The sample rate is how many samples, or measurements, of the sound are taken each second. The more samples that are taken, the more detail about where the waves rise and fall is recorded and the higher the quality of the audio. Also, the shape of the sound wave is captured more accurately.
A common audio sample rate for music is 44,100 samples per second. The unit for the sample rate is hertz (Hz). 44,100 samples per second is 44,100 hertz or 44.1 kilohertz (kHz).
Telephone networks and VOIP services can use a sample rate as low as 8 kHz. This uses less data to represent the audio. At 8 kHz, the human voice can still be heard clearly - but music at this sample rate would sound low quality.