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August 28, 2007

Filed under: journalism»writing

Sounding Board

By a combination of opportunity and wheedling, I've garnered an invitation to contribute articles on digital audio to Ars Technica, both from a production standpoint as well as the technical side. This is kind of a wide range. Now I just need to get some pitches together. Here are a few that I'm considering, and I'd appreciate feedback.

  • The Basics of Digital Audio: to some extent, I think this is necessary. I run into people on a regular basis who don't understand the differences between bit rate, sample rate, bit depth, and other technical details for storing audio digitally. On the other hand, there's lots of this information already out there, if someone cares to look--do we really need another article that rehashes the basics?
  • MP3 Explained: When people talk about MP3 to wider audiences, the usual explanation of the technology is that it "saves space by removing parts of the sound that the human ear can't hear." But why can't we hear those? How does MP3 find them? And once it has, how does it actually turn that into a new file? Assuming that I can get these answers without running into the Fraunhofer/Thomson lawyers, I think this could be a really cool piece.
  • Low Latency Audio For Musicians and Consumers: The thing about low-latency is that not everyone needs it but everyone wants it, and it's kind of a relative term anyway. This is primarily Windows-focused, of course--OS X has Core Audio to handle this kind of thing, and Linux is its usual shizophrenic, server-based self with JACK. Microsoft has only recently seemed to realize that consumers (or prosumer markets) would like built-in low-latency. It's too bad that they designed a standard that's only for PCI cards, leaving most of us to rely on ASIO anyway. In any case, this is another one of those basic topics but could be interesting if I dig around.
  • Audio Processing on GPUs: Every now and then you hear about this, although I'm not aware of anyone actually doing it: theoretically, audio processing could be handled in part by carefully-written shader programs on a 3D graphics chip. I don't see DAWs leaping to take advantage of this, though, perhaps because CPU power has become so ridiculously cheap for audio.

Suggestions are also welcome, and feel free to bring up topics where I'm not any kind of expert. I'm always interested in exploring new areas and then writing about them.

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