Sample rate question

Hello Everyone,

I am new to Audacity and to this forum as well, so please bear with me if I ask trivial questions.
My question is about the relationship between the maximum sample rate of 384000 of Audacity and the sample rate of the sound card.
I am using a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop and suspect that its sound card has got a maximum sample rate of 96000.

My question is whether anybody knows for sure what is the sample rate of the sound card of this laptop (or how to find it out). This may sound strange but I have been googling this issue for some hours and just can not find it. I get all kinds of specs for this laptop except for the sample rate of the sound card…

The other question is whether it would have any meaning to use the maximum sample rate of Audacity when the real sample rate of the sound card is much lower?
If I record something through the sound card, it can not have a sample rate higher than its hardware limitation, which in my case seems to be 96000?

Thanks for any input on this.

I’m not sure how to find out what the hardware supports. Part of the “problem” is that the driver can do sample rate conversion and feed sample rates into Windows & the application that the hardware doesn’t directly support. (It’s actually a feature of Windows… i.e. ANY soundcard can play a WAV file with ANY standard/valid sample rate, and your screen doesn’t have to match the resolution of the picture you are looking at, etc.)

The other question is whether it would have any meaning to use the maximum sample rate of Audacity when the real sample rate of the sound card is much lower?

CDs are 16-bit/44.1kHz and they are better than human hearing. If you take “high resolution” recording and downsample it to 16/44.1 (or 16/48) you won’t hear any difference (in a proper, scientific blind listening test). If you go too far, say to 8-bits/8kHz, you get “telephone quality”.

The standard for professional recording is 24-bit/96kHz. With 24-bits (and good low-noise equipment), the" extra bits" can be used to record at lower volumes, allowing extra headroom for unexpected loud peaks during recording. (For playback, you don’t want that much headroom.) The usefulness of 96kHz is questionable, but it is the standard and most pros think it’s better (and most pros haven’t taken the time to do a proper blind listening test).

I am using a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop

I assume you are talking about recording? For high-quality recording, I wouldn’t use the soundcard/soundchip built-into a laptop. The line-input on a desktop computer is often adequate, but most laptops only have microphone-in and headphone-out. The mic input on a consumer soundcard is incompatible with any good studio/performance mic, which will be low-impedance balanced with an XLR connector. Plus, most computer mic inputs are low-quality (noisy) and mono. And, studio condenser mics require 48V phantom power, which a soundcard does not supply.

For high quality recording, you can get an external USB audio interface. If you are recording from microphones, places that sell musical instruments and recording equipment usually high-quality interfaces. (You don’t usually find these things at computer stores or audio/video stores.)

The answer is also somewhat different according to your version of Windows. Please see the pink panel at the top of this page.

You typically won’t be able to find out a sound card’s specifcation from the computer manufacturer. They (or the motherboard manufacturer) are likely to have paid a few cents for the sound card. :wink:

Look in Help > Audio Device Info… top right of Audacity and look at the Windows DirectSound entries. If the highest rate is under 192000, you can be fairly sure that highest rate is correct (assuming the device is reporting itself correctly). Ignore the rates under MME- they are misleading.

If you are on Windows Vista or later, you can also right-click over the speaker icon by the system clock, then choose “Recording Devices”. Right-click over the device you are concerned about and choose “Properties”. Then click the “Advanced” tab and look in “Default Format”. You can repeat the operation for playback by clicking OK on “Advanced” and then the “Playback” tab.


Thanks DVDdoug and Gale for the valuable information and the clear explanation.
After a lot of digging found a specification list of my laptop that contains information about the sample rate of the built in soundcard. I hope it is correct and here is the link to it:

It says “Min/Max Sample Rate: 44100, 96000”. Based on DVDdoug’s explanation this would mean that the chip itself is capable to produce CD quality and handle the best microphone that has got a compatible microphone-in plug. But these microphones are still not studio quality, so they are the limiting factor, not the sound chip and its sample rate. If I would want high quality recording, the external studio interface with condenser microphone would be necessary. But the sample rate of the sound chip and driver is sufficient for studio quality recordings.

I am using Windows XP (3G RAM) because this is the most stable windows that is still gentle on memory and processor requirements, which is an issue with this old laptop. So if I would need to switch to a newer windows version then I would have to buy a new laptop or PC.

In the Audio Device Info the highest value under Windows DirectSound entries is 192000.
To summarize my present understanding: Audacity offers 384000 as the highest sample rate which is very useful to minimize distortions when performing calculations and transformations of the tracks. The sound driver’s highest sample rate is 192000, but the chip itself can handle only 96000.

So the usefulness of the higher than 96k sample rate of the driver and Audacity manifests only to facilitate multiple mathematical transformations of the track with minimal distortion (calculation errors). But the chip’s limitation will make it impossible to produce the 384k or even 192k quality as sound output or input. The high resolution tracks though, may be transferred to other PC’s with better sound card capabilities that could use the benefit of this extra high sample rate.
Did I understand it correctly?

No that’s not correct. Super high sample rates offer no sound quality improvements for audio. Sample rates above 96 kHz are likely to produce lower sound quality than more sensible rates. Generally the best quality results will come from using the sample rate of the final product - for example, for CD, use 44100 Hz or for DVD use 48000 Hz (assuming that is supported by the hardware).

Thanks Steve for correcting the misunderstanding.
Why would the sample rates above 96 KHz produce lower sound quality?
So the 384000 sample rate in Audacity is intended to be used only by those who have got devices and perhaps sound card that can handle this resolution?
Which devices have got such enormous sample rate?

It may seem odd that high sample rates make things worse, but you may want to read that argues that case. It’s about reproducing equipment not being able to handle ultrasonics, and about the risk of recording dropouts due to the much greater volume of data the computer has to handle when recording at high rates.

Audacity’s 384000 Hz support is targeted at specialist cases like recording of animals that produce ultrasonics. High rates may have applications in software-defined radio where wider bandwidth means you can simultaneously receive multiple channels.


What is the processor speed? 1 GHz is the minimum requirement for Windows 8. Windows 8 is relatively lightweight compared to Windows 7 and especially compared to Vista, so latest Windows may not be too bad at 1 GHz.

However a slow computer would be another reason for not using high sample rates.

I’m not trying to sell you Windows - you could also try a lightweight version of Linux which is free. But you should be concerned about the system not being patched by Microsoft for security issues.

Hmm, if your maximum hardware rate is 96000 Hz then the Windows DirectSound rates in Audio Device Info are as misleading as those for MME. They are just listing the Audacity rates limited to 192000 Hz because that is the maximum for Windows DirectSound.


Thanks Gale for the link to the excellent article. It really drills down to the core of the subject.

The processor of my laptop is: AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor TK-53, MMX, 3DNow (2 CPUs), ~1.7GHz. I am sure Windows 8 would run on it but I suppose it would be slower than the XP and would use more disk space and memory as well. I was thinking about switching to Linux for security reasons, but since I use many Windows based software which are not available for Linux, it is a no go for now. The solution will be to buy a new machine and then that will handle the bulky software.

I suppose that the maximum 192kHz rate for the Windows DirectSound is displayed because the laptop uses the sigmatel audio stac9200 codec which handles the 192kHz rate. Here is the page with the specifications:

That was one of my main concerns when I first switched to Linux.
How I resolved it was to install Linux as a “dual boot” option. I didn’t have enough free space on my hard drive to do this, so I added a small second-hand hard drive (cost less than $10) and installed Linux alongside my XP system. With “dual boot” there is a menu that pops up at the start of the boot process that provides an option to boot into the old Windows system or the new Linux system. After a while I found that with all of the excellent free software available for Linux, I didn’t need Windows at all.

I still disagree that Linux provides as great a range of quality applications outside those provided by the distro of Linux that you are using, as I just posted elsewhere. Many third-party apps look to me like they are designed out of cardboard with a considerable shortage of features.

Of course I may simply not have the patience to experiment, but finding quality interface apps is far easier on Windows IMO.

You may be able to run some Windows apps on Linux using WINE ( ) .


I doubt it would be slower. Windows XP is slowed down by so much running continuously behind the scenes as background services, whereas later Windows has moved many of those services to scheduled tasks that only run when needed.

Windows 8 is faster than XP for me, running the same hardware. I do have 6 GB RAM and 2.4 GHz, but only 2 GB RAM is absolutely essential for my purposes (I don’t run games).

XP is a bit quicker than Windows 7 on that same hardware, but I have fewer apps installed on it than on Windows 7.


The distro that I am using is Debian.

“Debian comes with over 37500 packages (precompiled software that is bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine) — all of it free.”

Linux is still a bit short on games, though even that is changing rapidly.

Compared to several million programs for Windows, by most counts.


Steve, the dual boot option is a good idea. But perhaps even better just to get another laptop or PC and use the one on the internet with Linux and the other with Windows. This way many problems will be solved. Just needs a bit of investments.

Thanks Gale for comparing the speed of the Windows versions. I have experienced how slow, bulky, and awkward Vista was, and got the impression that the newer a windows version is the more hardware it requires to run with acceptable speed. Now that you mention that Windows 8 is even faster than XP this picked my curiosity. I may try to install Windows 8 and see how it performs. The only thing that keeps me hesitating is that I have got so many programs installed that it would take days to reinstall them all and get the laptop back to a similar state as it is now.

If you go down that route you need not be limited to using a lightweight Linux distribution. Linux Mint (“Cinnamon” version) is a very popular choice for first time Linux users. (

Windows 7 and especially 8 have much more security built in under the hood than XP, just as later OS X and Linux do. For Windows 8 I have not even bothered to change the Windows Firewall and “Windows Defender” AntiVirus that comes with the OS, except to keep another anti-virus app for a second opinion.

Of course if the user looks for certain types of site or pirated media, they will probably still find a virus.

I don’t know if your app versions are all up-to-date, but a new OS is often a good excuse to update one’s favourite apps.


Thanks for the suggestion.
Is Linux Mint better than the Debian and Ubuntu?
The more variations of the Linux are created the harder the choice which one to use…

You are certainly spoilt for choice in which version of Linux to choose.

I do use Ubuntu for testing Audacity. Ubuntu is OK if you have a powerful enough machine as you do and has a good help community. You may want to turn off the Amazon advertisements in the “Dash” (the place where you type something like the name of the application you are trying to launch). Windows 8 has a similar search where you may want to turn off the Bing advertisements, but at least you don’t get the ads when you are just trying to find an app to launch.

Debian is a bit more “geeky”. The “stable” release is very slow to update compared to its “unstable” and “testing” branches. If you get the “stable” release you will have an outdated version of Audacity 2.0.1.

Personally I would not recommend Linux Mint from my experience. There have been a number of issues reported here with their Audacity packages.


Mint and Ubuntu are both derived from Debian.
Personally I prefer Debian, but I’ve been using Linux for a few years now so I know my way round it.
Both Ubuntu and Mint tend to be easier to install and set up. Mint in particular is often said to be very friendly for new Linux users. My better half has recently moved from Windows to Linux Mint and loves it. My “support requests” have decreased since she moved to Linux :wink: