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What is sample rate?

Jan 31, 2023 3 min read

Thomas K. Tobias
I like words.

In this blog, you will learn what sample rate is and how to choose the fitting sample rate for your audio recordings.  

What is sample rate?

Sample rate in audio refers to the number of samples of a sound source recorded or played back per second.

For modern recording, we represent analog sound sources digitally.

With the sample rate, we decide how often we take a sample of the analog signal, e.g., x samples per sec, represented in Hz (1/s).

The most common sample rates in professional audio are 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz, but higher sample rates such as 96 kHz or 192 kHz, can also be used.

The higher the sample rate, the more accurately the digital representation of the audio will match the original sound. However, it also means larger file sizes and more processing power required for playback.

What sample rate is best for recording?

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, I consistently find that 48 kHz is a great choice for most applications. Here are 4 reasons why:

  1. Adequate audio quality: 48 kHz provides a high enough frequency response to capture a wide range of sounds, including speech and music. 
  2. Video compatibility: Recording your audio at 48 kHz will ensure you can use it for video projects.
  3. Wide compatibility: Most of your digital devices will be able to run at 48 kHz. This makes it a safe choice if you want to ensure compatibility and interoperability with other equipment or people working with audio compared to even higher sample rates.
  4. Resource-efficiency: Recording at higher sample rates, such as 96 kHz or even 192 kHz, can become expensive due to increased storage. 48 kHz strikes a balance between quality and cost-effectiveness, making it a cost-effective solution for most recording projects. The impact of recording using higher sample rates is negligible for most audio applications.
  5. Playback standard: Not many playback systems even support higher sample rates than 48 kHz. Also, since we nowadays consume a lot of our video, music, and podcasts via streaming platforms, they will be compressed anyways. Your 96 kHz recordings will most likely only be heard by a very small group of audiophiles.

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