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Bit Depth Experts ?

I wonder if there are any bit depth experts that can help me understand whats going on. I am a hobbyist and archive my jams for ideas. Sometimes I strike on a jam that I want to polish. I'm not making any albums or professional demos.

I use Sonar 5 and Soundforge 8. Sonar will work with multiple bit depth files in the same project and will render to 16/24/32 bit depths. It is my understanding that it works internally at 32 bit depth.

I sometimes get a drum loop that is 16/44 and I record my guitar at 24/44. I render a master mix at 32 bit float and open and do a final mix with Sound Forge and export at 16/44.

For curiosity I rendered the drum track to 24 bit and imported into Sonar. I put a bit viewer and it checked as 24 bit.

I took the same loop in Soundforge and did a bit depth conversion to 24 and checked it with the bit viewer. The statistics said 24 bit but the viewer showed (and said) 16.

It seems that Sonar is actually reconstructed the sound print to 24 bit and Soundforge is just adding zeros.

Which brings up my 2 questions.
1. Is there any benefit at all to increasing the bit depth of a 16 bit file such as for importing it as 24 or 32 bit into Sonar?
2. Is there a benefit in exporting as 32 bit float for my final mix when the mixes source tracks are 16 and 24 bit?


Pro Audio Guest Mon, 05/08/2006 - 11:19
1. Nope

2. A 16bit file will always sound like a 16bit file whether you upconvert it or not. I don't use 32bit but my ASSumption is that the extra bit depth is for mixing, FX headroom not to make your individual audio files sound like 32bit.
Regardless if you have 16bit or 24bit files than thats what you got. IMHO its better to just stick with one bit depth. If you have 16bit samples and you want to use them in a 24bit session than use a VST or hardware sampler to play the 16bit files. There are lot less headaches that way. And always wait till the very last stage of mixing/mastering to dither down to 16bit for CD. :D

Pro Audio Guest Tue, 05/09/2006 - 05:40
Not really any hassles. I import my 16bit drums and 24bit guitar into Sonar and it handles the multi-depth formats. It does it's processing at 32bit float with no choice on my part.

Since it's working internally at 32bit float anyway I wanted to experiment with actually converting the file depths to 24 and 32 to see what impact or effects it had.

Just wondering why 16 to 24 bit conversion still reads 16 bit when I convert it in Soundforge and it reads 24 bit if I converted it with Sonar.

dterry Tue, 05/09/2006 - 06:59
This could be an error in Soundforge or the bit viewer. I don't know for sure whether bit viewers read a header or analyze a word of data, but the former seems possible, esp. if SF isn't setting it correctly - a 16 bit file converted to 24 is padded either way.

For sure though, converting to a higher bit depth won't add any benefits and unless you are using a lot of 24-bit files, the additional processing overhead won't be significant either. Just extra disc space.