Sample Rate and Bit Depth: How File Quality Affects Your Sound


In this article, I’ll go through everything you should know to get the proper sample rate and bit depth right every time.

What’s the sample rate?

Sample rate or sampling rate is the variety of digital snapshots taken per second in an audio file by an analog-to-digital-converter just like the one in your audio interface.

If that sounds complicated, I’ll break it down to fundamentals.

An analog sign like one that comes from a microphone or instrument is a continuous waveform. It takes the type of altering electrical voltage that represents the sound wave itself.

To store it as a digital file your ADC takes thousands of particular person measurements of the sign—enough to perfectly reconstruct it when it’s time to play it back.

The sampling rate is the precise variety of measurements taken in one second. It’s measured in Hertz so it may be expressed as a frequency.

What’s bit depth?

Bit depth is the precision of the measurements taken with every snapshot.

Consider the analog sign from a microphone coming into an audio interface. The analog-to-digital converter has to measure it 48,000 times in case your pattern rate is set to 48 kHz.

The bit depth defines the variety of tick marks on the ruler used to measure the level of the incoming signal.

The extra places to mark the level, the extra precise the quantity will be!

Today the commonest bit depth choices you’ll see are 16 and 24-bit recording. 32-bit choices are additionally available in some situations, however, I’ll get to that within the subsequent part.

How do you set the sample rate and bit depth?

Generally, the higher you set the sample rate and bit depth, the greater the quality of audio info.

At the moment’s DAWs and audio interfaces mainly provide settings for CD quality and above. Since there aren’t many restrictions on storage or processing nowadays, there’s no reason to not use a high-quality file sort.

Even so, tremendous high sample rates like 96 kHz or greater enhance the size of your audio file lots. Regardless of the additional size, you might not hear a big distinction in audio quality.

24 bit, 48 kHz is an effective balance between quality and file size, in order that’s what I recommend for many producers.

However, if working at the next sample rate sounds better to you and your music production computer can deal with it—go for it!

Hot tip: 32-bit audio is a choice in some DAWs, together with Ableton Live. The majority of audio interfaces can solely record 24-bit files, so this selection largely applies to audio created from virtual instruments contained in the DAW itself. You might discover utilizing 32-bit audio improves your outcomes, so feel free to make use of it—but it’s not strictly crucial!

What happens once you change the sample rate or bit depth?

Altering the sample rate and bit depth of your audio materials has some consequences you need to try to keep away from.

Actually, when you’ve chosen a sample rate and bit depth it’s greatest not to change all of it!

It’s greatest to maintain your high-quality file sort although via manufacturing till the end of the mastering process.

That’s why getting it proper at the start is so vital. However, in case you’ve been following along so far, you won’t have a lot to worry about at 24 bit / 48 kHz.

Nonetheless, altering file sorts in both directions creates some points—right here’s what I imply:


Moving from an excessive sample rate to a low sample rate is known as downsampling

Some info should be removed from the file for it to slot in a smaller format. Once that gets thrown away, it’s gone forever—that’s why it’s greatest to keep away from downsampling until the last step.

Regardless of that, downsampling is likely to be essential to get to the final format needed for your release. This usually occurs when a launch comes out on CD, which requires 16 bit 44.1 kHz audio.

When done properly, there’s nothing wrong with downsampling, nevertheless, it’s better to maintain the full resolution of your manufacturing format until it’s time to deliver completed files.


Upsampling means transferring from a lower sample rate to a higher sample rate. Sadly, there’s no method to add again info that wasn’t there in the first place. Upsampling won’t result in a better quality file.

There are some digital processes that may make it attainable to represent audio info at a higher sample rate, however, there’s little benefit to doing it.

In fact, don’t bother upsampling your audio files until absolutely crucial.

Sample and hold

Sample rate and bit depth are primary qualities of digital audio.

What may seem like an easy preference in your project settings is definitely a fundamental quality of the files you work with.

That’s why it’s vital to understand the way it works and impacts your sound.

When you’ve made it via this article you’ll have a fantastic beginning on sample rate and bit depth.

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