Why Windows 7 Audio Sample Rate Should Be 44.1 kHz For Most Music Listening

Try this experiment to hear for yourself.

  1. Set your Windows speaker output to 48 kHz: Go to the “Manage Audio Devices” control panel. In the control panel click on “Speakers”, select Properties, Advanced, and choose 16 or 24 bit, 48000 Hz.
  2. Play this audio test tone from Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGlCdZ0j2FQ
    It's a sine wave so it should sound very pure. If the sound is too low to hear at first skip ahead a bit.
  3. Now set the Windows speaker output to 44100 Hz (16 or 24 bit).
  4. Play the test tone again.

What's Happening?

Most MP3 music files, Youtube videos, and streaming audio web sites contain audio sampled at 44.1 kHz. When your Windows 7 speaker output is set to 48 kHz software must convert the sample rate. Software under Win 7 usually does a poor job of sample rate conversion, introducing distortion and digital noise.

Audio sounds cleanest when there is no sample rate conversion, so setting your Windows 7 speaker output to the same sample rate as most of the audio you listen to will sound best.

Note that DVDs usually contain audio sampled at 48 kHz, while Blu-ray may contain a wide variety of audio sample rates. If you want to keep using 48 kHz and make the SoundWire Server warning go away, set the environment variable SOUNDWIRE_SERVER_NOWARN_48K to 1 on your Windows 7 PC.

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