Paul McGowan writes:
Probably time to cut back on the coffee. But if your jitter problems relate to your digital audio system then there’s hope.
Jitter is all about timing. Digital audio depends heavily on an accurate clock. That clock meters out precise intervals, like a musical metronome, and the quality of your music depends greatly on its accuracy.
It’s 2014 and some of us are just getting comfortable with the idea of jitter and its effects. But the general high-end audio populace first became infatuated with the subject way back in the prehistoric mid 1990′s. Heck, it wasn’t even in this century.
In those long-gone days analog was still king, digital an up and coming wanna be. Things have changed in the new century. Even diehard analog devotees have to give some forms of proper digital audio its due, but back then everything was an uphill battle. To be honest, those of us interested in digital in the 90′s were tolerant of its weaknesses, and there were certainly plenty of those. But the pioneering spirit was alive and well in us because we could hear the potential, and there was a lot of potential.
There were three distinct groups of thought on the subject of digital audio quality. First, and foremost, you had the ‘flat earth’ society proclaiming there could be no audible differences since ‘bits are bits’ and they could prove that all the digits arrived safely; therefore all digital audio must sound the same. Next you had the ‘I believe everything’ society proclaiming sonic differences were lurking around every corner; therefore nothing in digital audio sounded the same. And somewhere in the middle you had a group of dedicated engineering folks who accepted a more middle ground and found themselves determined to get answers. Count us among the third group.
Because we could hear digital differences, yet intellectually accepted the fact that bits are bits, we knew the answer must lie in missing information. We simply weren’t seeing the whole picture. This is fairly common, when your senses detect something your mind can’t logically accept. The answer isn’t to jump up and down and deny what your senses are telling you, rather it’s time to try and figure out what’s missing. And one of the missing elements was the timing of those ‘perfect’ bits. But how does timing affect the sound quality of digital audio bits?
Just imagine, for a moment, that you’re a water quality engineer and in charge of your city’s water supply. The challenge is to deliver a steady stream of water to all your customers. Problem is, the supply of that water isn’t steady because it comes from a stream that runs faster and slower depending on the temperature of the day. So what would you do? Perhaps the best idea would be to place a small regulator at each home to slow down the maximum any customer could access the water. That would certainly even out the flow, eh? But what happens when the weather gets really cold and there’s simply not enough water to go around?
My next post will dig a little deeper into the problem. Not of water, but of bit timing.