plus, it’s never a bad idea to give yourself a little breathing area between the loud and the quiet.
While 16 bits (96dB of dynamic range, or a maximum dithering range of 120dB) is ideal for a broad variety of audio formats, it is also a good fit for most listening settings. As I think I’ve proved, 24-bit quality is very disputed, if not a placebo. They’re also becoming obsolete due to the growth in file sizes and available bandwidth. When it comes to sound quality, compression ratios matter much more than bit depth when it comes to reducing the size for your music collection or streaming service.
Despite popular belief, listening to 16-bit audio isn’t a step backwards in terms of sound quality. You’ve been using CDs to listen to it, and there’s no need to stop now.
When you have fast computers and apparently endless disc space at your disposal, it makes sense to consider what the optimal quality would be for your sample rate recording and your mixing process now that everything is digital.
The human ear can hear a wide range of sounds, but not all at once. People don’t understand a lot of terms, and many companies depend on that. For example, there’s a great deal of confusion about the difference between hi-res and uncompressed audio. Businesses selling 24-bit audio have far more to gain monetarily than you thought in terms of greater sound quality. The difference between 16 bit and 24 bit is not that big if you want to listen to music.