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Bit-Depth Audio and Harmonic Distortions

Audio Basis - articles about audio

Bit depth changing from 32-bit float or 24-bit integer to 16-bit integer causes some harmonic distortions. Read what's happens there.

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Pure source signal contains sine wave 4410 or 4430 Hz is resolution 44.1 kHz, 32-bit float or 24-bit integer.

Original sine wave 4410 Hz with SR=44100 Hz






This signal is converted to 16-bit integer format.

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






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

File with sine wave 4430 Hz has noise with a level below -133 dB.


This is the result of conversion of 32-bit float to 16-bit integer. Source signal is 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




3-rd harmonic with level -118 dB is appeared.


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

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




No separate harmonics. Noise appears.



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


Frequently Asked Questions

Is 16-bit or 24-bit audio better?

As final format 24-bit allows using full abilities of the modern DACs.

It gives impoving signal-to-noise ratio for quiet music signals, in comparison 16-bit resolution.



Read more

  1. What is Jitter in Audio. Sound Quality Issues >
  2. 64-bit audio processing. Necessity or redundancy >
  3. What is Audio Converter >
  4. How to Choose the Best Audio Converter Software >
  5. What Is Ringing Audio >
  6. What is dithering audio? >
  7. Audio as Optics >
  8. What is optimization audio for DAC >
  9. Where is the Limit of Audio Quality? >
  10. Power Conditioner for Audio. It's real advantage? >



December 8, 2022 updated | since December 20, 2012