Hello to our friends at the software development teams at ACX, Apple (GarageBand team), Audible, Bossjock, Spreaker and Wooji Juice. I am about to suggest something quite simple —that you have in your hands to fix with a minimum amount of effort— that will allow your audio world to get in sync with the video world seamlessly, in perfect harmony, while preserving your sovereignty as a standalone audio medium. I’m talking about 48 kHz for the audio-only world. Ahead are all of the justifications.
Sections in this article
- Quick review about audio sampling frequencies
- The nucleus of the issue
- Examples when the audio world and the video world can complement themselves
- Other benefits of 48 kHz audio production, beyond the co-mingling of the audio and video worlds
- Proof that 48 kHz audio podcasts indeed work
- Standard video versus non-standard video
- Current specific limitations in ACX, Apple (GarageBand), Audible, Bossjock, IK Multimedia, Spreaker and Wooji Juice/Ferrite
- For the ProVideo Coalition magazine readers who welcomely eavesdropped on this open letter
- Related articles
Quick review about audio sampling frequencies
Here are some common audio sampling frequencies, their use, and their definition:
- 44.1 kHz is the delivery standard for the aging audio compact disk CD from the 1980s, and —as of the publication date of this article— is sadly still the only standard sampling rate broadcasted by ACX audiobooks and by Spreaker… and the only output currently available from Bossjock, Garageband and Ferrite/Wooji Juice (details ahead in the section of this article called Current specific limitations in ACX, Apple/GarageBand, Audible, Bossjock, Spreaker, and Wooji Juice/Ferrite).
- 48 kHz is the standard for audio for today’s digital video production and delivery, and is also the internal production standard for many audio production companies. 48 kHz is also used for final audio distribution of some titles on “HD Audio” services like Acoustic Sounds and The Classical Shop. 48 kHz is also the sampling frequency recommended by Apple for all audio in all multimedia iBooks, as I covered in the recent article The making of a cross-platform audio/video multimedia ebook.
- 96 kHz is not very common for final delivery, except for some of the new “HD audio” services as indicated above, and is sometimes used in high-end production, since it is very seamlessly down-converted to 48 kHz.
But what do those numbers actually mean? They mean that with 44.1 kHz production, 44,100 samples are taken per second. With 48 kHz production, 48,000 samples are made per second. With 96 kHz production, 96,000 samples are made per second.
Whether expressed in the thousands of Hertz (Hz) or as kHz, recognition is given to Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1857–1894), the German physicist and the first person to provide conclusive proof of the existence of electromagnetic waves.
The nucleus of the issue
For historical reasons which no longer make sense today, ACX, Apple (GarageBand team), Audible, Bossjock, IK Multimedia (software) Spreaker and Wooji Juice have been tightly holding onto the ancient audio CD (compact disk) audio sampling frequency (44.1 kHz), which has fallen in importance. I say that the audio CD has lost its importance because:
- Most laptop and desktop computers no longer include CD drives.
- No tablet I have ever seen has included a CD drive.
- Most car stereo or desktop music devices no longer include CD drives.
- Starting in 2014, downloaded music sales surpassed CD sales.
ACX, Apple (GarageBand team), Audible, Bossjock, IK Multimedia (software) Spreaker and Wooji Juice/Ferrite should at least support 48 kHz from production to delivery. This request has nothing to do with improving audio quality. Rather it is to be more cross compatible with the video world and multimedia iBooks (which uses 48 kHz audio), while retaining your sovereignty as a standalone audio medium. I love, consume, and produce content for both the audio-only and audio/video world. I see benefits of each world. I also love when one medium can complement the other during the production stage, rather than fight with one another, which happens when the audio-only world is forcibly limited to the ancient 44.1 kHz standard. This reminds me of the old Chinese custom of foot binding (also known as “lotus feet”) where they applied painfully tight binding to the feet of some young girls to prevent further growth during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century).
Examples when the audio world and the video world can complement themselves
- When a video crew shoots an audio producer as she or he works, and later wants to use that producer’s digital audio recording and sync it with the video being shot in the video camera, either to make an instructional video, TV documentary or video promo. When the audio producer’s audio is at the ancient 44.1 kHz sampling rate, it exponentially complicates syncing it with standard digital video, since it requires up-sampling the audio, and is often subject to sync drift. All of this applies equally, whether we are talking about an audio producer for audiobooks, commercial spots for radio, music, on-demand audio shows which can be distributed as podcasts, or traditional radio production.
- When a song is unfortunately mastered at 44.1 kHz or (88.2 kHz), it complicates the creation of a standard music video, for the same reasons indicated in the prior point.
- For audio shows that also want to be simulcast (either live, or for later consumption) as a standard video show.
- For traditional TV shows that want to offer an audio-only version, either for live simulcast or later on-demand consumption.
Other benefits of 48 kHz audio production, beyond the co-mingling of the audio and video worlds
Many audio producers are often requested to produce audio for video, obviously at 48 kHz. Those same audio producers are also asked to produce for audio-only projects. Having to remember to switch their system each time between 48 and 44.1 is stressful and subject to human error. That’s another benefit for 48 kHz production only.
The majority should rule over the minority. I am not suggesting to anyone that they shouldn’t be allowed to continue to distribute audio CDs as long as there is any demand for it. I am saying that since the audio CD is now the least important in consumption numbers of sales and playback devices, the audio CD should be the only distribution medium version that should be forced to be down-sampled to 44.1 kHz.
Proof that 48 kHz audio podcasts indeed work
Despite some unsubstantiated rumors to the contrary, I have proven that 48 kHz audio podcasts indeed work properly, since the majority of the episodes of my CapicúaFM show have been distributed as MP3 at 48 kHz. According to Podtrac (a leading measurement service of on-demand audio consumption), as of publication date of this article, CapicúaFM has surpassed 80,000 unique listens, which have taken place in over 133 countries. These over 80,000 unique listens have been done across all types of devices, including Android devices, iOS devices (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch), Mac devices, Roku devices and Windows devices. I have received positive feedback from users worldwide, and I have also sat with friends with multiple types of devices as they subscribe and listen with perfect fidelity, including older iPhones and Android devices. I have not found a single device that is incapable of playing a 48 kHz MP3 properly, and I have not received a single comment to indicate that they exist anywhere.
Standard video versus non-standard video
Here I will explain the differences between standard video versus non-standard video:
Standard video production formats
The following video standard consumer and professional production formats use 48 kHz audio sampling exclusively:
- Any 4K camera system I’ve seen
- AVCCAM tapeless recording
- AVCHD tapeless recording
- AVC-Intra 4K422
- D5 HD videotape
- DVCPRO-HD videotape
- HDCAM videotape
- HDCAM-SR videotape
- HDV videotape
- NXCAM tapeless recording
- XAVC-L tapeless recording
- XAVC-S tapeless recording
- XDCAM tapeless recording
Standard video distributiion formats
Both DVD and Blu-ray video disk use 48 kHz (or an even multiple of 48, like 96 and 192 kHz, which are very easily scaled to 48 kHz without complex math or adding aliasing). DVD and Blu-ray don’t support the non-standard 44.1 kHz.
Non-standard video distribution
Online services like YouTube and Vimeo can accept both standard video with the standard sampling rate of 48 kHz, or non-standard video with 44.1 kHz. However, we have nothing to gain by going non-standard, and we have everything to gain by staying with the 48 kHz standard.
Current specific limitations in ACX, Apple (GarageBand), Audible, Bossjock, IK Multimedia, Spreaker and Wooji Juice/Ferrite
- ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is a marketplace for agents, authors, audio producers/narrators, publishers and rights holders to connect and create audiobooks. Unfortunately, as of publication time of this article, ACX demands all producers to use 44.1 kHz. ACX should add support 48 kHz for all of the reasons explained so far in this article, with end-to-end delivery at 48 kHz.
- GarageBand is a free editing software from Apple for Mac OX X and iOS. As I covered in 48 reasons why GarageBand is kryptonite for video production (illustrated above), unfortunately, GarageBand doesn’t support 48 kHz recording or export currently, even though its older brother, Logic, and any other audio editor I’ve ever seen (other than Ferrite, see ahead) supports 48 kHz. My current favorite two audio editors for Mac OS X are Hindenburg Journalist Pro and Fission from Rogue Amoeba, and they both support 48 kHz (among many other sampling rates). (I reviewed Hindenburg’s audio tools here, here, and here.)
- Audible Inc. is a seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and audio versions of magazines and newspapers. Through its production arm, Audible Studios, Audible has also become the world’s largest producer of downloadable audiobooks. On January 31, 2008, Amazon.com announced it would buy Audible for approximately US$300 million. Audible is currently the exclusive supplier of online/Internet audiobook content to Amazon and iTunes. Independent audiobook producers are directed to ACX, as indicated above, which sadly still asks producers to use the ancient 44.1 kHz sampling rate.
- As I covered in Bossjock Studio creates a “live” radio studio in your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (illustrated above), one of Bossjock’s very few limitations is the current lack of 48 kHz support. The developer agrees with me, and has promised to add it eventually.
- Spreaker is an extremely compelling media host for audio podcasters, and much more than that, since Spreaker is a live audio CDN for live broadcasting, and Spreaker offers unique audio production software too. Unfortunately, at least the Mac OS X version of the production software records 44.1 kHz, and if you create your audio independently at 48 kHz, Spreaker’s server will automatically re-encode it and down-sample it to 44.1 kHz, as indicated on their website. According to Spreaker’s own website, the only way to prevent Spreaker from re-encoding and down-sampling is to upload an MP3 that is already 44.1 kHZ 128Kbps CBR (constant bit-rate) stereo (no joint stereo). I hope that Spreaker will soon begin supporting 48 kHz, and allow its production software to record and broadcast at 48 kHz.
- Fortunately, as I have indicated in many reviews of devices from IK Multimedia, from microphones to preamp/A-to-D converters, the hardware department already supports 48 kHz perfectly. It’s only IK Multimedia’s software department that needs to add 48 kHz support. That’s why, every time I give a great rating of an IK Multimedia device, I have always had to recommend other compatible 48 kHz software for use with Android, Mac and iOS.
- Wooji Juice is the creator of the otherwise compelling iOS audio editing application called Ferrite Recording Studio, which has received many positive reviews. At publication time of this article, Ferrite Recording Studio will unfortunately not output 48 kHz audio. I hope that Ferrite Recording Studio will soon offer the 48 kHz option, at least via an in-app purchase. Many other iOS multitrack audio editors (including Auria) offer 48 kHz, but Ferrite Recording Studio has a simpler editing approach which is attractive to many, but repelled by some who need 48 kHz.
For all of the many reasons explained in this article, ACX, Apple (GarageBand team), Audible, Bossjock, Spreaker and Wooji Juice will better serve the production community by supporting 48 kHz, without forcibly down-sampling later. There is no need for ACX/Audible, or Spreaker to change your back catalog: just offer seamless, end-to-end 48 kHz when uploaded as such.
For Bossjock and Ferrite (Wooji Joice), just please give us the 48 kHz option.
For the ProVideo Coalition magazine readers who welcomely eavesdropped on this open letter
You are welcome to comment below.
- The making of a cross-platform audio/video multimedia ebook
- 48 reasons why GarageBand is kryptonite for video production
- Understanding 24-bit vs 16-bit audio production & distribution
- Live TV versus prerecorded: how to take best advantage of each
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