I was asked today via email whether all the hoopla about whether the 96khz sample rate is of use to any recording musician. As we all know the standard for CD quality sound is perfectly fine at 44.1Khz so why would you go so much higher…and is it important to chase down audio gear that can record at these higher rates?
The interesting thing is that while the recording equipment has become ultra high quality over the years, the methods for playing popular music back has gotten far worse. A whole generation has grown up with sub-par MP3 at low bit rates and listened to their favorite music over cheap and nasty earbuds (thanks Apple!)
So in relation to all of these reasons, why would you want to record at a higher sample rates and bit depths like 24bit?
It all comes down to how carefully you set your recording levels. If you set them high where they are close to but do not clip then you’ll have great recordings. But if you use higher bit depths and rates you can afford to not to get so close to peaking your levels.
It’s like digital photos. Back in the day when we only had VGA equivalent resolutions, we would never thing of taking a far away picture and then just zoom in later. You’d get a result like the photo above.
In today’s mega-megapixel cameras, you don’t have to worry about getting too close to your subject as you have so much resolution, you can easily zoom in without getting a blocky image like this.
I’m not saying that good photo composition is now passe…it’s just that you can “fix it in the mix” much more now.
Same thing with high sample rates and big bit depths like 24 bit. Take care setting your levels, but with these higher bit depths you don’t have to sweat amping up those audio files as much. I’ve never been a big fan of normalization because it always seemed to be the mark of a lazy engineer. But like most things as technology advances…you can now get away with less skill than the old dog’s used to have to use.
The moral of the story…if your gear uses high sample rate and big bit depths…smoke ’em if you got ’em! But having said that, don’t look down at the 16 bit, 44.k standard that we’ve been enjoying for a couple decades. It worked fine for a billion CDs sold over the years. It’ll be fine for you.