Bit Depth: questions answered


Hey guys. Last time we talked about the sample rate. As promised, here's comes the "bit" about the bit depth!


The bit depth of an audio file determines the dynamic range of an audio signal. Each bit represents approximately 6 dB of dynamic range. The most common bit depths for audio files are 16-bit (CD quality), which provides 96 dB of dynamic range, and 24-bit (typical DAW file), which provides 144 dB of dynamic range. Regardless of the audio files bit depth, 32-bit floating-point processing has become common inside DAWs. Without getting into the pros and cons of 24 bit integer math vs 32-bit floating point binary math, we can safely say that, 32-bit floating point internal processing provides more accurate (better sounding) processing of audio inside a computer. Audio interfaces and analog to digital converters on the market today provide either 16-bit or 24-bit audio to our DAW, but the math inside our DAW may be done at the higher resolution that 32-bit floating point math provides. When outputting a 24-bit final master from a DAW running at 32-bit float, be sure to dither from 32-bit to 24-bit. Masters may be output from many DAWs at 32-bit float resolution, but be sure that 32-bit audio files can be accepted by the distributor or end user.


I’m a LPX user, so I know that it can create a 32 float file but it cannot manage it on its sessions, as the highest bit depth it works with is 24. I’m not familiar with ProTools, but I’ve heard that ProTools can manage 32 float.

So my recommendation is to make sure you are working with the right settings to avoid sound loss, weird artifacts or just unnecessary steps during the whole production process.


Thats it for now. Stay tuned and happy mixing!

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