As far as my memory recalls, the STE could handle 16 bit samples. Ofcourse the DAC's are 8-bit so using 16 bit samples looks like it's just a waste of memory. Still some people say that using 16 bit samples does sound better.
Any computer can handle any bit depth internally but what counts as far as the machine's end capability is concerned is the output stage, in the STE's case, 8-bit. Yes, using samples originated in 16-bit does give better quality but not worth it for the massive increase in storage requirement. In fact, I have a sample player on the STE that will play direct-from-disk, even 16-bit stereo audio! All it does is drop the MSB from each 16-bit sample frame. I tried this out by dumping audio CDs to the hard disk on my Mega STE from a CD-ROM drive.
The ST 8MHz cpu gives the coders a little advantage over the 7.15Mhz of the Amiga. A , not even, 1Mhz isn't that much of an advantage. The Amiga's costum chips make up more then they lose with that 1 Mhz.
The ST's clock speed advantage was most apparent in 3D games, where the Amiga custom chips were of little advantage. Every vector-based game I've seen on the 16-bit machines was faster or smoother on the ST. If you wanted tracker music with realistic sounding sampled sound at the same time without game slow-down, then the Amiga sound chip could help, but not in making the 3D any faster.
With trickery the Amiga could do more than 4 channel music. 8 channel mods are widely used. And i guess there are programs that use more.
On the STE there are a few demo's floating around using 16 channel 12.5 , 25Khz and 50Khz musics.
Yes, the Amiga was fortunate in that having four hardware channels with variable sample rate was very handy for making reasonable sounding music. Ultimately you can only have so many hardware channels before it becomes expensive. Professional equipment works on the re-sampling and mixing techniqe as well. For example, the audio card in my PC, a CreamWare Pulsar II, has only two built-in DAC channels, but with six parallel DSP chips pumping out a peak in excess of 1 Gigaflop on the back end, it can simulate a small studio's worth of instruments and mix them down to two channels for output
By the way, Ayreon, I notice from the Jaguar forum that you were at JagFest UK. Were you the guy who bought a Jaguar CD-ROM unit from 16/32?