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Old 2012-07-06, 07:58 AM
germain germain is offline
Join Date: Jan 2008
Re: 16 Bit vs 24 Bit

I want to add onto James's thorough explanation of bit depth a visual analogy. Imagine an two artists of identical talent sitting side by side wishing to paint a perfect reproduction on canvas of the landscape before them. The first artist has almost 65 thousand colors on his palate to select from while the second has over 16 million.

With 256 times the color selection, one would assume the picture from the second artist would appear to be considerably more 'real' than the first. But in practical terms, the perceptional difference would be so small, few if any people could distinguish between the two. Our color perception simply is not acute enough to pick up the extremely subtle differences in shades and brightness the larger palate offers.

Even though it's been shown human auditory perception is more acute than our visual perception, the above analogy is still largely true when comparing 16 bit audio to 24 bit audio. This is especially true when you consider the origin of most of the material that gets traded on the internet.

Any material that was digitized from analog tape can be no better than what is on the tape. I would challenge anyone to do an 16 to 24 bit ABX test on anything originating from a cassette recording to tell the difference. Theoretically, a master reel recorded half track at 7 1/2 ips might have enough information to make using 24 bit worthwhile. But on tests we've run, no one could score above the threshold necessary to rule out chance. About the best we could say is that using 24 bit in the original digitization left plenty of room for processing before converting to 16 bit.
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