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Updated 21/11/2012Home » Video Glossary » Sample rate

Sample rate

The sampling rate, sample rate, or sampling frequency defines the number of samples per unit of time (usually seconds) taken from a continuous signal to make a discrete signal. For time-domain signals, the unit for sampling rate is hertz (inverse seconds, 1/s, s1), sometimes noted as Sa/s (samples per second). The inverse of the sampling frequency is the sampling period or sampling interval, which is the time between samples.

The NyquistShannon sampling theorem states that perfect reconstruction of a signal is possible when the sampling frequency is greater than twice the maximum frequency of the signal being sampled, or equivalently, when the Nyquist frequency (half the sample rate) exceeds the highest frequency of the signal being sampled. If lower sampling rates are used, the original signal's information may not be completely recoverable from the sampled signal. For example, if a signal has an upper band limit of 100 Hz, a sampling frequency greater than 200 Hz will avoid aliasing and would theoretically allow perfect reconstruction.

Audio Sample Rate

The full range of human hearing is between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. The minimum sampling rate that satisfies the sampling theorem for this full bandwidth is 40 kHz. The 44.1 kHz sampling rate used for Compact Disc was chosen for this and other technical reasons.

In digital audio the most common sampling rates are 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 96 kHz and 192 kHz.

The Audio Engineering Society recommends 48 kHz sample rate for most applications but gives recognition to 44.1 kHz for Compact Disc and other consumer uses, 32 kHz for transmission-related application and 96 kHz for higher bandwidth or relaxed anti-aliasing filtering.

Video Sample Rate

In digital video, the temporal sampling rate is defined the frame rate or rather the field rate rather than the notional pixel clock. The image sampling frequency is the repetition rate of the sensor integration period. Since the integration period may be significantly shorter than the time between repetitions, the sampling frequency can be different from the inverse of the sample time:

  • 50 Hz PAL video
  • 60 / 1.001 Hz ~= 59.94 Hz NTSC video
Video digital-to-analog converters operate in the megahertz range, from ~3 MHz for low quality composite video scalers in early games consoles, to 250 MHz or more for the highest-resolution VGA output.