Digital Audio - Considerations on compression of audio data

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The aim of any professional, or in fact anyone who loves sound, is to get the best possible sound quality out of the equipment he/she has. Usually a professional context caters for sophisticated equipment able to pick up the smallest of details with their sheer precision and quality. The widespread use of digital technology has undoubtedly made life a lot easier, just think of how revolutionary hard disc recording has been [Hard Disc Recording ] ! However we mustn't forget that the conversion from analogue into digital introduces a degradation on the audio signal (due to the quantization operation). The 16 bits quantization of the Compact Disc's standard format are just about sufficient to obtain acceptable quality, so the idea of operating a lossy compression on the data is out of the question. In other situations where quality isn't the most important factor, compression is an ideal solution for transferring tracks on the Internet for example, or on portable MP3 players that can store dozens of tracks in their RAM memory (on a CD support we can store 74 minutes' worth of music for an average of 10/12 tracks. On the very same support we can store around one hundred tracks in data form using the MP3 compression).