I was sat with my grandfather the other evening putting the world to rights over a glass of Cotes Du Rhone. Fed up with the crap on TV we started trying to fine tune his relic of an analogue receiver, this lasted about five minutes before I got annoyed and fired up my laptop.
I suggested perhaps now that he has his own laptop (there’s got to be some bonuses from having a geeky granddaughter right?) we try streaming something through the internet which, returned rather a blank expression. (Worth noting at this point when I first showed my grandfather how to work his laptop the first question asked was ‘where does the paper come out when you print these ‘email things?’)
Never the less, it took less than an hour to get him set up on iTunes and creating playlists of all his favourite artists and minutes later we were ordering speakers from amazon.
This got me thinking about just how much we’ve progressed in the world of digital audio. Its usefulness in the recording and quick mass-production of sound has made distribution of music across the internet staggeringly easy.
(If you find this interesting read on, if you don’t skip to the last paragraph for the happy ending…)
With an analogue audio system, when sound is created it’s done so as a physical waveform which moves in currents across the air, to capture that sound you have to transform the waves into an electrical representation via a transducer where it will be stored or transmitted. Then to re-create into sound, the process is reversed through amplification and then converted back into physical waveforms via speakers.
With digital audio you take the analogue sample and convert the pulses/ waves into binary signals which are then normally further encoded to allow modification and enhancement. This digital audio is then far simpler to transfer, transmit or store and from today’s wild variations of music you will know that filters and effects are commonly applied too (think N-Dubz, Gorillaz etc).
Once all this fancy pants wizardry has been applied the digital audio is ready to be distributed, which is significantly easier and cheaper as audio data files rather than as physical objects e.g. CD’s (or records if you’re my grandfather).
To be honest I lost him the second I started chatting about waveforms, but the story ends with a happy grandfather with the complete works of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven all for less than a fiver.
Sorted, thank you digital audio.