8 Bit vs 16 Bit Music: Difference and Comparison

When working with digital audio, you’ll frequently come across terminology like sample rate, audio resolution, and others that describe the qualities of a file.

It’s crucial to understand what distinguishes good audio from bad audio; therefore, becoming acquainted with these phrases will be beneficial. 

Bit depth is a word that’s thrown about a lot nowadays without any explanation. When someone says 8-bit or 16-bit audio, they’re referring to the bit depth of the audio. 

Key Takeaways

  1. 8-bit music refers to audio created with 8-bit sound chips, commonly found in vintage video game consoles and computers, while 16-bit music utilizes 16-bit sound chips, offering higher sound quality and more complex compositions.
  2. 8-bit music has a distinct, chiptune-like sound with limited channels and synthesizer capabilities, whereas 16-bit music offers a broader range of instruments and higher audio fidelity.
  3. 16-bit music allows for greater dynamic range and more nuanced compositions than 8-bit music, constrained by its lower bit depth and simpler hardware.

8 Bit vs 16 Bit Music 

The difference between 8-bit and 16-bit music is that 8-bit music has a less natural sound and a smaller file size along with a simpler implementation, whereas 16-bit music has more of a natural sound and a larger file size along with a harder implementation. 8-bit music includes 256 values, and 16-bit music includes 65,536 values. 

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8-bit music is also referred to as “chiptunes” or “chip music.” It is created using the same technique that was used to create tracks for ancient video games.

Nintendo and Game Boy are examples. This electronic music is created using either a PSG (programmable sound generator) or synthesizers found in classic games and coin-operated machines. 

16-bit music files are a common ‘sound quality’ utilized for digital audio recording. The most common example is music played by CD players, which are offered in 16-bit resolution.

With 16-bit music, you can have 65,536 different levels of amplitude, which gives you a lot more refinement (or accuracy) in the waveform. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison 8 Bit Music 16 Bit Music 
Sound Less natural More natural 
File Size Smaller Larger 
Implement Simpler Harder 
Values 256 values 65,536 values 
Errors More Smaller 

What is 8 Bit Music? 

8-bit music, commonly known as chip music or chiptune, is a genre of synthesized electronic music made with sound chips or synthesizers found in computers, vintage arcade machines, and video game consoles. 

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Unlike other genres and styles of music, 8-bit music is not classed based on its sound. Instead, the singularity of the technology employed to create its sound is the primary focus. 

The technology utilized now was not accessible when these vintage games were created. The only option was a small computer chip that could only process 8 bits of data at a time. 

Because of this restriction, sound engineers had to be creative while generating music. As a result, music was created using four channels. Two of the channels were used for treble voices, the third for bass, and the fourth for some gritty noises. 

Because of its uniqueness, some individuals like creating 8-bit music. When all of the tracks are optimized, a well-composed 8-bit piece of music is a joy to listen to. Many 8-bit fans are drawn to the originality of this electronic music. 

Despite being regarded archaic in certain quarters, 8-bit music remains unique and one-of-a-kind for many of the artists that create it. Some individuals enjoy making it because it requires little or no understanding of music theory. 

DAW is an abbreviation for Digital Audio Workstation in 8-bit music. It is also known as “contemporary composition software.” You can create 8-bit music by inputting inventive tunes and effects into this program when used correctly. 

What is 16 Bit Music? 

The Compact Disc Digital Audio (CD) was introduced in the 1980s. It uses a sample size of 16 bits.

Several sources, like Matthew Garrahan’s recent post, suggest that streaming music services have recently overtaken CD sales in the US and are on their approach to displacing digital downloads as the music industry’s largest market. 

In most circumstances, 16 bits is more than enough for actual playback/casual music listening.

Even without dithering, a 16-bit signal has a large dynamic range – around 96db (with the right dithering, it can be as high as 120db). 16 bit is plenty because it provides over 100db of dynamic range, whereas most music has 20-70db. 

However, it is insufficient for capturing, generating, and processing audio. Digital audio has a maximum signal that it can record or create. If capturing a signal with a complete 96 dB audio range is the goal, 16 bits will be the limit. 

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Despite the fact that CDs are no longer widely used, 16-bit audio is still widely used. Many media files are still delivered in 16-bit audio formats.

Listening to 16-bit audio is fine, but editing may be difficult, necessitating a greater bit depth. 

16-bit runs an application such as a Music Demo that plays MODs. That is, it is created in real-time from recorded waveforms.

This type of thing is also known as an instrumental synth, demo, MODs, and so on. However, in order to have a meaningful sample, it must be recorded in some way. 

If you use additional bits for each sample, you’ll have a lot more bits for a single sound file. This means that if you utilize 16-bit music, the files will be substantially larger than if you use 8-bit music. 

Main Differences Between 8 Bit and 16 Bit Music 

  1. 8-bit music has a less natural sound to it when compared to 16-bit music. 
  2. The file size of 16-bit music is larger than 8-bit music. 
  3. The implementation of 8-bit music is simpler, whereas the implementation of 16-bit music is harder. 
  4. 8-bit music has 256 values. On the other hand, 16-bit music has 65,536 values. 
  5. 8-bit music has more errors in comparison to 16-bit music. 16-bit music has lesser errors because it takes smaller steps that are introduced by having a larger value range. 


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nitta-Kohsaku/publication/338989993_Study_on_Comparison_of_24_with_16_Bit_Headphone_High-_Resolution_Music_Box_Audio/links/5e3796e492851c7f7f17b649/Study-on-Comparison-of-24-with-16-Bit-Headphone-High-Resolution-Music-Box-Audio.pdf 
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/twentieth-century-music/article/in-the-loop-creativity-and-constraint-in-8bit-video-game-audio/13249E23669D3D386D2B505A96239453 

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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