I decided to write about this, because I keep seeing the terms used inaccurately and confusingly, and I hope I can shed some light on the topic.
Summer came and went, and it was a strange time. If anyone wondered why these blog posts stopped, the reasons are varied. On one hand I ran out of topics to rant about, and I was getting tired of ranting in the first place. On the other hand, I had significant delays in my electronics projects, mostly due to the pandemic.
One of the more complicated things an independent engineer such as myself has to deal with is, perhaps surprisingly, logistics. Pretty much all of my projects are dependent on international shipping, as the components they require just aren't available locally. Normally this would not be a problem, as I can generally predict how long everything will take and act accordingly, but recently all shipping has been random at best. To give a concrete example, I've never had an OSH Park order take more than 3 weeks, from submission to reception. Now it's easily six weeks or more.
One of my pet peeves is cabling, especially the fancy type. I'm not especially bothered by the overpricing of some items, as it is easy to not buy such ridiculously marked-up products, but what really grinds my gears is marketing with hype and false promises. Unlike sellers might want you to believe, changing a single cable cannot dramatically alter your audio experience, provided none of the cables are broken. Problem is, human brain is fallible and prone to hearing differences where both common sense and laws of physics say there cannot be any differences.
Decibels are everywhere in audio, but what exactly is a decibel? Well, it's a ratio between two things, which means that we always need to know the reference when we're talking decibels. Furthermore, decibels for power and signal amplitude are different, but we'll get to that in a moment. One decibel is one tenth of a bel, and usually we use decibels instead of bels because they're more convenient. Let's look at the formula for decibels for power:
dB=10*log10( P 2 / P 1 )
Dynamic range in audio is the difference between the system noise floor and the maximum undistorted signal. The noise floor defines the smallest usable level, as the signal needs to be distinguishable from the electronic background noise. On the other end of the range it is important that the signal remains undistorted, because it is possible to push the signal above the limits of the system at the cost of clipping it, which introduces distortion meaning the signal integrity is lost.
I'm writing this in an attempt to shed light on one of the commonly misunderstood topics in audio: digital sound.
Of course, digital audio is much too large a topic to cover in a single blog post, so I'll do a general overview on the various aspects, some of which I'll come back to in future posts, and try to explain some of the most common misunderstood concepts.
It is somewhat common in the audio community to present the question: which one is better, headphones or speakers? The short answer: Both. The longer answer is: they're different ways of listening, both with their own strengths and weaknesses. Which solution works best depends not only on technical factors, but also personal preferences and certain external factors. In this blog post I'll try to summarise some of these factors.