Do Sampling Rate Matter for Sound Design?

Do Sampling Rate Matter for Sound Design?

The short and simple answer

Yes. Sample rates are very important for certain sound design tasks. Why? Imagine you want to do some slow-motion SFX, or low pitched down sounds. If you try to pitch sounds down at 44.1 kHz, it will sound awful. The audio won't maintain its fidelity. Why is that? One audible reason is that you'll lose very much of the higher frequencies when doing so. If you pitch down a recording at 44.1 kHz by 90%, you will end up with a recording that has lost all its top-end; everything above 2 kHz is gone. If you pitch down a recording at 192 kHz by 90%, you'll still maintain the fidelity and keep the high-end above the human audible frequencies (20K). This is the short answer to why it sounds better when you pitch down samples at a higher sampling rate. If you want more info, keep reading.

What is sample rate?

The sample rate is the number of samples taken per second. Here's a list of the pro-level audio sampling rates that are currently being used throughout the sound design community:

  • 44.1 kHz (Minimum Quality)
  • 48 kHz (Medium Quality)
  • 96 kHz (Good Quality)
  • 192 kHz (Superb Quality)
The number of samples per second is the sampling rate (Picture credit: Mastering The Mix).

There's also another parameter that plays a vital role when capturing sounds. Bit-depth.

What is bit-depth?

The bit-depth determines the number of amplitude values we can record for each sample. The higher the bit-depth, the higher the dynamic range we can achieve. Take a look at the list below; it shows the dynamic range we get from each value:

  • 16-Bit = 96dB of dynamic range
  • 24-Bit = 144dB of dynamic range
  • 32-Bit = 192dB of dynamic range

Why is this important in the real world? Let's say you're about to record something that suddenly goes from quiet to very loud; a high bit-depth can be very beneficial. Let's say you're recording a motorcycle pass by at 16-bit. During the pass by, you realize that you've set your levels too high; as a result, the audio distorts. If you had chosen to record the motorcycle at 32-bit float, it wouldn't have mattered that you passed 0dB on your meter. You could just lower the volume later in post and still keep all fidelity. Pretty nice, right? This is a real-world example of why higher bit-depth is very beneficial for sound designers.

The bit-depth determines the number of amplitude values we can record for each sample. (Picture credit: Mastering The Mix).

Conclusion

The sample rate matters for sound designers; however, this might not be very important for musicians and music producers alike. If you're an upcoming sound designer or just interested in learning more about sound I thank you for reading this article, and I hope you found it easy to read and easy to learn from.