Mention the term “digital audio” to anyone who is not a digital native (basically a person who grew up using computers and other digital devices) and chances are that person will assume you are talking about high quality audio. The mere fact that audio is digital says nothing about its quality. Digitizing audio solves some problems and introduces others.
For example, unlike analog recorders, recording audio digitally introduces no new noise. The most serious problem with digital audio is the loss of data. As discussed earlier, in the article on how digital audio works, an analog-to-digital converter uses a process called sampling to create discrete (numerical) values to represent the signal, but removes some of the information from the original analog signal. The two key elements that determine the quality of digital sound are the sampling rate (how often the converter samples the sound) and bit depth (the precision with which changes in amplitude are recorded. For example, CD-quality audio is sampled 44,100 times a second, or 44.1 KHz. The drawback to higher sampling rates is that they require more bandwidth for transmission and consume more storage space.
There is a good and easy to understand explanation of digital audio quality at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey’s website. You may access it at: http://www.umdnj.edu/idsweb/idst3400/audio.htm .
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