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Chapter 2. Introduction To Digital Audio > Analog and Digital Audio

Analog and Digital Audio

As its name suggests, recorded analog sound is analogous to the original sound wave that created it. Look closely at the grooves of a vinyl record containing music with a sudden, loud crescendo (many classical records are good examples). You should be able to see quite clearly where the crescendo is on the record; the width of the grooves changes along with the amplitude of the sound. (Analog tape works similarly, except that it's the magnetic particles on the tape—rather than grooves—that record, reflect, and reproduce the changes in sound.)

Digital audio is quite different. In digital recording, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) captures samples of the original sound at a steady rate. The ADC converts the captured samples into a specific series of numbers, or bits, which make up the digital-audio file stored on a computer or compact disc. The term bit depth refers to the number of bits that are used for each sample. More bits per sample means wider dynamic range, less extraneous noise, and more accurate sound reproduction.


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