You Ask, We Answer: High Res Audio

Is it For You?
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I KEEP HEARING THAT 24-BIT, 96KHZ MEDIA WILL BE “THE NEXT BIG THING.” I RECORD AT 16/44.1 BUT MY DAW CAN DO 24/96 IF I CHANGE THE PREFERENCES. SHOULD I DO THIS TO “FUTURE-PROOF” MY SONGS?

MATTHEW RAWSON
TORONTO, CANADA
VIA-EMAIL

You typically set resolution in a program’s Preferences file, or when you create a new project. Clockwise from top left: Cakewalk Sonar, Steinberg Cubase, Sony Vegas, and Ableton Live. All are being set to 96 kHz. Regardless of whether 24/96 gains traction, if you record at higher resolutions, you can always convert to lower resolutions. Although you can convert 16/44.1 to 24/96, you won’t gain any extra quality—just compatibility.

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However, selecting 24/96 isn’t “free.” File sizes are more than three times bigger than 16/44.1 files, so you need more storage space. Higher sample rates stress out your computer more and reduce the amount of audio you can stream with audio interfaces. Given today’s powerful computers, this won’t matter in most projects, but could be a deal breaker if you have high track counts or need to record lots of signal sources simultaneously. Further muddying the waters, rigorously conducted studies are inconclusive about whether people can hear a difference with audio recorded at higher sample rates.

Ultimately, if your system is up to the task, there are no major downsides to recording at higher resolutions other than what’s noted above, and those limitations will become less relevant in the future as computers become more powerful and Thunderbolt becomes part of more studios. But we do recommend that you at least record with 24-bit resolution, as many people notice improved quality compared to 16 bits.
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