Forums > MaxMSP

### characteristics of floats and pitch

Apr 22 2006 | 6:52 am

Here’s a very basic question – I’m almost embarrassed to ask, but I do
need to get this right. I’m considering a change to how I store
frequency data. Right now I’m storing the number directly as a float,
so 440.5 Hz is 440.5 in storage.

This is for pitch, so it’s more important for me to favor precision in
the lower range. For a variety of reasons, it would also be more
convenient and interesting to use the range from 0. to 1.

Question One: Does changing the range change the *relative* precision?
In other words, am I better off with the [0. … 22500.] range or the
[0. … 1.] range if I want a minimum of audible floating point
inaccuracy? Is this even an issue, perceptually? Should I use [-1. …
1.] with the assumption that MSP’s floats are all signed anyway?

Question Two: Is there an optimum transformation / scaling to apply to
the frequency data in order to favor audible pitch correctness (ie
greater precision as pitch decreases)? Does that even make sense?

Thank for any feedback on this!

-j

Apr 22 2006 | 8:19 am

Question One:

Yes, it does, and you’d be better off with 0-22050 than 0-1. You’ll
have the same number of values available after the decimal in both
cases, but the bit before will give you the extra precision. (All
depends on how precise you need)

Question Two:

Unlike the rest of the audio world, in Max you can have floating point
midi, which is extremely useful (Use ftom 0.) More accuracy where you
need it (the low end), less where you don’t. Also, note that ftom
isn’t limited to 0-127. Check the ftom help file for one slight caveat
on rounding…
The other great advantage of using midi scale for all things frequency
is that (like the decibel scale for amp) it responds to controls in the
way you expect it to.

Peter McCulloch

Apr 22 2006 | 11:05 am

On 22-Apr-2006, at 8:52, dlurk wrote:
> Question One: Does changing the range change the *relative* precision?
> In other words, am I better off with the [0. … 22500.] range or
> the [0. … 1.] range if I want a minimum of audible floating point
> inaccuracy? Is this even an issue, perceptually? Should I use
> [-1. … 1.] with the assumption that MSP’s floats are all signed
> anyway?

Actually, it doesn’t. Floating point means *floating* point: the
binary "decimal" point is always moved so that you have an effective
24-bit mantissa. It doesn’t matter if you have 0.0000000000000123456
or 123.456 or 123456000000000000. You always have the equivalent of
approximately 6 digit precision.

This is, btw, far beyond the limits of pitch perception.

The seventh digit is a crap shoot though. There are tons of messages
in the archive complaining about inaccuracies way down at the 7th,
8th, 9th significant digit. These are really cosmetic though. And, as
said, far beyond the limits of pitch perception.

Google on IEEE-754 for full details.

> Question Two: Is there an optimum transformation / scaling to apply
> to the frequency data in order to favor audible pitch correctness
> (ie greater precision as pitch decreases)? Does that even make sense?

Pitch perception is essentially logarithmic, with some "stretching"
outside the midrange. Peter McColloch’s pointer to the mtof object is
useful. But for full details, any of the standard texts on acoustics
will be helpful: Terhardt (Akustische Kommunikation), Wood (Physics
of Music), Pierce or even Helmholtz (just to name a few).

Hope this helps,
Peter

————– http://www.bek.no/~pcastine/Litter/ ————-
Peter Castine +–> Litter Power & Litter Bundle for Jitter

iCE: Sequencing, Recording & |home | chez nous|
Interface Building for |bei uns | i nostri|
Max/MSP Extremely cool http://www.castine.de
http://www.dspaudio.com/

Apr 22 2006 | 12:42 pm

> Actually, it doesn’t. Floating point means *floating* point: the binary
> "decimal" point is always moved so that you have an effective 24-bit
> mantissa. It doesn’t matter if you have 0.0000000000000123456 or 123.456
> or 123456000000000000. You always have the equivalent of approximately 6
> digit precision.

Ok… that fits and expands my understanding. Wasn’t sure if there was
anything funky about Max floats. So this, in effect, compensates to
some crude degree for my second concern – as the frequencies drop past
the decimal powers, additional precision is gained on the other side of
the point. (Not sure if I expressed that correctly, but I think I get
the concept.)

So taking that into account, Peter McCulloch’s answer ("it does") makes
sense in the context of my question. I think there will be a slight
accuracy advantage to using the actual frequencies rather than a scaled
version. I suppose it’s also going to save a significant amount of
processor effort.

> Google on IEEE-754 for full details.

Thanks, I always forget to check the standards.

> Pitch perception is essentially logarithmic, with some "stretching"
> outside the midrange. Peter McColloch’s pointer to the mtof object is
> useful. But for full details, any of the standard texts on acoustics
> will be helpful: Terhardt (Akustische Kommunikation), Wood (Physics of
> Music), Pierce or even Helmholtz (just to name a few).

Great! A few names are always useful. And now that I have a
bookshelf… ;) …I suppose I should make some use of it.

Incidentally, the combination of the help files for mtof, ftom, and expr
got me started along this path – this path that excludes using mtof and
ftom. Ah, the joy of arbitrary and occasionally indeterminate tunings.

Many thanks on this very late night,

-j

Apr 22 2006 | 1:43 pm

three cheers for newbies.

this is a new fact for me. is this the case for jitter numbers as
well? is the mantissa 32-bit? and 64-bit for float64?

Apr 22 2006 | 4:52 pm

On 22-Apr-2006, at 15:43, joshua goldberg wrote:

> this is a new fact for me. is this the case for jitter numbers as
> well? is the mantissa 32-bit? and 64-bit for float64?

There is no difference between "Jitter 32-bit" floats and "Max 32-
bit" floats and "MSP 32-bit" floats. They are all IEEE-754 floats.
That is what the hardware supports.

32-bit floats have sign bit, 8-bit exponent, 24-bit mantissa
64-bit floats have sign bit, 11-bit exponent, 53-bit mantissa

It is correct that the sum of exponent length, mantissa length, plus
one (sign bit) is one bit greater than the total number of bits
available. Really it is.

There are bunches of posts in the archives about this. Plenty of
tidbits in there for the curious. If I had a euro for every message
I’ve written about floating point numbers…

————– http://www.bek.no/~pcastine/Litter/ ————-
Peter Castine +—> Litter Power & Litter Bundle for Jitter
Heavy-Duty Mathematics for Everyday Use
iCE: Sequencing, Recording &
Interface Building for |home | chez nous|
Max/MSP Extremely cool |bei uns | i nostri|
http://www.dspaudio.com/ http://www.castine.de

Apr 22 2006 | 5:17 pm

On Apr 22, 2006, at 12:52 PM, Peter Castine wrote:
> If I had a euro for every message I’ve written about floating point
> numbers…

…you’d be 20 % richer than if you had asked for US dollars.

—–
Nathan Wolek
nw@nathanwolek.com
http://www.nathanwolek.com

Apr 22 2006 | 5:29 pm

On 22 avr. 06, at 19:17, Nathan Wolek wrote:

> On Apr 22, 2006, at 12:52 PM, Peter Castine wrote:
>> If I had a euro for every message I’ve written about floating
>> point numbers…
>
> …you’d be 20 % richer than if you had asked for US dollars.

Not exactly, because Peter started explaining IEEE and co a long time
ago. Euro was not even born :-) And when euros arrived it was cheaper
than dollar… Is there an object in the LItter package to calculate
that :-)

Cheers,
ej

Apr 22 2006 | 7:23 pm

>> this is a new fact for me. is this the case for jitter numbers as
>> well? is the mantissa 32-bit? and 64-bit for float64?
>
> There is no difference between "Jitter 32-bit" floats and "Max 32-
> bit" floats and "MSP 32-bit" floats. They are all IEEE-754 floats.
> That is what the hardware supports.

true, although the float number box unfortunately doesn’t show all
digits of the fraction.
so for example, what looks like zero, doesn’t necessarily have to be
zero. this trapped me once…
here is a little example.

#P window setfont "Sans Serif" 9.;
#P flonum 56 309 91 9 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 221 221 221 222 222 222 0 0 0;
#P window linecount 1;
#P newex 56 285 65 196617 * 1000000.;
#P flonum 56 260 91 9 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 221 221 221 222 222 222 0 0 0;
#P button 57 130 20 0;
#P newex 57 236 42 196617 f;
#P newex 89 203 35 196617 * 0.5;
#P newex 181 99 99 196617 loadmess 0.000001;
#P flonum 181 138 91 9 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 221 221 221 222 222 222 0 0 0;
#P comment 151 261 157 196617 looks like zero …;
#P comment 40 111 100 196617 click and see;
#P comment 151 311 100 196617 … but isn’t;
#P hidden connect 4 0 7 0;
#P connect 4 0 3 0;
#P connect 5 0 6 1;
#P fasten 3 0 5 0 186 188 94 188;
#P connect 6 0 8 0;
#P connect 6 0 5 0;
#P connect 7 0 6 0;
#P connect 9 0 10 0;
#P connect 8 0 9 0;
#P window clipboard copycount 11;

Apr 22 2006 | 7:38 pm

> 32-bit floats have sign bit, 8-bit exponent, 24-bit mantissa
> 64-bit floats have sign bit, 11-bit exponent, 53-bit mantissa

exactly, which is why some people claim 64-bit
audio is the superior format for recording and
would beat "doubleprecision" (dual 32 bit float =
48 bits of precision) when it comes to sound quality.

we should wait until coreaudio supports sony
playstation GPUs that we finally can use 128-bit
audio files (and tuning!) – everything less precise
is unusable for making music anyway.

and during your next live show your granny sits in
the first row of chairs shouting:

"3107.975757744002903894002834757!
that ought to be 3107.975757744002903894002834757!
but you played a 3107.975757744002903894002834758!!

-110.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 Hz

Apr 22 2006 | 7:42 pm

> true, although the float number box unfortunately doesn’t show all
> digits of the fraction.

normally it should, as son as its range does not exceed
the range you want to represent in it/send into it.

Apr 22 2006 | 7:51 pm

I suppose that means that once that comes out, I’ll have to upgrade
from these 2-bit speakers.

> we should wait until coreaudio supports sony
> playstation GPUs that we finally can use 128-bit
> audio files (and tuning!) – everything less precise
> is unusable for making music anyway.
>

Apr 23 2006 | 2:00 pm

Apr 23 2006 | 5:09 pm

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