Cakewalk // Documentation // SONAR X2 // 24-bit tips
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Having established the default settings for new files, you must also specify at what playback bit-depth you want your sound card to use. In Edit > Preferences > Audio - Driver Settings , set the Audio Driver Bit Depth to the desired value. Even if your sound card’s highest bit-depth is only 18- or 20-bits, you should try selecting an Audio Driver Bit Depth of 24 first. If you receive an error message when doing so, try selecting 20. If this also produces an error message, try selecting 18. In other words, if you want SONAR to operate your sound card at any bit-depth greater than 16-bits, try selecting the highest value possible in the Audio Driver Bit Depth setting, and work downward from there if you have to.
(If your sound card’s maximum bit-depth is 20-bits and you specify an Audio Driver Bit Depth of 24 as advised above, audio data will still be sampled by your sound card in 20-bit samples, but each sample will automatically be padded with extra 0’s to produce a 24-bit sample, which will be stored at full 24-bit resolution in your project file.
If necessary, go to Edit > Preferences > Audio - Driver Settings and select one of the following options in the Stream > 16-bit data as list:
These settings affect how 24-bit audio samples are transferred from the sound card into the SONAR software, and affect the efficiency of the transfer. You’ll get the best performance from this card when working at 24-bits if you use the correct setting for your sound card. If you’re not sure whether your particular sound card requires these settings, consult the documentation that came with your sound card. You should also check the web page www.cakewalk.com/Support/Docs/sound cardTips.html to see if any information is available there regarding configuration of your particular sound card in Cakewalk. When in doubt, leave these settings disabled.
While using 24-bit audio can improve the sound quality of your recordings, there are some important drawbacks to keep in mind. Projects stored at 24-bit depth will require 50% more disk space than those stored at 16-bits; if you have a large number of audio tracks (and keep in mind that stereo tracks require twice as much data as mono tracks!), your audio project file can grow very large and use up lots of disk space. Also note that recording, playing, and processing 24-bit data utilizes more CPU resources than working with 16-bit data. This means that for a given computer configuration, you will be able to record/play/process a smaller number of total simultaneous tracks, and use a smaller number of simultaneous real-time effects, in a 24-bit project than you would be able to in a 16-bit project. This is also true when working at higher sampling rates (i.e., a 24-bit/96khz project requires substantially more computing resources than a corresponding 16-bit/44.1khz project). Depending on the size of your project and the configuration of your computer (CPU, RAM, disk), you may need to reconsider whether working at the higher bit-depth/sampling rate is justified or even possible.
Using an audio bit depth of 24 can enhance the performance of some plug-ins, but raising the sampling rate to 96 kHz does not offer much improvement, and can cause some plug-ins to add unintended artifacts to the sound. Using a 24-bit, 44.1 kHz setup for your audio provides plenty of enhanced performance for plug-ins that can take advantage of it, without risking the problems that 96 kHz audio causes with some plug-ins.
It’s also worth noting that not all audio projects benefit equally from the use of higher bit-depth/sampling rates. Most professional sound engineers will tell you that 24-bit, higher-sampling-rate audio is most beneficial when working with music that focuses on natural acoustic instruments and/or vocals recorded with very high-quality microphones. The benefits of 24-bit/high-sampling-rate recording are less audible when working with highly synthetic or highly compressed program material, often found in contemporary popular music. You must make your own judgement about whether the benefits of higher-capacity audio justify the extra demands it places on your computer.

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