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Chapter 13. Sound: The Fifth Dimension > Understanding Sound Formats

Understanding Sound Formats

Multimedia and sound haven't always kept pace. Several de facto standards have been around for some time now, and only recently have some interesting alternatives become available. A corollary to the lack of development is a general lack of knowledge about sound and how it impacts presentations. Ask developers about Web-safe palettes and they can throw out a fairly good explanation. Query them about the difference between 11KHz and 22KHz (kilohertz) and the most common answer is that one is twice as much as the other.

Sound moves through the air, far more slowly, by the way, than the visual representation you might see on a large monitor many yards away. It travels in waves—how fast the waves move determines the pitch. This is what is referred to as hertz (waves per second). Human hearing occurs between 20Hz and 20,000Hz. The average person's hearing ranges from 2KHz to 5KHz. Some people might be able to hear frequencies up to 20KHz, but for most people, the upper limit is in the region of 16KHz. At the same time, the amplitude, the height of the wave, represents how loud the music is. Tall waves are loud; short waves are quiet.


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