What is meant by 8-bit, 16-bit, 24-bit etc.?

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What is meant by 8-bit, 16-bit, 24-bit etc.?


– The word ‘bit’ is a term that describes one element of a digital value; there are 8 bits to a byte, and two bytes to a 16-bit ‘word’. A 24-bit word therefore comprises three bytes (24 = 8 * 3).

– An 8-bit format can assume 256 different values. That is, the signal can be broken up into 256 discrete steps. This resolution is impractical for any real high fidelity signal, but still somewhat common for things like mobile phone ring-tones, alerts, etc – anywhere fidelity is not critical, but communicating a sound / tone / alert is.

– A 16-bit format is what is common to most ‘standard’ audio formats, such as compact disc. This allows the signal to be broken up into 65,536 discrete values rather than the 256 values found in an 8-bit format. Thus, a 16-bit file is 256 times ‘finer’ than is an 8-bit file. This means that there will be a much greater dynamic range (typically 90 dB) and thus, higher fidelity as compared to 8-bit. – A 24-bit format offers greater resolution still than a 16-bit format (256 times more detail in fact) in that it can resolve the signal into nearly 17 million discrete values (16,777,216 for those who are checking our math).

– There are those who argue that 24-bit is the only way to go, recording-wise. However, there are many factors at work (among them, dynamic range of the performance, genre, etc.) that govern if you will actually hear a difference in the recording. In the end, the 24-bit recording, if to be used on compact disc etc, will have to be converted to 16-bit format.

– We at Immersifi will execute your wishes for your recording, whether 24 or 16-bit format. If you prefer to keep everything 24-bit, we will deliver the .wav files recorded as 24-bit to you (on suitable media) in their native 24-bit .wav format.

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