The Cheat Sheet: Simply DIG IT AL!

cheat-sheet-logo2by Flip Michaels

There's nothing like a new year. It's a new step! A new goal. A savaged ride on a virgin wave (sorry). It's 1994, and if you haven't learned the digital jargon yet, it's time to get ADRENALIZED!

Dig it al. That means numbers, right?

Right. Signals are sampled -- measured many times per second. (CD standard rate is 44.1kHz, or 44,100 measurements per second. The professional DAT standard is 48kHz. The digital "broadcast" sampling rate is 32kHz.) These measurements then get stored as a series of numbers, on a hard disk, DAT, etc..

I knew that.

Good. Then you must know why there's no tape hiss on a digital system that records tape. And, I'm sure you're familiar with the so called "digital headphone" bogus? (psst! keep reading!)

DIGITAL TAPE HISS:

You'll never hear tape hiss on a digital system that records tape. Why? The tape only stores digital numbers...representing audio signals, not the actual audio voltages. The digital system is recording frequency bursts simply represented as ones and zeros.

But how can you do that? Easy. Remember elementary school? ...Base two arithmetic, sniffing Mary Hinklemyer's glue (sorry, again). In base two, "10" means two -- that's 1 x two1 (two), plus 0 x one; "11" equals three: that's 1 x two1 plus 1 x one. Likewise, "101" is 1 x two2 (four) plus 0 x two1 (zero) plus 1 x one which equals five; and so on.

Everything can be represented by ones and zeros...or bits: a single piece of binary data. Bits are the fundamental elements of digital data. A byte is an 8-bit word. Computer jargon will refer to data sizes in bytes. A digital word is usually 8, 16, 24 or 32 bits long. An 8-bit digital word might look like this: 10011010.

Tape hiss is a result of recording audio voltages. So, the recording of an audio signal by measuring frequency bursts with ones and zeros (digital) instead of recording the actual audio voltages (analog) avoids the noise.

DIGITAL HEADPHONE BOGUS:

Yeah! Ever see a digital headphone advertisement? Completely bogus. Headphones (and speakers) are transducers: they convert energy from one form to another. It's analog, mikes in reverse -- voltages being fed to some electromagnet that forces a speaker cone attached to a moving coil to move back and forth, creating air movements. That's not digital.

Prove it! Take your speaker and plug it into a mike input. Now YELL! (Did your VU meter move?) Not good enough. You say you want more! Then take a throw-away mike (emphasis on throw-away), and plug it into an amp's speaker output. You'll hear sound.

Look out for next month's Cheat Sheet as I continue to DIG IT AL.

ACT NOW!

ACT! (Alternative Community Training, Inc.) continues to thrive as more and more join the recycling movement! Thanks to many fellow RAP readers this past year, donations have allowed the mentally retarded/developmentally disabled to become self-sufficient in the workplace and community.

When cleaning your studios please continue to send that old stock of tape and metal reels to ACT! (nicknamed "Project Charlie"), a non-profit organization relying on donations of materials to provide skill training, work services, supported living, as well as occupational therapy and speech/language services to those who are traditionally not served.

Hey! It's legit, tax deductible, and the right thing to do. If you haven't already, start recycling by calling a Project Recycling Representative at 1-800-359-4608. This year, make a difference.