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Difference Between 8 Bit and 16 Bit Music

8 Bit vs 16 Bit Music

When you save music to a digital format, you need to allocate how much digital space is to be taken up by each sample. Two common bit allocations are 8 bits and 16 bits. The main difference between 8 bit music and 16 bit music is how natural they sound. To give you a realistic comparison, music CDs implement 16 bit music while old NES consoles implemented 8 bit music. The former is a lot better sounding compared to the latter, which sounds very synthetic.

The accuracy of the digital representation of an analog signal is dictated by the number of bits you use to represent it. 8 bits can represent a total of 256 values (28) while 16 bits can represent a total 65,536 values (216). This is important when you consider that an analog signal can have infinitely small variations and there are always rounding errors when converting it to a digital signal. The errors are much smaller with 16 bit music than with 8 bit music because of the much smaller steps introduced by having a larger value range.

Of course, if you use more bits for each sample, you would end up with a lot more bits for a single sound file. This means that using 16 bit music would result in much larger files than if you used 8 bit music. Although the difference in file size is significant, it is usually just a matter of MBs; too small to be of major concern to most people.

Although 8 bit music is way inferior to 16 bit music and the drawbacks are close to negligible, there are still some reasons why some people use 8 bit music. The biggest one is its simplicity. 8 bit music is very useful for those who are building electronic devices that need simple sound capabilities. Using 8 bit music gives you that capability while keeping parts to a minimum, and thus the cost and complexity. Still, if you are dealing with music files, you are much better off when using 16 bits or higher for your files. This is independent of compression and the quality of the codec being used.

Summary:

  1. 16 bit music sound more natural than 8 bit music
  2. 16 bit music have larger file sizes than 8 bit music
  3. 8 bit music is much simpler to implement than 16 bit music

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