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Overload in Signal Conversion

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Digital audio material is often mastered at such hot levels that frequent clipping in the digital domain occurs. While this in itself can cause listener fatigue the sound is often severely additionally distorted in the digital to analog conversion process at the listener end due to lack of headroom in the reproduction. Purely digital processing such as sample rate conversion and perceptual codecs may exhibit the same problem. This paper describes measurements to quantify the problem, and new test performed on commercial recordings to demonstrate the phenomena. Furthermore, methods to avoid the distortion are discussed and demonstrated.

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