Persistent Audio Myths

They drive you crazy and you still see them every day! We all have our pet myths, so I can hardly catalog them all, so I'll just make a note of a few of my favorites:

"Digital sound..." Ever hear complaints that include the phrase "digital sound"? There is no such thing as "digital sound." You cannot hear in digital. Ears are not digital.

Digital "headroom" is another one that just kills me. Unlike the world of analog, there is no 'headroom' in the digital domain. Once you go past 'full scale' you've hit the max. Go over full scale and you get nothing but ones and a square wave, no squishy compression that you associate with tape headroom.

X DAW sounds better than Y DAW, Pro Tools sounds better than Cubase, etc. If your DAW (digital audio workstation) has a sound at all then it is suffering from user error or you've got some plugin issues or noise shaping going on in the background you're unaware of, etc. Does your pocket calculator have a sound? Your recording software does math. Cubase, Pro Tools, etc., they all just do math. Move on, brother, you're tilting at windmills.

You can 'perceive' sound above 20kHz even if you cannot hear it. False. "No documented study has indicated that the human body can detect air pressure changes above 20kHz, though one major study has ... demonstrated that under scientifically controlled conditions not a single person in the study was capable of recognizing the presence of harmonic material above 20kHz in a recording" (Aldrich 2004: 344-45).* Actually, our theoretical hearing limit (at the high end) is 20kHz but the vast majority of adults cannot hear nearly that well -- topping out, at best, around 17.5 kHz in most cases.

* Aldrich, Nica. 2004. Digital Audio Explained. Sweetwater: Fort Wayne.

Digital conversion can never "capture" the "whole signal" the way tape can. I cringe when people produce a screen shot of their wave editor, revealing what they believe to be "gaps" or missing "information" in the wave: "See, it's squared off and not smooth." That's just a graphical representation, not the actual wave. It's like confusing a cartoon with reality.

192 sounds better than 96 sounds better than 48 sounds better than 44.1. If your recording sampling rate is more than 44.1 then you're just wasting disk space. Luckily, storage is cheap these days so enjoy your delusion if it makes you feel better (but you're a victim of marketing hype). I realize, in theory, there are good reasons to record at higher sample rates but, for practical purposes, it's pointless. Join the discussion if you like.

One of my all-time favorites is this one: I record at 48 because it's a round number and the "math is easier" than 44.1. Oh, man, that's a doozy. You're math anxiety is being projected onto your computer.

32 bit recordings sound better than 24 or 16 bit recordings. Actually, there is no such thing as a 32 bit "recording" and you've never recorded anything at 32 bits. Go try and buy a "32 bit" recorder or PCI interface.