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How Analog and Digital Recording Works
by Marshall Brain 29
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let's assume that the sampling rate is 1. the fidelity (the similarity between the original wave and the DAC's output) improves. digital recording converts the analog wave into a stream of numbers and records the numbers instead of the wave. you have control over two variables: The sampling rate . These numbers are a digital representation of the original wave. and that means the fidelity of the reproduced wave is not very good. The conversion is done by a device called an analog-to-digital converter (ADC). and you wish to sample it with an ADC. In the following figure.000 samples per second): In the following figure. both the rate and the precision have been improved by a factor of 2 (20 gradations at a rate of 2. Here is a typical wave (assume here that each tick on the horizontal axis represents onethousandth of a second): When you sample the wave with an analog-to-digital converter. You can understand why CDs have such high fidelity if you understand the analog-to-digital conversion process better.100 samples per second and the number of gradations is 65.Controls how many samples are taken per second The sampling precision .htm 08/03/2013 .000 per second and the precision is 10: The green rectangles represent samples.HowStuffWorks "Digital Data" Page 2 of 4 Digital Data In a CD (and any other digital recording technology).000 samples per second): You can see that as the rate and precision increase. as long as the numbers are not corrupted. the ADC looks at the wave and picks the closest number between 0 and 9. The analog wave produced by the DAC will be the same every time. the stream of numbers is converted back to an analog wave by a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). the goal is to create a recording with very high fidelity (very high similarity between the original signal and the reproduced signal) and perfect reproduction (the recording sounds the same every single time you play it no matter how many times you play it). so the sampling rate is 44. fidelity is an important goal. Every one-thousandth of a second. the output of the DAC so closely matches the original waveform that the sound is essentially "perfect" to most human ears. This is the sampling error. you get the blue line shown in the following figure: You can see that the blue line lost quite a bit of the detail originally found in the red line. Let's say you have a sound wave. The analog wave produced by the DAC is amplified and fed to the speakers to produce the sound. When the DAC recreates the wave from these numbers. To play back the music.536. The number chosen is shown along the bottom of the To accomplish these two goals.Controls how many different gradations (quantization levels) are possible when taking the sample In the following figure. You reduce sampling error by increasing both the sampling rate and the precision. At this level. http://electronics. In the case of CD sound. the rate and the precision have been doubled again (40 gradations at 4. The analog wave produced by the DAC will also be very similar to the original analog wave if the analog-to-digital converter sampled at a high rate and produced accurate numbers.howstuffworks.

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