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How exactly do computers handle different sample rates? (44.1KHz + 48KHz simultaneously)

post #1 of 4
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I've been curious for a while and haven't had luck finding a clear definitive answer while googling around, so I've come here.

Here is the main question, followed by some others below.
Do sound cards have anything like a fixed/native sample rate similar in concept to how LCD screens have a fixed amount of pixels?

If so, why are music CDs sampled at 44100Hz when most sound cards are 48000Hz or a multiple of it? Wouldn't this force resampling on music during playback and lead to a loss in quality? If that is the case, how noticeable would said degradation be? Unfortunately if it does degrade the quality, it looks like it will for a very long time, since the LCM between the two appears to be 7,056,000Hz and I haven't seen a card for sale anywhere near that.

If they don't, and can in fact playback any of the supported rates perfectly, can they do different ones together simultaneously? Or just one rate at a time with resampling the different rates to the output set for playback? For example playing back some music from a CD and a 48KHz source at the same time. Would they both play perfectly, or would one of them always be getting sampled based on your output setting?

Also, is there any reason to be outputting at 192KHz sample rate if you aren't using 192KHz sources? Will overlapping sound effects (like game sounds, multiple people connecting to a VOIP Server, etc) of lower sample rates benefit from higher output rates at all?
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post #2 of 4
Sound cards don't have a fixed sample rate. O_o Windows can have multiple, different sampled audio streams playing at once without any ill effects. Whether re-sampling/down-sampling is being used is a good question...
Edited by DVLux - 1/11/15 at 8:39am
post #3 of 4
You can look at a lo-rez gif on a high rez monitor, it's still going to be a lo rez gif.

This has been on my computer since some time in 1994:



It doesn't look any better than it did back then. And you can view it at the same time as this, but the quality of the first image will not improve:



Sure, that's not the same thing at all, but you get the point?

Sound used to be processed directly by sound cards, which did have many limitations and problems, but since DirectSound in DirectX, now Universal Audio Architecture, your computer handles the mixing and processing of various sound... but every now and then Creative or someone else tries to come up with aftermarket hardware accelerated DSP/DAC that really isn't very necessary for most people who aren't audiophiles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Audio_Architecture
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post #4 of 4
AFAIK, whatever sound driver you use just resamples everything to match the DAC.

The quality probably varies from driver to driver, but in general they use fast, CPU light resampling algorithms, so you do use a little quality. There was a resampling demo somewhere... I'll have to find it.


Almost everything is 44.1khz these days, some videos are 48khz. I think it's best to set the soundcard at 44.1khz, then let your media player resample all video to 44.1 using a better algorithm.
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