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Dynamic range and sample rate explained | Learning Center


The most common and prominent specs you will see on most digital audio devices are Bit depth and Sampling rate.

It will look something like this: 16-Bit/44.1-kHZ or 24-bit / 96-kHz etc...

The bit figure has to do with the dynamic Range and the kHZ   with the sampling rate. Let's start with the sampling rate.


44.1kHZ simply mean that your Digital audio device has taken roughly 44000 samples of a sound in one second. It is the resolution of your audio. You could compare this to the resolution of an image in pixels per inches.


The ‘bit' number is the dynamic range of the audio. The dynamic range is the difference between the loudest possible part of a sound and the lowest possible noise. Dynamic range is measured in dB and for every bit depth increase you gain 6db of dynamic range so for example the dynamic range of a CD is 96dB because the audio was encoded at the depth of 16 Bit.


In digital terms the bit depth is the number of volume increments of sound taken at a given moment in time, This means that at 16 Bit there are 65,536 subdivisions between the quietest and the loudest part of the sound.


What resolution should I choose for my recording?


Most modern digital recorders and computer audio interfaces give you the option of selecting between 16-Bit/44.1-kHZ, 24-bit / 96-kHz or even more. Obviously you want to choose the highest number but consider the following issues:


- Higher resolutions take up more memory space :

A one-minute 24/96 stereo recording (2 tracks) will take 33 megabytes of memory space, 16/44 would take up 10 megs.


- Reproduction:

Audio delivery at high resolution is still limited to systems like DVD audio of Hi Def radio and only if you have a audio component with the adequate digital converter.   CD's cannot be recorded higher than 16/44.


- Processing:

Projects with large numbers of audio tracks at higher resolution will require much more computer processing power when applying real time processes thru software like EQ, compression etc..



If your entire song was recorded at 24/96 it will have to be digitally dithered down to 16/44 in order to be delivered in a CD form. All modern DAW software will perform this process with very little artifacts. However in the professional audio mastering world, the dithering process is usually avoided by going analog out 24/96 to analog in 16/44 (with very high quality digital converters .


My personal view:

Well, if you have the memory and the horse-power, by all means, record at 24/96 it will sound better, mostly for recording quiet and delicate things that require the most dynamic range to avoid noise.


Keep in mind than the final result of your recording is only as good as the weakest link in your equipment. If you have less than adequate microphones, preamps or converters, you might not take advantage of the full benefits of higher resolution.

Statistically, these days, most music is being downloaded and listened with compressed audio file (MP3) and it seems that most people are satisfied with the quality of their portable devices.

In general terms, the choice between 16/44 and 24/96 for a loud rock band recording is not as critical as it is to choose the resolution to capture a chamber orchestra performance in a very quiet room.



Eric Warlaumont 09/02/2010





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