32 Bit Floating Point Audio – What Are The Advantages?

If you’re a user of Pro Tools 10 or many other leading audio recording platforms, you’ll have noticed that there are so many options available when it comes to your settings, especially when it comes to ‘floating point audio.’

Whereas many of us have always been used to 16 and 24-bit recording, since that was what was always available to previous users, the introduction of the 32-bit may change the game. However, does this new and seemingly innovative feature, one that many critics are calling ‘the way forward,’ actually provide any value to your audio recordings and is it the right setting for you?

Whether you’re new to the industry, or you haven’t even realized the differences between this unique variety of floating point audio, this is the article for you. Today, we’re going to explore the ins and outs of 32-bit floating point audio, the advantages and what it means for you.

The Concept

The concept behind 32-bit floating point audio is staggering. In theory, this kind of recording file has an outstanding dynamic range of up to 1680dB. This is a mind-blowing figure, especially when you consider the fact that the next-in-line 24-bit recording maxes out around the 144dB mark.

Of course, there’s no way a human brain could even handle the resolution of audio that reaches this benchmark figure, but that just goes to show the type of quality you can expect.

However, since there is no audio interface that can work, either analog-to-digital or the other way around, although there is on both 16 and 24-bit files, no one will be surprised if you think this latest addition is pretty pointless.

So, What Are the Advantages to 32-Bit?

Of course, there must be a reason, or several reasons, as to why this function exists. While, in theory, the human brain isn’t going to notice the difference in quality, although it is still there, creating audio files in the 32-bit format does have some extremely notable advantages.

For example, if you’re saving your sounds into this new format before you’re processing your tracks through plug-ins, you can avoid and completely minimize the risk of clipping your files, especially if you’re using software like AudioSuite to render your files.

Saving in this form can also help you to completely rid yourself of unnecessary and unwanted noise from within your audio recording, ensuring it’s much cleaner and sharper than other traditional formats. Furthermore, one of the greatest benefits that it will provide is dramatically reducing the risk of rounding errors which are typically produced during signal processing.

As you can see, these are some essential benefits that cannot be ignored. Matching these benefits with the fact that you can still enjoy 24-bit sound quality, although it is really 32-bit, and we’re starting to build up a solid picture of why the 32-bit floating audio point is a recommended function.

As mentioned above, having above 1000dB gives you a ton of leeway when it comes to actually editing and processing your audio files. For example, if you need to add a huge amount of gain to a track, before then editing and sharpen the sound, this is an ideal use for a 32-bit file since you’ll have an insane amount of headspace in which to play and edit your files to sound exactly the way you want them.

It could be this optimal level and space you have for creativity that’s the sole reason why you would use a 32-bit recording. Bear in mind you wouldn’t have just to use 32-bit formats since you can import both 16 and 24-bit files, as well as other file formats, into your 32-bit sessions without a loss of quality.

Are There Any Disadvantages I Should Know About?

Of course, where there are positives, you need to balance with some negatives. While there are some notable disadvantages to the format, these are rather insignificant when compared to the advantages.

First up, you’ll instantly notice the fact that your sound files and recordings are on average around 50% larger than your 24-bit counterpart. While this doesn’t necessarily cause any problems on a computer, you may find storage an issue, especially with portable memory such as USB drives, if you’re handling a large volume of audio files.

It then goes without saying that these files are 100% bigger than their 16-bit equals. In short, about 10 minutes of recorded audio built from a 64-track session and then recorded in the 32-bit format will generate a file size of around 28GB, which is huge. This will then also require around 48MBs per second to playback, not ideal if you’re using a small, portable laptop or minicomputer.

Implement 32-Bit Into Your Production

If you’re using Pro Tools 10, setting up and implementing a 32-bit recording is simple. When you start a new project, choose the ‘Create Blank Session’ option and in the bottom left-hand side of the window, you’ll see the 32-bit Float option. Select this to start using it.

What’s more, thanks to Pro Tool’s multi-functionality design, you can also add other 32-bit recordings into your sessions which can be both 16, 24-bit or another file type. This can be done easily by navigating Setup > Session in your main window.

Never fear though, even when you’re importing these other file types, the developers have been extremely careful to ensure that no quality is lost during the import process, meaning you can feel safe in the knowledge that everything is operating and sound as it should be.

Summary

As you can see, 32-bit floating point audio may not be for everybody, but there are some notable advantages as to why you would want to use in your music production sessions. Whether you’re handling audio for a project or recording live in the studio, using a 32-bit float format could be the solution you’ve been looking for when it comes to quality and customizable options.

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