Is there a worthwhile benefit to 24-bit samples over 16?

taldesce

New Member
Resurrecting this old thread. There are some very knowledgeable people in here and I hope you're willing to let me pick your brains for a moment! I'm not a musician or producer myself, I just love music and am an audio enthusiast in general. I have spent more on my sound systems than my (admittedly mediocre) car, because I just absolutely love great sound. So, I know more than your average joe for sure, but there's a lot I don't know too. A question I've had regarding 24bit vs 16bit is what affect this would have on the bass -- especially sub bass -- frequencies. Specifically when it comes to music or movie sound tracks. I'm a huge basshead and to my ear, the biggest differences I've noticed (or maybe just imagine I notice) seems to be a cleaner (i.e. higher 'resolution'?) bass response. Does it make sense that I would notice a difference there, or am I just placebo-ing myself into thinking that? I've searched around google many times in search of the answer to this but haven't been able to find a good answer yet, so apologies if this seems like a dumb question. The discussion in this thread about 24bit vs 16bit in general has definitely been enlightening to me, so thank you all!
 

Willowtree

I make music
Resurrecting this old thread. There are some very knowledgeable people in here and I hope you're willing to let me pick your brains for a moment! I'm not a musician or producer myself, I just love music and am an audio enthusiast in general. I have spent more on my sound systems than my (admittedly mediocre) car, because I just absolutely love great sound. So, I know more than your average joe for sure, but there's a lot I don't know too. A question I've had regarding 24bit vs 16bit is what affect this would have on the bass -- especially sub bass -- frequencies. Specifically when it comes to music or movie sound tracks. I'm a huge basshead and to my ear, the biggest differences I've noticed (or maybe just imagine I notice) seems to be a cleaner (i.e. higher 'resolution'?) bass response. Does it make sense that I would notice a difference there, or am I just placebo-ing myself into thinking that? I've searched around google many times in search of the answer to this but haven't been able to find a good answer yet, so apologies if this seems like a dumb question. The discussion in this thread about 24bit vs 16bit in general has definitely been enlightening to me, so thank you all!
No, as far as playback is concerned, there'll be no audible difference between 24-bit and 16-bit, no matter what people say. Any difference is imaginary, unless you plan on listening above 120 dB, which for your ears' sake, I hope you're not.

It's not a dumb question at all, I might add. However, we're strictly talking playback here. Mixing, where you might use a lot of gain, is a completely different matter and here 24-bit is clearly superior.

However, depending on what you're doing, 16-bit is in many cases going to be enough too.
 

tcb

New Member
I would like to quote myself reply in another topic
"
The difference between 16 and 24 bit audio is all about quantization error.16bit audio has intrinsic -98dBFS white noise in it.But my experience told me the analog noise magnitude is much more higher than 16bit quantization noise.So 16bit sample library is enough.
I didn't say 24bit or higher 32bit floating processing is useless.My opinion is,for a audio file or sample library,16bit is enough.I often heard Low frequency hums or chair noise etc in a sample library.But I never heard a 16bit quantization noise."

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I don't think 24bit sample library is necessary because their difference is only a -98dBFS white noise(if proper dithered).Compared with analog and environment noise,this is too small.DAW will convert all samples,and processed by 32bit or 64bit floating or etc—depends on your settings.
I usually tend to use 16bit library when possible.I think I can do much more instead of expend my cpu……RAM and hard drive.
 
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Willowtree

I make music
I would like to quote myself reply in another topic
"
The difference between 16 and 24 bit audio is all about quantization error.16bit audio has intrinsic -98dBFS white noise in it.But my experience told me the analog noise magnitude is much more higher than 16bit quantization noise.So 16bit sample library is enough.
I didn't say 24bit or higher 32bit floating processing is useless.My opinion is,for a audio file or sample library,16bit is enough.I often heard Low frequency hums or chair noise etc in a sample library.But I never heard a 16bit quantization noise."

---
I don't think 24bit sample library is necessary because their difference is only a -98dBFS white noise(if proper dithered).Compared with analog and environment noise,this is too small.DAW will convert all samples,and processed by 32bit or 64bit floating or etc—depends on your settings.
I usually tend to use 16bit library when possible.I think I can do much more instead of expend my cpu……RAM and hard drive.
You're probably right, but I still end up using 24-bit all the time, even though in most cases I'm just wasting RAM.

Didnt say it was rational! ;)
 

tcb

New Member
You're probably right, but I still end up using 24-bit all the time, even though in most cases I'm just wasting RAM.

Didnt say it was rational! ;)
I am sorry.My expression may inaccuracy……It is not a waste,because 24bit indeed better than 16bit in audio quality.But I think the difference is too small.
 

AllanH

Senior Member
A related issue is the audio interface. Mine is native 24 bits, and in my experience, it seems as if Cubase adjusts to the native expected format of the interface and converts/stores everything in 24/32 bits no matter the original format. I am guessing that modern 64 bit CPUs really work best on 32 or 64 bit blocks of data and the 16 bit shorts get converted anyway.
 

vitocorleone123

Senior Member
If you’re adding effects to the library, especially 3rd party, I’d still prefer and recommend 24bit. Well-recorded samples you aren’t really manipulating but, rather, are composing? 16bit should be fine, I’d think.
 

fixxer49

Bouncing Consultant
I've asked myself this same question about whether 24 bits is worthwhile for a sample library. For the reasons Charlie stated really well, my opinion is that it isn't. We (Realitone) record at a 24-bit sample rate, but we then normalize all samples, so at that point, my opinion is there's no need for the extra dynamic range that 24-bit offers.

For example, a quiet guitar sample when normalized turns into a very loud guitar sample, so in the mapping editor (or in the scripting), that sample gets volume-reduced by 30 or 40 db so that it will sound right. So the effective dynamic range of that guitar zone is 30 or 40 db plus whatever the dynamic range of 16 bits would be. That's plenty.

So if I were making libraries for myself, where I record 24 bit and then normalize samples individually, I'd make the final samples 16 bit. Partly to save hard drive space (minor issue) and partly for the instrument's RAM footprint (bigger issue). Plus I assume 16-bit is easier on the processor, although I'm not sure about that part.

But ... I'm not making libraries for myself anymore, so not all my decisions can be based on cold hard facts. I'm trying to sell these things, and many potential customers have a lot of preconceived notions. In many people's minds, bigger is always better, whether it's in total gigabytes, or whether it's number of round robins, or whether it's bit depth. So for that handful of sales I might lose to the guys who think our quality isn't up to snuff if we use 16-bits, I stay at 24-bit.

That's all just my opinion, mind you, and by no means have I cracked the mystery of how to run a successful sample library company, so take it for what it's worth. In fact ... having said all that, I'm considering switching (quietly) to 16 bit for an upcoming library where the RAM footprint and processor load will be a major issue.
In the case of time-stretched audio, would the bit depth make any difference in the sound? Will there be difference if the frequency is always the same? I.e. 24/44.1 vs. 16/44.1?
 

Willowtree

I make music
If you’re adding effects to the library, especially 3rd party, I’d still prefer and recommend 24bit. Well-recorded samples you aren’t really manipulating but, rather, are composing? 16bit should be fine, I’d think.
I agree, though I still sometimes get an irrational uncomfortable feeling working with 16-bit recordings. Bias, preconceptions and assumptions ... They're commonplace in the audio world, and we're all vulnerable to them.

Even then, I would argue, for 90% of work, the benefit of 16-bit is questionable if existent in the first place (when working with sample libraries) Anything that involves significant gain or that needs an enormous headroom, 24-bit is clearly superior, even if the benefit may not be as significant as we'd like it to be.

In the case of time-stretched audio, would the bit depth make any difference in the sound? Will there be difference if the frequency is always the same? I.e. 24/44.1 vs. 16/44.1?
I'm not Mike Greene (obviously), but I don't think there would be any difference. Sample rate would be more important for this. If bit depth is vertical (bits used to describe each sample), sample rate is horizontal (the playback rate of the samples). So, the information in each sample isn't going to matter much, but the rate of those samples is if you're time stretching.

But someone correct me if I'm wrong.
 

Tanuj Tiku

Senior Member
I've done a bit of testing yesterday, and I can hear a difference between 16 and 24 bit samples in scenarios where there's a lot of gain in the signal path (compression with +36 dB gain total, or a heavily distorted amp sim), and where a sample rings out completely and fades to silence with no other sounds audible.

So, let's say a quiet but compressed to hell pizz note is the last sound before a complete silence in a piece of music, and the sample itself fades away to silence, using a volume envelope applied to the WAV file before it goes into the sampler. The noise in the tail fades out audibly smoother with 24 bits, and with 16 bits it hisses for a bit, then ends suddenly.

So, there's some benefit in at least that one scenario, but is it worth using up 50% more diskspace and loading time, and twice the RAM? Or should I just convert everything to 16 bit after I'm done with all the editing?
My understanding is this:

Any audio process should either make an immediate sonic difference (to ears, not on paper only) that actually can be heard in the outside world to some degree or the cumulative effect of a technique over all. So, in that case things like 24-bit sources are great. Again, recordings at 24-bit are also great.

But you really do need a good acoustic environment with blind tests to make a decision on most of these types of things. Technically, many things make a difference.

It also very much depends on the dominant playback system for your material. You do need to keep that in mind.

For example, I have a speaker system that is very high resolution and goes down to 20Hz. The transparency is great and I did a piece of music for a film which had this very low C. The sub sounded amazing in my room but at the dub stage, we had quite a surprise. It just wasn't able to reproduce those extremely low frequencies at the volume and distance required. In effect, every time the low C kicked in, it sounded like a black hole had sucked the life out of it.

And we are talking cinema mixing! And so, the final mixing engineer had to make some adjustments. May be some cinemas will be able to reproduce it, but it would be an unwise and risky move as the audible difference was great between the low frequencies of the other notes versus the low C. Many cinemas would never be able to achieve that. Forget Netflix, Laptops etc!

So, yeah that amazing bass patch I made in Diva was indeed very powerful but if most of the world cannot hear it, then I better make some adjustments!