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Most generically, “data about data.” In digital audio this means the parameters that apply globally to a particular data transmission, as opposed to the data actually carried in the transmission. Digital audio metadata usually includes things like the type of the CODEC, number of channels, channel format, sample rate, bit depth, type of data encryption, etc. All digital audio file formats include such metadata in what is sometimes called a “header” that tells an application how the data that follows is to be handled.

One example: In Dolby Digital, metadata specifically refers to scalable decoding information about the audio, which can be interpreted in different ways by different receivers, allowing a producer to tailor a program’s mix to the playback environment without needing to store multiple versions, e.g., a 5.1 mix and a stereo mix.

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