Best Sample Rate and Audio Bit Depth for Recording Projects

b.) The music production bit depth and sample rate SHOULD be higher than the 16-bit/44.1KHz. Why; to get benefits of higher fidelity, more headroom in the audio, more “content” in the digital audio that results to “true to life” quality.

c.) This music production bit depth should be implemented started at the tracking, mixing and mastering sessions.

d.) The final result of the mastering session which is the production master should be in 16-bit/44.1KHz.

Final Recommendations for Optimal Bit depth and Sample rate

It makes sense that the best sample rate and bit depth for recording SHOULD be above 16-bit/44.1Khz BUT below 192 KHz and 32-bit float. You then have the following recommendations:

a.) 24-bit/48 KHz- recommended for TV, film and high-fidelity recording projects.
b.) 24-bit/96Khz – recommended for DVD and big recording projects.
c.) 24-bit/44.1KHz – recommended for usual recording projects, this saves the most hard drive space in your computer.

If your DAW has lots of hard drive space and you are not worried about saving large files, then use 24-bit/96KHz in your recording sessions. If your DAW is limited of hard drive size and you are planning to reduce the file sizes of your recording sessions while retaining reasonable quality, then you can record at 24-bit/48KHz or even 24-bit/44.1KHz.

This recording bit depth and sample rate is initiated at the recording/tracking session. After recording, all the tracks are forwarded for mixing. Then the audio mixing engineers will work on the “same” sample rate and bit depth used in tracking. Finally when the mix down as created, the sample rate and bit depth is still the same.

At the mastering session, the mastering engineer will be working on the same sample rate/bit depth used in the tracking and mixing. However the final product should be 16-bit/44.1KHz. The audio mastering engineer will apply dithering and sample rate conversion to reduce the bit depth from 24-bit to 16-bit as well as reduce the sample rate to 44.1KHz. You can visualize it as follows:

Bit depth and Sample rate used in music production projects

Bit depth and Sample rate used in music production projects

What if you have recorded at lower bit depth and sample rate than what is recommended? Of course, you cannot scrap directly the recordings particularly if the artist performance is brilliant. It is indeed very hard to re-record and to have that artist performed at the same level of charisma, etc as before particularly for lead vocals. In this case, you can implement audio upsampling techniques. However bear in mind that tracking at higher bit depth/sample rate is still recommended compared to up-sampling.

Content last updated on July 21, 2012