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Audio Sample Rates: Terminology vs Application

I’ve recently started to develop a grumpy streak with respect to the use of certain terminology with respect to telephony. Maybe telephony isn’t exactly the right word, let’s say that my unease arises from some odd terms surrounding audio quality in the context of communication. I think that some of the language needs to be more application sensitive.

A few years ago the world was a simpler place. The “Plain Old Telephone System” (aka POTS) was definitely a narrowband medium. Where “narrowband” implied digital sampling at 8 KHz and a useful audio channel of 300 Hz – 3,400 Hz.

Some people using more advanced systems enjoyed “wideband” audio. Wideband in that case was defined as a 16 KHz sampling yielding a useful audio channel of 50 Hz – 7 KHz. The TIA-920 standard, which I have referenced previously, spells this out. A variety of audio codecs can deliver this capability including; AMR-WB, EVRC-WB, G.722, G.722.1, CELT & Opus.

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