PreSonus Blog

Friday Tip of the Week: Upsampling in Studio One, Part 1

The controversy about whether people can tell the difference on playback between audio recorded at 96 kHz that’s played back at 44.1 kHz or a higher sample rate (such as 96 kHz) has never really been resolved. However, under some circumstances, recording at a higher sample rate can give an obvious, audible improvement in sound quality. In this week’s tip we’ll investigate why this happens, and in next week’s tip, tell how to obtain the benefits of recording at a higher sample rate in Studio One with 44.1 and 48 kHz projects.



A Song’s sample rate can make a difference with sounds generated “in the box,” for instance using a virtual instrument plug-in that synthesizes a sound, or distortion created by an amp simulator. Any improvement heard with high sample rates comes from eliminating foldover distortion, also known as aliasing.

Theory time: A digital system can accurately represent audio at frequencies lower than half the sampling rate (e.g., 22.05 kHz in a 44.1 kHz project). If an algorithm within a plug-in generates harmonic content above this Nyquist limit—say, at 40 kHz—then you won’t hear a 40 kHz tone, but you will hear the aliasing created when this tone “folds down” below the Nyquist limit (to 4.1 kHz, in this case). Aliasing thus appears within the audible range, but is harmonically unrelated to the original signal, and generally sounds pretty ugly.

Foldover distortion can happen with synthesized waveforms that are rich in harmonics, like pulse waves with sharp rise and fall times. (Amp sims can also be problematic; although their harmonics may be weak, if you’re applying 60 dB of gain to create overdrive or distortion, the harmonics can be strong enough to cause audible aliasing).


Not all plug-ins will exhibit these problems, for one of four reasons:

  • The audio isn’t rich enough in harmonics to cause audible aliasing.
  • The plug-in itself can oversample, which means that as far as the plug-in is concerned, the sample rate is higher than that of the Song. So, any foldover distortion occurs outside the audio range.
  • The project sample rate is high enough to provide the same kind of environment as oversampling.
  • The plug-in designers have built appropriate anti-alias filtering in to the algorithms.

Many modern virtual instruments and amp sims oversample, and DAWs can handle higher sample rates, so you’d think that might be the end of it. Unfortunately, there can be limitations with oversampling and higher project sample rates.

  • Recording an entire project at a higher sample rate stresses out your computer more, reduces the number of audio channels you can stream, and won’t allow you to run as many plug-ins.
  • Oversampling requires more CPU power, so even if all your instruments are oversampling internally, you may not be able to use as many instances of them.
  • Although some instruments may perform 2x oversampling, that still might not be sufficient to eliminate aliasing on harmonically rich sources—so oversampling an oversampled instrument can still make a difference.

Furthermore, with plug-ins that oversample, the sound quality will be influenced by the quality of the sample-rate conversion algorithms. It’s not necessarily easy to perform high-quality sample-rate conversion: check out comparisons for various DAWs at (where, incidentally, Studio One rates as one of the best), and remember that the conversion algorithms for a plug-in might be more “relaxed” than what’s used in a DAW.

So what’s a musician to do? In next week’s Friday Tip of the Week, we’ll cover how to do upsampling in Studio One to reap the benefits of high-sample-rate recording at lower sample rates. Meanwhile, if you still need to be convinced recording at different sample rates makes a difference, check out this audio example of a synthesizer recorded in Studio One first at 44.1 kHz, and then at 96 kHz:

  • Ken-Arve Nilsen

    Just catching up with these tips, and enjoy them here as well 😉

  • Benny Dellinger

    Thanks Anderton, I’ll check out Pt. 2…

  • Anderton

    Yes, that’s the idea…Part 2 has the details.

  • Anderton

    That is why the technique presented in Part 2 is so invaluable – you gain the benefits of higher sample rate recordings in lower sample rate projects. Admittedly, you need to do a little work for those tracks containing plug-ins that benefit from higher sampling rates, but that’s a small price to pay for better sound quality. Make sure you see Part 2 for details on how to do this.

  • Benny Dellinger

    Didn’t think of that, great idea. So, your approach is, while in 96K, record vst plugins on each track, convert to audio, then down sample to 48k? Thanks for all the feedback.

  • johnny8

    I only want to add one thing to this discussion, and that concerns computer processing power. I prefer to record at 96k, but my old Imac simply can’t handle it. There is no problem recording or playing back the raw tracks, but when you add processing all of that is done at that sample rate as well and it eats up the resources of my computer quickly. I cannot upgrade the RAM on my machine, (maxed out at 16G), so my only other option is to export my project as stems and mix those in a different session so there is very little additional processing being done. This works but it is a lot of extra effort. Recording in 192k is simply not an option for me at this time, 48k is pretty much my limit. If you have an older machine like I do, or one that is limited in its RAM you might want to consider this before you start a new recording in 96k or higher.

  • Anderton

    I agree with Niclas, there won’t be much difference moving from 44.1 to 48. However you might find that moving to 96 will give you enough of an improvement that going to 192 kHz won’t be necessary. Also remember that upsampling makes a difference with only some plug-ins. You may need to upsample only a few tracks to gain the benefits.

  • That small change wont be much of a difference sorry to say. But if you are recording one instrument at a time you could do as they advertise and down sample after all tracks are recorded. Looking forward to next weeks tip myself. 🙂 many different opinions on this topic around the globe so it would be nice to know exactly where Presonus stands on this. 🙂

  • Benny Dellinger

    This post comes at a time I’m moving from 44.1 to 48 on some new projects. Is it worth my time to move that little bit? I don’t know if my pc will handle 192. But my projects are becoming more complex and I just acquired Vienna Ensemble which might ease the load and allow for higher rates. Any thoughts? Thanks

  • Anderton

    Thanks very much for taking the time to do that! Much appreciated, and yes, you’re right the difference is unmistakable. In part 2, I did a comparison using an amp sim. The results are more subtle, but the upsampled version sounds smoother and less harsh.

  • Rob Morgan

    Awesome stuff!

  • Momothesecond W

    I feel that some people may not interpret your example the way you think with that example so to amplify the point you are trying to make I did the same experiment with the MAI TAI synth in Studio One on the preset Attack Key Paddy. One at 192k and 32 bit float and the other at 44.1k and 16 bit and the results are undeniable. The 192k one sounds far superior. Here is a sound Cloud link to the comparison the first half being 192k and the second at 44.1k