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“How do you get maximum bandwidth and full dynamic range without using external hardware?”

Is your software letting you down? Could you get better bandwidth and dynamic range from a hardware recording system?

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Question from an Audio Masterclass visitor: “How to get maximum bandwidth and the most full dynamic range in a mix, without using external hardware gadgets? I really mean using internal software plug-ins.”

Questions often arise from misconceptions, and this one clearly has. Firstly, let's define what we mean by bandwidth and dynamic range...

'Bandwidth' is the range of frequencies from the lowest to the highest that a piece of equipment will accommodate. So if a piece of equipment, any equipment, has a response down to 15 Hz and up to 20,000 Hz, that would be its bandwidth. Commonly we ignore the lower figure and just say the bandwidth is 20 kHz. To get a little more technical, bandwidth is commonly measured between the frequencies where the response has dropped 3 dB from the level at mid frequencies.

Dynamic range is the range of levels from the level of self-generated noise up to the highest level a piece of equipment can cope with without distortion. Typically this could be around 90 decibels.

Now the thing is that audio equipment has progressed over the last few decades where it is easy for a design engineer to achieve a bandwidth that is greater than the ear can appreciate. Getting a dynamic range where the noise level is for all practical purposes inaudible and the highest allowable level is ear-splitting, is absolutely straightforward.

In fact, a design engineer would have to work pretty hard to get these things wrong.

So, there is absolutely no reason why software should not be able to achieve a more-than-adequate bandwidth and dynamic range. No reason whatsoever.

Also, there is no reason why hardware equipment should be any better than software. Whether you choose software or hardware depends totally on your operational preferences. Some people, for example, prefer not to use a computer. Others prefer the lower cost of plug-ins to their hardware equivalent.

In summary, bandwidth and dynamic range are pretty much non-issues these days. If you are worrying about these things, it's a sign that you should be worrying about something else.

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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