Encoding the distribution of sources of MR signals along a direction in space with different frequencies. In general, it is necessary to acquire a set of signals with a suitable set of different frequencies in order to reconstruct the distribution of the sources along the encoded direction. In the absence of other position encoding, the Fourier transformation of the resulting signal is a one-dimensional projection profile of the object.

(BW) Bandwidth is a measure of frequency range, the range between the highest and lowest frequency allowed in the signal. For analog signals, which can be mathematically viewed as a function of time, bandwidth is the width, measured in Hertz of a frequency range in which the signal's Fourier transform is nonzero.

The receiver (or acquisition) bandwidth (rBW) is the range of frequencies accepted by the receiver to sample the MR signal. The receiver bandwidth is changeable (see also acronyms for 'bandwidth' from different manufacturers) and has a direct relationship to the signal to noise ratio (SNR) (SNR = 1/squareroot (rBW). The bandwidth depends on the readout (or frequency encoding) gradient strength and the data sampling rate (or dwell time).
Bandwidth is defined by BW = Sampling Rate/Number of Samples.
A smaller bandwidth improves SNR, but can cause spatial distortions, also increases the chemical shift. A larger bandwidth reduces SNR (more noise from the outskirts of the spectrum), but allows faster imaging.