[PD] audio bit resolution in Pd

Alexandre Torres Porres porres at gmail.com
Thu Apr 23 20:02:24 CEST 2015

WOW... I just learned something important! So, my whole point here was that I
had the idea that DAWs like Ardour support 32-bit considering only values
from -1 to 1. But that is just wrong!

I just learned you can put a sound file with values in the hundreds /
thousands in 32 bit float, load them into your DAW, and scale it down.

I tried it by creating a sine wave in Pd with values from -100 to 100,
exported as 32-bit float with writesf~, loaded into soundforge, then scaled
it down 40 dB, and the sine wave was there!

So yeah, Pd's audio resolution is the same as DAW which say they handle
32-bit float sound files. My whole issue was that Pd had a different way of
dealing with 32-bit float, but not at all. In Principle, other softwares
out there also deal with 32-bit float outside the boundaries of -1 to 1!!!

That just answers my question then... once and for all and for good.

I guess the discussion I ended up promoting is a parallel issue... let me
rephrase it then.

Regarding 24 bit DAC converters in sound cards, the 24 bits in there are
just for values from -1 to 1, right?

If so, then 32 bit float isn't really "8 more bits". And you've been also
saying 24 bit converters are fixed, not float. So there's a weird
relationship between this conversion from 32 bit float files to the

But then, I guess I'm happy with all I've learned so far.


2015-04-23 13:26 GMT-03:00 Jamie Bullock <jamie at jamiebullock.com>:

> On 22 April 2015 at 19:44:26, William Huston (williamahuston at gmail.com)
> wrote:
> On Wednesday, April 22, 2015, Jamie Bullock <jamie at jamiebullock.com>
> wrote:
> >
> > Pd is 32-bit *floating point*, so you have 32-bit resolution between -1
> and 1.
> I don't think that's right.
> The range of a single precision floating point number is from
> -3.4028234 × 10E38 to 3.4028234 × 10E38 (not from -1 to 1)
> True, but I didn’t say the range of 32-bit float was -1 to 1!
> There are only 23 bits of precision for the mantissa + 1 for sign in a
> single precision float.
> Also true, but when I said “resolution” I didn’t mean “precision”. Because
> the exponent can be negative, resolution scales dynamically from 1..0
> according to the value of the exponent, whilst precision stays fixed
> according to the number of bits in the mantissa. Thus for very small values
> the resolution (or quantisation step size) is far finer than can be
> represented with the mantissa alone.
> What I was trying to put across (poorly!) in my original reply is that
> unlike fixed point where for lower order values fewer bits are available in
> the binary representation, with floating point, just because e.g. -1..1 is
> a smaller range than -3.4 x 10E38..3.4 x 10E38 it doesn’t imply “fewer are
> bits available”, e.g.
> Sign Exponent Mantissa
> 0 01111110   11111111111111111111111 -> 0.99999994
> 0 00000001 11111111111111111111111 -> 2.3509886E-38
> 1 01000000        0000000000000000000000 -> -1.0842022E-19
> 1              011111110        0000000000000000000000 -> -1.0
> Strictly speaking, I guess only 31 bits “count” in the range -1..1 due to
> a maximum of 7-bits being significant in the exponent.
> best,
> Jamie
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