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Recording: digital audio Digital Audio Tutorial: Bit rates and file formats

Digital audio tutorial
Introduction to digital audio
What sounds best?
Music compression
Common computer digital audio formats
Perceptual encoding schemes
Chart 1: bit depth and sampling rate chart
Chart 2: audio file formats
Chart 3: compression schemes
Glossary of common digital audio terms
Jump to:
mp3 tutorial
Manufacturing links:
Outboard Gear
Mixing Consoles
Recording Devices
Amps and Monitors
musiq.com digital audio
Preceding pages with common formats for recording and output to CD-R. With the popularity of illicit file downloads on the Internet, and the growth of computer-geek techno creators, there is a lot of music, legal and illegal, to be acquired via the web. And since most users are using modems, compression is very common.

There's been a lot of buzz in the media about mp3, and for good reason. It was the first streaming audio format which kept the 44.1khz, 16 bit fidelity of CDs, with only a little degradation of sound quality. Well, complete altering of the sound data. But it sounds OK, due to perceptual encoding.

mp3 is a complex compression, meaning you need a fast computer to encode or decode it. It is linear, unlike other earlier formats, so it can be streamed. However, you can't use mp3 files like other audio files -- to process them, you must first decode them to .aiff or similar, process them, then recompress them (meaning data loss 2 times!)

There's also been a buzz about Real Audio, the other popular format, since it appears they've been looking into our homes, monitoring every real audio format download (i.e., political interviews, porno flicks, bootleg ABBA streams) and making "profiles" of "users." Real Audio doesn't sound very good, but has very high compression ratios. It's good for spoken word, as long as you don't mind the weird digital modulation noises that sound like alien abduction soundtracks.

Advice: use mp3 for evaluating new songs, or trading samples of your work with friends / potential clients, and then go out and buy the damn CD. Oh, we have a mp3 tutorial, too, about how to make the most of your encoder, and understanding the array of settings. Click here...

Here's a handy chart on compression schemes, including old obscure formats you may come across some day.

On to common digital audio formats...

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