So.. what exactly is a converter?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by israelsonny2, Jul 14, 2003.

  1. israelsonny2

    israelsonny2 Guest

    Yeah ok stupid question i know, but i really have no idea about it. I do know that an A/D converter converts analog to digital or something like that, and that there are various qualities of them. But where do you put these things, and what do they look like?

    I'm assuming that you need one to record anything, but since i just have a standalone recorder i didn't even take notice of converters. Am i right in saying that you only can choose converters if you have a DAW rig?

    I just would love a basic run down on what these things are and where they are (ie. in the soundcard??) because i have no clue at the moment.

    Thanks a lot

    EDIT : i just looked and my standalone recorder has a conversion rate of 24bit to 64(khz?).

    what is a good a/d conversion rate?? my one seems pretty low unfortunately..
  2. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Sonny, I don't think this is a stupid question at all. DA conversion is, as you've stated important to say the least, and an understanding of it is crucial in understanding sound in a recording environment.

    In an analog environment, sounds are recorded as electric "waves". Through an oscilloscope that's just what they look like. A AD or analog to digital converters job, is to sort of take a picture of this wave, at different points in time, and assign a mathematical value to it. This is called a sample.
    In 24 bit64khz, 64khz or 64,000hz means that this picture is taken 64,000 times every second. Once the digital information has been collected, your song has become 0's and 1's. At some point you will need to listen to what's been recorded, and the DA converter, (digital to analog)has to sort the info out and re-create the original "wave" it recorded in the first place. It will take the samples it got from recording, and make kind of a connect the dots pattern of what the original signal was. When the dots are connected, naturally straight lines don't work too good,considering thagt the original signal had no straight lines at all, so the converter has to "imagine" what things looked like before. This is called dithering.
    The 24bit or bit rate indicates the quality of information being sampled. Each time you add one bit, you have essentially twice the resolution.
    1644.1khz is the bitsample rate of a compact disc. 2444.1khz is actually 256 times the resolution of a regular cd. Neat huh?
    What makes the difference between good DA conversion and bad, is how accurately the converter can translate and dither the information. Cheap converers don't sound as good, because their rendition of the sound is altered due to inaccuracy mostly created by inconsistencies in the clock, since the clock is essentially the graph paper in our little connect the dots example.

    So, to sum it up, a Da converter is a connect the dots digital version of an analog wave.

    Where are they located? I have no clue. :D Stand alone units such as your own have da conversion as part of the original equipment circuitry, which are obviously not changeable. You can purchase da converters from a music store, and these can interface with all kinds of recorders, and computers as well, as long as ther is a digital interface of some sort.

    I hope this answered your questions.

  3. israelsonny2

    israelsonny2 Guest

    thanks very much steve :tu:

    on another note, you said you can buy these converters and use them externally. would this improve the quality of my recordings significantly or will the original converter in my recorder cancel any of this improvement out?

    I'm guessing that it would not be really worth it considering i can only record at 16bit anyhow. What do you think?
  4. Guest

    If your current device has digital inputs, you can probably use external converters. What you would be doing is converting the sound before it gets to your machine with an external A/D, then taking the now digital signal and entering your machine via the digitaln inputs. This is what is meant as bypassing the internal converters. You could also do the same thing in reverse on the way out.(Digital output to external D/A converters).

    Is it worth it? Hard to say without knowing what you are using now and what kind of converters you can afford. You will also have to learn a little about word clock, as one device will have to be the clock master and the other(s) the slave.

    chances are if you have a low-end digital recorder and not much else, there are probably more effective ways of improving your sound and spending your money than converters, at least at this point in your career! like a nicer mic and preamp, perhaps.

    Another way of improving might be to upgrade to a 24 bit machine, but bits alone don't tell the whole story. Good quality 16 bit converters may well sound a whole lot better than crappy quality 24 bit ones.
  5. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Sonny, why don't you tell us a little more about your setup, and your experience. With this kind of info we could give better info which might make your decisions a little easier.

  6. israelsonny2

    israelsonny2 Guest

    thanks again guys.

    well i'm really new to recording and have only been dabbling around with it as a hobby for a bit more than a year i'd say. I'm a bit embarassed with my setup but it is slowly growing once i realise what i need to get, and once i get more money...

    basically i just have a zoom mrs1044cd recorder... it's like one of those generic brand multitrackers (10 track, but only 2 tracks can be recorded simultaneously). I have 2 sm57's, 1 other random brand dynamic mic and a Behringer B1 (i was unable to get a SP b1 - that's ok because im happy just to have a condensor). I also have a small Behringer mixer (UB1202) which, even though it's shoddy for you guys, was a significant improvement over just the inputs of my recorder.

    I realise there are endless upgrades to my setup (dedicated mic pre's, better mixer, better mics) but i just thought that the actual recording medium seemed to be the most fundamental thing of any setup... And that if i got any upgrades of other things in the future it might hold me back if my setup is unable to capture the sound any better. Well i'm just new to recording, but i'm loving it, and learning lots on the way.

    your advice is appreciated
  7. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    Well sonny, you're really not set up too badly. There's another thread I started in this forum, called "how to get the best out of your daw. I'm hoping it will be the start of an informative discussion for all of us about how to squeeze the max with what we have. If you like, I'm inviting you to come over and start a discussion. Let's see what we can do with this setup!

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