Whatâ€™s â€œsample rate?â€ Â â€œBit Depth?â€
A digital audio signal is defined by these two parameters â€“ the sample rate is essentially how many times per second a digital converter takes a â€œsnapshotâ€ of your audio â€“ a 44.1khz signal means that 44100 times in a second, a section of the incoming or outgoing signal is converted. Â The bit depth is the detail of that snapshot, represented by a binary value of the size specified by the bit depth: a 16-bit audio sample is represented by a number between -32,768 and +32,768. Â A 24-bit signal is +-8,388,608.
Okay, great. Â So what does that mean, really?
The sampling rate defines the frequency that can be reproduced â€“ the â€œNyquist frequencyâ€ is one-half the sampling rate, so the maximum frequency a CD can reproduce is 22khz, or about 2khz higher than humans can hear (at the best of times, most of us top off at around 17khz). Â Bit depth is the resolution, and subsequently the â€œdetail.â€ Â Higher bit depths mean higher possible dynamic ranges, lower noise floors, etc.