core audio: is zero equivalent to silence only for PCM audio?

PCM is the raw encoded sample. All 0 (when using signed data for samples) is indeed silence. (In fact, all of any value is silence, but such a DC offset has the potential to damage your amplifier and/or speakers, if it isn’t filtered out.)

When you compress with a lossy codec, you enter a digital format where it is not trivial to just add silence. Think of adding data to a ZIP file to add null bytes to the end of a file. It isn’t as simple as just inserting them arbitrarily into the ZIP file.

If you want to add silence to a compressed file, you must do so using the appropriate codec. Then, you have to fit it into the bitstream, which is also not trivial. Usually the stream is broken up by frames, but you can’t even split on those frames in some formats. MP3 and AAC use a bit reservoir where unused data in prior frames can be used to encode more complicated frames later on, making splitting the file very difficult.

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