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More feedback on high sampling rate recordings.

We’re continuing to get lots of questions about the benefits (or lack thereof) of high sampling rates in DAW systems. Particularly now that Pro Tools has jumped in with their HD hardware more and more people are trying to decide if it’s worth it to upgrade to something that can record at 96 kHz (or higher).

We had done some testing a couple of years ago and found the results largely inconclusive. Unfortunately there are enough variables in such a test that they’re almost all inconclusive by nature. Recently we’ve begun more testing (see below) and are finding that, in some instances, there’s some pretty compelling evidence to suggest that some of this new hardware really does sound better. Perhaps it is just a matter of higher quality converters (and other gear) revealing differences that couldn’t be picked up easily a few years ago, or perhaps higher sampling rates really do sound better. It almost doesn’t matter what the reason is. If it sounds better, we want it. Right?

Two Sweetwater Sales Engineers, Dan Hoeye, and Shawn Parr, recently did a shootout with some of our friends at the University of Illinois. Their findings, which are admittedly subjective (as everything in audio seems to be), are posted below in their words.

Dan Hoeye and myself vanned our way to Urbana/Champaign Illinois and spent a day with a Symphony Orchestra, the Sinfonia da Camera, along with the Oratorio Society at the U of I testing out the quality of Pro Tools|HD. It was a very successful weekend, and everyone learned a lot.

We configured a Pro Tools system with two192 I/O interfaces with extra192 A/D cards for a total of 24 channels of input. We ran 21 mics into their Amek BCIII console, and took the prefade outputs directly into ProTools. We sent a mixed return back so that we could easily flip between the Amek mix and the ProTools mix on the Amek through their Meyer HD-1 monitors. We set up identical mixes in both the analog and digital worlds, and went to town!

We were successful in recording the 21 tracks across 3 SCSI drives at 192 kHz, 96 kHz, and 48 kHz. We then attempted to answer the following questions:

1. Does 192 kHz sound any different/better than 96 or 48?
2. If so, is there an advantage to recording at 192 and delivering at 48 or 44.1 (by downsampling)?
And we ended up finding out that the answers are:
1. YES!! And it isn’t as subtle as one might think.
2. Yes, although that ends up very subtle.

Next week we will set up the sessions in an intelligent manner so we can all check it out in more detail here. That way we can allow anyone to sit down and listen, and discover that we all need this system!

– Shawn Parr

Testing of this type is always in process here at Sweetwater, so if you ever want to talk to someone who has really checked the stuff out just call your favorite Sweetwater Sales Engineer. We’ve also done some eye opening listening tests using the new HD hardware at different sample rates comparing it to the older (888 style) hardware on different systems.

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