Digitizing Audio

The Nature of Sound

Common misconception: Digital sounds are “synthesized” sounds.
  • The post-processing effects of technologies like Auto-Tune, noise reduction, etc. are indeed digital, but not in the stereotypical drum machine or synthesizer sort of way. Even hand claps, a capella music, or conversations can be recorded and digitally represented with binary.

Natural sound is simply the movement of molecules through a medium like air. Nature is continuous, whereas digitization is discrete. When the continuous sound wave is digitized, it is broken into discrete parts. Digital sounds are merely numeric (binary) instructions for replicating the sound production, because all music enters your ears in analog, soundwave form.

Audio Sampling

Common Misconception: Digital audio is “stored sound.”
  • Digital audio is set of data/instructions to recreate a sound through the right method and device. This is in contrast to vinyl record players, where you can literally scratch a groove with a sewing needle and hear the sound.

How can we convert an analog audio wave to digitized numeric values? We measure the sound wave over fixed periods of time, a process of “sampling.” In essence, audio sampling involves taking short samples of the audio wave almost continuously.

Watch the video to learn more about the digitization process and audio sampling:


Sampling rates and bits per sample are very important to audio digitization in the following ways:

  1. The greater the sampling rate taken from the continuous sound wave, the better quality the digitization.
  2. The greater the bit depth used to encode the instructions for playing the sound, the better quality the digitization.