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Choosing the best sample rates?

I couldn't find much about this here, but sorry if it's been discussed. I know that sample rates are the number of samples being recorded per second (so the higher the better). Is it in my best interest to always record at the highest (96kHz) my set up can run? Would there be a reason to record at a lower sample rate? For example if I'm gonna burn the track to a CD eventually?



Boswell Thu, 04/10/2008 - 03:32

If the end product is going to be you burning a CD, the best advice is to use 44.1KHz sampling rate for your project throughout. For wordlength, by all means use 24-bit sampling and 32-bit floating-point post processing, but dither down to 16-bit at the very last stage (while exporting your rendered mix for CD burning).

However, if you are sending your mixes as .wav files to a mastering house, you could record your project at 48KHz or even 96KHz, as the mastering house will have the high-quality sampling rate conversion algorithms necessary to create the 44.1KHz CD masters.

Cucco Thu, 04/10/2008 - 06:11
While I agree with Boz at about 99% on this, there's a little more information.

First, the benefits of recording at higher sample rates MUST be understood before making assumptions. Boswell completely understands this - so this is aimed at the OP.

By sampling at higher rates, you don't get any more resolution at signals between 1Hz and 20kHz. The fact is, you only use 2 samples to draw a wave. Adding twice as many samples does not affect this. However, you do increase the resolution (or in fact gain resolution not present) at higher frequencies by increasing the sample rate. The benefits (or lack thereof) is HIGHLY debated. I for one firmly believe that higher sample rates result in a more accurate signal more representative of the original source. Many contest that components (ranging from mics to preamps to playback components) do not possess the capabilities to portray these advantages. That, again, is debatable.

However, please bear in mind a few things -
1 - If you're not sure of your SRC capabilities, you're best to record at 44.1kHz.
2 - If everything else in the chain isn't at top notch performance (high quality mics, conversion and most importantly the room itself and the performance), there will be no improvement gained by the increase in sample rate.
3 - Recording at 48kHz versus 44.1kHz provides very little improvement, if any noticable, and any potential gain is likely lost by doing the SRC down to 44.1. That being said - if you plan to go higher than 44.1, you may as well go to 88.2 or 96.

Personally, I use 88.2 for a lot of my high rez stuff (or 176.4) - not because of the myth that you need only remove every other sample to convert back down to 44.1 (it ain't that simple), but because the performance gain is still there that you would get by going to 96 or 192, but you save a little bit of storage space by not going crazy.

Hope this helps.