Sample rate, and the myth of accuracy

6 comments

Hometracked has an interesting article on optimal sample rates at which to record.

Des McKinney writes:

The optimal sample rate at which to record is a matter of considerable debate. Proponents of recording at sample rates above 44.1 KHz typically claim that the higher frequencies yield greater detail. And while there’s a tradeoff – tracks recorded at 96 KHz need more than twice the storage space of those captured at 44 KHz – we’re assured that the increased detail means listeners hear more accurate recordings.

Don’t believe it. In recorded sound, accuracy is a myth.

Sample rateSamples per second defines the sampling rate. (© Graham Mitchell)

Des argues that mixing engineers strive to achieve transparency in mixes, in place of perfect accuracy. A mix should sound good on every system (studio monitors, stereo systems, iPod ear buds), not perfect on just one.

Read the article to see why Des thinks recording at sample rates above 44.1 KHz is only for few people.

On a similar note, check this article by Tweakheadz discussing 16 vs. 24-bit audio recording.

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6 Comments on "Sample rate, and the myth of accuracy"

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Looza
Looza
I think this is total bull and works only if you do not edit/pitch/modify those recorded tracks at all. Two reasons : 1. Resolution of high frequencies. Take white noise (the real white one, not pink or brown noise), use any Filter-VST (Crayon-Filter for example), set your DAW to 44.1 and slowly close the filter on the white noise. Now set your DAW to 96 or whatever is the highest you can do and close the filter again, compare. The result should be very obvious. The point of all this : if you are fiddling around with higher frequencies in… Read more »
Looza
Looza

Note to 1. : With crayon filter and the white noise, if you set it at 44.1 khz there should be a very visible “break” where your noise (or any other sample) suddenly gets much darker/filtered because with 44.1khz a proper smooth filtering can be achieved only from around 11khz downward.

Des
Des

Re: “I think this is total bull”

You raise good points, Looza, but in fairness, my article deals more with the myth that higher sample rates “sound” more accurate. To quote myself, “some audiophiles claim that recordings lacking these very high frequencies are less accurate. In this context, accuracy is a myth.”

Sure, 96KHz gives you more information to work with, which might be important for filtering/pitching/whatever. But that’s a separate issue from the old saw that high sample rates simply sound better because they capture higher frequencies.

Cheers.

Looza
Looza
First of all, sorry for the rude tone, I had a hangover including a headache and was in a quite bad mood. Instead of commenting on blogs on the internet I should have watched a DVD to calm down or something. I apologize. In term of “sound more accurate” I think this might be true for those classic examples of hihats and cymbals. Those are instruments with a very complex frequency range and I have to say that some of the battery-included cymbals which are sampled at 96/24 sound abit brighter and more sizzling than the other 44/16 ones I… Read more »
Aetmos
Aetmos
The important part about recording at higher sample rates isn’t really because some people can sense >20kHz Frequencies. Even if they could, most microphones aren’t sensitive to these frequencies, so it becomes a mute point. When viewed on a spectrogram, most recordings at 96kHz are pretty empty between 20kHz and 48kHz. The most important reason for sampling at >44.1kHz, aside from pitch-shifting and other processing, is that a lowpass smoothing filter has to be placed at the Nyquist frequency in order to eliminate aliasing. As with all filters, the steeper the slope, the more it causes phase anomalies, especially near… Read more »
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