You're quite right on 24 bit (16,777,216 combinations of 1's and 0's) having an exponential increase of bits over 16 bit (65,536 combinations), but the other side of the coin is that sound pressure measured in decibels also represents a exponential scale (or logrithmic if you prefer) - every increase of 3dB represents a doubling of sound pressure (or something being perceived as twice as loud).Grandma Melonhead wrote:You might think that 24 bit is just 50% more than 16 bit but its much more than that. Each bit you add doubles the possible permutations of 0s and 1s. 17 bit would be the double of 16 bit. 24 bit is actually 256 times the vertical resolution of 16 bit. Thats a lotta room! If I have this wrong please corect me.
So in theory, 16 bit can only really represent a 96 dB dynamic range while 24 bit can only represent 144 dB of dynamic range.
That's one of the big reasons that 24 bit has gained as the "standard" bit depth for recording audio - it gives you a lot more headroom to play with without having to worry about bit dithering quantization at lower levels - you can sometimes hear this on classical CD's especially on reverb trails at low levels where things start to lose definition because of the few bits being used to represent the audio dynamics.
I agree with Tony too in that the average Joe listener isn't really going to be concerned with audio quality - what I think record companies and electronics manufacturers missed over the years was that convenience and portability were the driving consumer-choice factors... not audio quality. Music listening to 90+% of the listening audience is a passive activity and not an active one. One of the reasons that DVD-Audio and SACD (and FLAC for that matter) formats haven't taken off - most people couldn't give a hoot about increased fidelity - when given a choice, they'll chose the format that gives them something that's "good enough", but more importantly it is convenient (i.e. can fit more songs on my device to listen to anytime and anywhere I want...).Zoetrope wrote:Most importantly, and as Tony points out, most people are listening to their music on systems with such crap earphones or speakers (and frequently in noisy environments) that they wouldn't be able to hear the difference between a well encoded MP3 and the wav file.
That being said, pretty well all of us will be concerned with audio quality in our own recodings and starting off with the best that we can muster WILL be important in that we'll be actively listening to and making detailed decisions on our own audio mixes...