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October 24, 2007

Filed under: music»tools»digital

Voltage Reference

Having set out to write a third AudioFile guide on A/D converters, I began doing research on the subject and rapidly realized that I might have bit off more than I could chew. Most of the texts on the topic are written for engineers, and include a great deal of math as "proof." Of course, a proof is only useful if you understand it, and I usually don't, since I was never trained as an electrical engineer, and because I never really enjoyed math past trig.

At times like this, the deficiencies of chain bookstores become increasingly irritating. They all carry the same selection of titles, and none of them were what I was trying to find. Amazon doesn't necessarily make it easy to locate something in a niche like this, but I eventually did locate a couple of helpful textbooks that aren't too expensive, and I'd like to recommend them now. My piece distills out a lot of information from these and other sources, but anyone with an interest in audio would do well to have one of these as a general reference, in my opinion.

Nika Aldrich's Digital Audio Explained: For the Audio Engineer is a truly great resource that's clearly aimed at people who work with audio and are familiar with the concepts but not the technical details. In other words, it was perfect for me. There's even a section in the back for "myths of digital audio." A short set of chapters on human hearing and the physics of sound means that complete newcomers might even be able to use this as a primer. If I have any criticisms, it's that the graphic design and layout of illustrations are often unhelpful, but the text itself is clear enough that readers can figure it out without them.

Principles of Digital Audio, by Ken Pohlmann, is twice the size of Aldrich's book, and it's a little less user-friendly. On the other hand, it may be the only digital audio text you would ever need, so a little more complexity is a small price to pay. Newcomer to the field will have a hard time with this, but Pohlmann stays as close to a layman level as he probably can. Inside the 800-odd pages, he covers A/D/A conversion of all kinds, CDs, magnetic storage, digital interconnection, DSP, DVD, MP3, and an ungodly amount of other material. I haven't had time to read the whole thing, obviously, but everything I've looked up has been--if not perfectly accessible--at least better than the Wikipedia page for the same topic, and certainly I'm far more confident in its accuracy.

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