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16-Bit vs 24-Bit -Can you hear the difference?

Bit depth can be compared to a measuring device for digital storage. The quantity of digital data contained in an audio sample is known as the bit depth, to put it simply. The digital representation of an analog sound wave becomes more accurate as the bit depth increases.

Additionally, as bit depth increases, a recording’s dynamic range expands, lowering its noise floor. The human ear cannot distinguish between increasing bit depths, even though we understand them to be more accurate in their computational form; the variations are mostly increases in the precision of these digital measurements.

Which distribution formats accept 16-bit audio versus 24-bit audio?


Compact Disc Digital Audio (CD) employs 16 bits per sample and dates back to the 1980s, when the majority of our readers were probably not even alive. According to a number of sources, streaming music services have recently surpassed CD sales in the US and are inching closer to overtaking digital downloads as the main revenue generator in the country with the largest music market.


Blu-ray Disc and DVD-Audio both support up to 24 bit. Audio files with bit levels of 24 bits (or above) will work just fine on SoundCloud and will download without any issues. Additionally, a rising number of online music providers and services, such as Acoustic Sounds, ATMA Classique, Blue Coast Records/Downloads NOW!, Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound, The Classical Shop, HDtracks, iTrax, and Pristine Classical, offer 24-bit audio. Additionally, 24-bit audio is rumored to be arriving soon on iTunes. There are benefits to producing in 24-bit, though, even if you are currently just delivering your finished work in a format that allows lower quality audio.

In order to avoid clipping, 24-bit dynamic range allows us more headroom for peaks and a wider gap between the recorded audio and the noise floor. As long as our editing software allows it, there will be more latitude and a lower likelihood of artifacts when we change audio levels in post-production. Despite the fact that 24-bit audio recording results in significantly larger files, our video files are much larger.

What is Dither?

Noise is dither. I’m done now. But given that we are lowering our bit depth, why would we increase noise? Reduced bit depth makes quantization distortion more noticeable. Therefore, to mask the quantization noise in a signal, noise is added. What exactly is quantization distortion, though?

When an ADC tries to measure and recreate a continuous or infinite analog source in a discrete digital form, rounding mistakes cause quantization distortion, or noise. This is a difficult process that leads to numerous rounding mistakes since the continuous source will often include regions that fluctuate above and below the crests and troughs of the analog source, respectively, but the 1s and 0s can only handle so much.

Because, as was previously said, the number of bits indicates how many discrete values you have for storing amplitude levels, the rounding errors reduce while recording at increasing bit depths. However, if you have to cut your bit depth for distribution, your signal will have more rounding errors.

What is the best Bit Depth for recording & mastering?

Despite the fact that CDs are no longer widely used, 16-bit audio is still widely used, at least for distribution. However, 24-bit audio is generally acknowledged as the industry standard for recording, which brings up the next crucial topic.

If you decide to record at a bit depth that is more than the bit depth allowed by the distribution format, you’ll probably need to use dither to prevent limiting the dynamic range of the mix when printing.