Which sample rate and bit depth should you use for your recordings? In the music world the standard settings are a sample rate of 44.1kHz with a 24-bit word length. This is the same sample rate as for CDs and the bit depth is high enough to capture a huge dynamic range (approximately 144dB). However, engineers with golden ears maintain that there is an advantage to recording at higher sample rates, right up to 192kHz. These ‘super audio’ settings allow us to capture frequencies as high as 96kHz, way higher than the 22kHz theoretical highest on CDs.
Whether this is a real improvement on standard settings is a debate that’s been raging for many years, but if you decide to super-size your sample rate there are a few things to bear in mind. You will be making four times as many samples per second, so audio recorded at 192kHz will occupy four times as much disk space than at 44.1kHz. Can your hard drive actually supply data at this higher rate, especially when running a 32-track master mix? If not, then you need to run a fast solid state drive or a RAID system to keep up.
The load on your CPU will be quadrupled too, presenting four times as many samples for the same audio. Inevitably you’ll need a fast modern computer to cope – an expensive proposition! On balance, our advice is this: it’s more likely that you will improve the quality of your recordings by focusing on microphone techniques, high quality monitoring, better instruments and better recorded performances than increasing your sample rate above 44.1kHz.