Approach on Audio

The audio version of episode 2 is up! So, for those of you who want to get straight into it, here you go:

And of course you can read along as you listen at Approach.

I have incorporated a slight upgrade to my technique compared to episode 1. I recorded the first episode at 44.1 KHz in 16-bit, which is equivalent to CD quality, whereas for this episode I recorded in 24-bit. I wonder if you can hear the difference?

Now, to be clear, 16-bit vs 24-bit has no actual meaning for an mp3 file, which is what these both are. As far as the mp3 that you are listening to is concerned, it has a sample rate of that same 44.1 KHz, and a bit rate of 128 Kbps. However, the original file, before editing and mastering, is not an mp3, but an uncompressed wav file, and wav files don’t have bit rates, they have bit depths. The bit depth is an indication of the total loudness possible for each sample (44,100 of them per second). Does 24-bit mean that it can go louder than 16-bit? These amps go to 11! Perhaps, but that’s not really the point. What it really means is that it can go quieter before hitting the theoretical noise floor. With greater dynamic range, the audio is less likely to clip or distort at the loudest levels, and less likely to get lost in hiss and static at the softest.

Now, at this point my recording setup is simply not advanced enough for this to realistically make a difference. Every piece in the chain introduces its own little bit of noise, and all of it adds up to the actual noise floor, i.e. the amount of disorganized sound that exists before any actual audio content is laid down on top of it. Without a much more professional setup, I probably cannot achieve a noise floor as low as the theoretical 16-bit limit. And, of course, that’s all before adding in room tone, which is the basic level of ambient sound the microphone picks up in an otherwise quiet room (and also the way in which the room colors the narrator’s voice when he or she is speaking).

So, in all likelihood, you won’t be able to hear a difference in the 16-bit vs 24-bit recording. Still, it’s one less source of possible noise adding to that floor which I’ve hopefully removed from the production chain.

Ok, all of that is probably a bit too geeky and technical, and I freely admit that I am not an expert with it. I do have a bit of a background from long ago with audio engineering stuff, in the sense that I spent a year as sound man for a local band playing gigs around the San Francisco Bay Area, but that was in the 1980s, which were practically the dark ages when it comes to digital audio. Almost everything we did then was pure analog, so I’m learning anew how to make things sound proper in a digital age.

If there’s interest (let me know!), I’m happy to go further into technical details about the recording, editing, and mastering processes and equipment. I have some more upgrades planned in the near future, as well, though perhaps the biggest upgrade still remains working on my narration technique.


header image credit: user:Tumisu / pixabay.com

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