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Bit-Depth Audio and Harmonic Distortions

Changing of bit-depth 32-bit float or 24-bit integer samples to 16-bit integer cause some harmonic distrortions.

Pure source signal (44 kHz, 32-bit float or 24-bit integer, sine wave 4410 or 4430 Hz):

Original sine wave 4410 Hz with SR=44100 Hz






This signal saved to 16-bit integer format:

Bit-depth 32-bit float converted to 16-bit integer






Sine wave 4410 Hz hasn't noise, but it have 3-th harmonic with significant level (-114 dB).

Sine wave 4430 Hz has noise with level better -133 dB.


This is result of convertion 32-bit float to 16-bit integer of sine waves 4000 and 4030 Hz with sample rate 192 kHz:

32-float to 16-bit with sample rate 192 kHz






Here we see input (without conversion or other processing) signal with frequency 4010 Hz in 16-bit / 44100 Hz:

Input audio signal 4410 Hz format 16-bit / 44100 Hz




Appear 3-rd harmonic with level -118 dB.


Here we see input signal with frequency 4030 Hz in 16-bit / 44100 Hz:

Input audio signal 4430 Hz format 16-bit / 44100 Hz




No separate harmonics. Appear noise like to white noise.



For 32-bit float to 16-bit integer conversion:

1) If frequency of sine wave is multiple of sampling rate, harmonic distortion appear as pure sine waves with noise same noise of HD formats (very low).

2) Otherwise non-linear distortions uniform allocate (same white noise) all frequencies with low level.

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How to Improve Sound Quality


In this article term "to improve sound quality" mean "to decrease sound playback distortions at analog output of digital-analog converter". How to try to decrease the playback distortions for used equipment or portable device (digital audio player, mobile phone, etc.) will be considered below.

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