Audio bit depth

An analog signal (in red) encoded to 4-bit PCM digital samples (in blue); the bit depth is four, so each sample's amplitude is one of 16 possible values.

In digital audio using pulse-code modulation (PCM), bit depth is the number of bits of information in each sample, and it directly corresponds to the resolution of each sample. Examples of bit depth include Compact Disc Digital Audio, which uses 16 bits per sample, and DVD-Audio and Blu-ray Disc which can support up to 24 bits per sample.

In basic implementations, variations in bit depth primarily affect the noise level from quantization error—thus the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and dynamic range. However, techniques such as dithering, noise shaping and oversampling mitigate these effects without changing the bit depth. Bit depth also affects bit rate and file size.

Bit depth is only meaningful in reference to a PCM digital signal. Non-PCM formats, such as lossy compression formats, do not have associated bit depths.[a]
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