Bit Depth Wars – 24 bit vs 16 bit Tracking

Brandon Drury —  September 21, 2008

We’ve had a heated and lengthy debate on the possibilities of sonic benefits of tracking at 24 bit vs 16 bit. Some people feel that recording at 24 bit is tremendously better. Others don’t hear much of a difference at all. As always, I hate long discussions that take weeks when we could solve the issue with 5 minutes of listening.

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Take a listen to Round #1 and decide if 24 bit provides any benefit over 16 bit recording.


Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

9 responses to Bit Depth Wars – 24 bit vs 16 bit Tracking

  1. I defintely hear the difference in 24bit ..much fuller. which makes sense of course as there is more information there!

  2. I can hear a big differnce in the sound. It is like adding pixels to a picture. nore blanks filled in.

  3. I’ve recently been dealing with this issue. I use Sonar 4.x and I record everything at 48k/24 bit and downsample after mastering. I realize the 48k bit rate is not that critical but I certainly notice a difference in 16 or 24 bit recording. The issue popped up when I decided to render a wave file and didn’t have any sort of dithering turned on. I became very frustrated because from within Sonar the song sounded killer but after rendering the file and playing it back, it sounded very different. It seemed unpredictable as to the differences in the sound. Then someone here saved the day and gave me a link that explained what dithering is and specifically the Power-r dithering algorithms. Sonars allows the use of Power-r dithering in three flavors; 1,2,3 each with a different eq curve. I learned that type 2 is typically used for rock music because it lacks the dynamics of say, classical music, which type 3 was designed for. After I set the type 2 dithering and rendered the file I could honestly not hear a difference. These algorithms are amazing. It’s definitely worth playing with.

  4. I work in Internet Radio with unsigned musicians, and I just have to say that the longer I do this, the more I can notice who records in 24 bit for their tracks and who doesn’t. It’s like a HDTV, you don’t know what you are missing until you actually see something in HDTV.

  5. I can notice who records in 24 bit for their tracks and who doesn’t.

    Really? I thought everyone recorded in 24 bit. There may be a few standalone boxes out there still in 16 bit, but are there any audio interfaces that don’t do 24 bit?


  6. I would hope so. I think many newbies don’t realize what they have in terms of audio interface. The “boxes” are sold a dime a dozen and lots of folks buy them. Everything defaults to 16 bit so since they don’t know what they have, they just use the defaults. The manufacturers can fix that by changing defaults in their DAWs or even audio interfaces. I would think most DAWs can override the default setting in an interface too.

  7. The quality of the A/D D/A converter is the first step.
    Making sure the word clock is synched is next. I have found that 24 bits outperform 16 especially on the low end.
    For a grunge guitar it hardly matters. Bass drum/guitar/cymbals and vocals standout. Having dedicated converters vs built ins may cost a lot more and a lot more complicated to connect, but over the long run they are a great value.
    The sampling frequency at 48 works well enough.Also a true 20 bit converter with a high end analog section will get you there at 1/3 the cost if you don’t mind used equipment. The D/A converters are just as important as the A/D conveter So don’t overlook them.
    Right now mixing to Analog Tape still makes sense. From an archive standpoint this will allow you to
    quickly reproduce both DVD and CD without remastering.
    Quality of the deck and maintenance has got to be high end,
    but if done correctly the results will be outstanding.

  8. Something certainly needs to be said about the medium that you expect people to be listening to your recordings on. CDs are a 16 bit medium. I don’t know about you but I like to record and mix at the bit rate you expect people to be listening to it. What if you achieve a killer sound at 24 bit that does not translate onto the CD you intend to distribute?

  9. LudkyLeo,
    some Hard/Software will let you render 24 bits to 16 bits the result being a sound equivelent to a 18-20 bit sound (at 16 bit cd quality.