Analog vs. Digital Mixing

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by sak, Nov 3, 2003.

  1. sak

    sak Guest

    Hello audio world!!!!

    Record to digital with nice sounding preamps starting with the Focusrite ISA and up to Manley. Pick your choice of AD/DA interface, make sure you have at least 16 outputs or more, edit your stuff, and start mixing down to analog with your choice of a good analog console with nice outboard gear, including eventide, and lexicons for the effects.
    Track down to a 2 Track of your choice mine still being DAT.

    Or do you prefer mixing everything the plug-in way???
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    It depends on what kind of analog console you are using. If it's a "table top" type small format board, then staying in the box will most likely give you a better sound. If you mean an API, Neve, Sony or MCI large format type console, I think it would sound better to mix on the console. I still miss the sound of my old MCI 636. But I don't miss the tech bills every month. Real large format consoles can be quite expensive to keep in tip top shape. This has been a main contributer in the drive to mix in the box.
  3. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    A talented mix engineer can get it done either way (with extra nods to Kurt's points above).

    I like digital more from a practical standpoint. With a digital control surface I never have to leave the sweet spot, I get true total recall and I can work on several mixes at the same time.

    I also think I can get the sonic signature I am after in digital.

    So I use great mics, and mic pres for flavor and all the rest is in the box. Works for me but it may not work for you.

    Does digital sound like analog? No. But the mix bus issues people have raised in PT are pure myth as far as I can tell.

  4. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Here go the analog vs. digital wars again!

    Budget aside, it all comes down to the sound. To me there is nothing like a screaming electric guitar and a roaring bass slammed onto 16 tracks of 2" tape. I don't care how great the mics and pre's, the quality and quantity of the plugs, there is nothing like the real (reel?!) thing. However, I think that the subtleties are lost on the average listener. By the time it is put into the mix, mastered into oblivion under the direction of some record company moron over-riding the ears and experience of a great mastering engineer, turned into an MP3 and played on crappy computer speakers or walkman or boom box, who will know the difference?

    I find it frightening that as the technology in our studios improves on an almost monthly basis the average listener just wants it loud and cheap. I hear so many kids pushing their boxes so hard it sounds like all distortion and their headphones so loud I'm surprised that thier eyes don't bulge in and out in time with the music.

    Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.


    Uncle Bob

  5. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    sdevino, every body has there own opinion!
    I haven't tested the protools against analog mixing, but I've shure heard strange things about sound changes when you just rout audio in and out protools.

    Uncle Bob i agree that bass and guitar sounds much better on tape(direct) than digital(converted).
    But there's so much more to it than only that.

    If recording/mastering engineers can hear that theres a difference on there ns10 1030... what the xxxx!! no need to put the model numbers on, it's the whole brands that has got i wrong: genelec, yamaha, dynaudio...

    If they can hear it on the "industry standart" they will shure get a shock when they hear it on high end gear.

  6. andreswer

    andreswer Active Member

    Uncle Bob,

    thinking about what you said, if 98% of your listeners use boomboxes or MP3 players with crappy headphones, does it really matter to record i.e. 24 bit instead of 16 bit?
    I know, I know, it's a matter of creating the best you can do... ART, but, practically speaking, would somebody notice the "subtle" choices (if hearing the music through cheap speakers) of say a RODE NT1 or an U87 on vocals?
  7. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The problem being that a person would have to A/B before and after the bus to hear what if any damage was done by the digital mix bus. Once it's on a CD, after the fact, it is difficult at best to tell what is causing any perceived audio degradation or if in fact there is any degradation at all.

    As far as your system not having these problems Steve, the best you can say about this is, "as far as you can hear". Other than that it is really unsubstantiated. I think this problem extends to how much of a computers resources are being used at the mix time. Systems with a lot of RAM and CPU headroom are less likely to exhibit these problems (a theory of mine, not fact)

    The only way to do this would be to analyze a signal before and after on some test gear and see what if any differences the bus imposed. While I am a big fan of using our ears, I freely admit they can pull tricks on us. How many times have any of us tweaked an eq thinking we were performing magic, only to discover we hadn’t engaged the said eq ?? I would bet more than less..
  9. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Kurt as you know this is really easy to do in the digital realm with bit matching and summing to zero. So ICAN prove that my mix bus does not contain errors. So mouch for fact. You or others may prefer the "effect" that is imparted by analog and not prefer the undistorted performance of digital. It really doesn't matter.
    Beyond the mixer there ARE lots of things that can cause problems in the digital but the mix bus really isn't a problem,

    As far as your theory, it certainly worth thinking about. I am not sure it would really apply to a TDM system. But for native systems its possible,

    In the end the only thing that matters is can I make world class recordings that make my customer s return again and again using the digital mixer. So far the answer seems to be yes.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I am not disputing good mixes are accomplished in digital. I can get good mixes with digital, in Native. I really don't have a preference between digital and analog. They are both just mediums, much like ink and pen vs. oil paint. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Ink and pen is much more detailed but can be cold and lifeless like digital and oils have color and warmth but can lack detail and accuracy, like analog. I actually think that is easier to get "there" in digital, or at least more affordable.

    You can't dispute that there are a lot of people with the complaint that the digital bus is creating a perceived problem. Many report that by bypassing the digital bus, depth and dimension are recovered. Bit matching and summing to zero may establish that no additional distortions are present but they do nothing to address these perceived depth issues. I for one cannot discount many opinions and observations, because just one person comes back and says they don't have the problem. You are the only one who is saying this I know of. Just because you or I say something, doesn’t make it so..
  11. sak

    sak Guest

    I think its all a matter of taste, digital or analog are as good as you know what u are doing. I definetely prefer analog for a simple fact called harmonics and transients that sometimes to me sound to perfect in the digital domain,( not bad ) but its so clear that is becomes to "cold". Now if I translate that to the analog world this harms and trans become more definite with more personality and regards to the envelope of the sound analog gives it a natural response. All this could sound like theory and it possibly is but as I said its all a matter of TASTE and for my taste I still prefer the crispiness of analog/ or the a good combination of both.

    Long life to the SSL, Neve and ...... your choice.
  12. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Not my point. Everytime that I have seen an attempt to objectively identify the alleged digital mix bus issue the experiment has failed to find a correlation. Lynn Fuston and many engineers from both sides of this issue spent a lot of time on this earlier this year including publishing a well regarded comparison CD.

    The results were generally along the lines of:
    - they proved conclusively that the mixer math worked fairly well, and that the better DAWs were able to mix without errors
    - but at the same time there was no clear preference for the stemmed mixes sent out through dangerous 2-bus or similar high quality mixer.
    - and the mixes did not sound the same.

    So there was no clear preference, there were no errors but they did not sound the same. Conclusion: if there was a problem it was not the mixing bus that was causing. More investigation is required.

    Audio is a funny thing, we all work with it everyday, and we all think we hear many things that are not really there. How many times have you adjusted an EQ to your satisfaction only to find out it was bypassed? I am on a Studio standards and practices technical committee at the AES with folks like George Massemberg, Alan Parsons and Bob Katz. These guys are a lot less sure about some of the digital myths than many of the people on these forums are.

    I guess my point is I will not believe non-technical folklore until it is proven to me. I also will not say it cannot be true, since we all still have a lot to learn.

    I try to play devil's advocate when mythical technology is used to slam a or downgrade an otherwise good product.

  13. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    You're right it is taste. And this why its nice to have a choice of ways to flavor the audio on the way in. We have everything from razor flat super clean Earthworks mic pres to the UA610 which slams a vocal in your face (but is really just a fuzz face with big knobs for vocals).

    I love em all. I really love recording loud overdriven hissy, buzzy Mesa rectifier using digital where I can capture all the detail of the beast.

    There's more than one way to skin a cat.

    Could we talk about politics or religion now?
  14. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member


    There are different stages of where peoble evaluate audio or desides on what's good or bad.
    That means that peoble at stage 1. aren't able to advice or put there ideas onto peoble on level 3.
    That's the best way i can explain this.

    So I can understant that you at your level don't hear what is exposet to peoble at other levels.

    It's also a sad thing that many HIFI stereos at moderate level can outperform many pro studios monitor systems in depth and harmonic details - what is the world comming to!! :(

    Best regards,
  15. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Can you clarify? I really do did not understand what you meant.

    I also want to state that I am not judging what is good or bad, I am pointing out that some of the allegations about digital have not been verified in any kind of repeatabler, varifiable way.

  16. by

    by Guest

    Ussually the first thing you are introduced to tends to be the better when compared to others. This happened to me when comparing a cheaper LD condenser mic against an expensive ribbon. Because the cheap mic (ok, it was 600) was the one I experienced using/hearing first, it sounded alot better then the ribbon. This could've been because I knew that I just spent a thousand+ dollars on a mic and I was expecting I'd just fall in love with the sound... I just didn't...

    Later, with more and more experience working with a bunch of different sounds and mics and just learning ho wto listen, I now like the ribbon mic about a thousand times better then the condenser. This may relate to what henrik was saying, people in different stages of development just have different abilities to hear and understand sounds and that's why so many people agree and disagree on so many things.

    Henrik - could it be that those HIFI speakers are just exaggerated, and that's what's fooling you into thinking they are a better (or more accurate) quality?
  17. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    I'm not saying that this is you, but I'm a litle tired of peoble that have ns10's and say that it dosn't make a difference when it's clearly audible on a high end system.

    Peoble with "the industry standart"(yamaha, genelec...) don't hear as much as peoble with high end gear, so an advice is to not listen to those and find the right gear/peoble and deside for yourself.

    The only way to clarify this isue is to hear it with your own ears and then deside what's best for you.
    And that can only be done with a high end system, not "the industy standart".

    You can't get a paper that says what's best!
    You can only use the finest and most acurate testing equipment and that's our ears!

    Specs and calculations is only to confuse peoble away from the main thing and that's : "how it really sounds"!!
    And you can't use your ears if you monitor system doesn't reproduce the audio right.

  18. sserendipity

    sserendipity Member

    I'd argue that this is not a true test of the differences between analog and digital mixing. The behaviour of a mix as you add and subtract elements, move them around, and alter them is important in deciding what sounds best.

    I'd consider myself a lot closer to a 'hack' than a 'talented engineer', and yet I've been able to hear differences in equipment that I would not have, if handed a static image of the sound. Reiteratively isolating a particular phenomenon, anticipating the changes you've made, and evaluating your expectations against the results is one of the core processes involved in mixing and mastering.

    However, this does underscore that fact that extremely subtly is a bridge crossed in this debate a >long< time ago). Furthermore, there is going to be a certain level of subjectivity and aquired taste to the preference, let alone egos and snobbishness, of which we all have our share.
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    There is a difference.

    Is it definable? It is most assuredly measureable, but is this going to make it more of a choice one way or the other?

    Johnathon said it correctly in stating that there is a learning curve that ones ear goes through and the choice made by one person or the other depends entirely on what that person has come to hear correctly through extended exposure to one or the

    At 24 bits you would expect to be able to capture every nuance of every source put into it.

    Is this good? Is this really how people hear?

    On the other foot, analog adds colors and harmonics that go to the same questions....

    I think that the older we are at this point in time, there would naturally be more exposure to analog recordings.And this may tend to veil our ears somewhat to the ability of digital to recreate the sounds in a way that we are familiar with.The now generation,having perhaps 'grown up' with digital, has a different take on its qualities.

    When it gets right down to it, they are both tools for reproducing sound and each has a different set of parameters available to the RE, and a different outcome with identical source material.The only people not associated with the recording business who might care at all would be the die-hard audio freak whos going to be playing the material on gear which reproduces the sound of ants farting at 109db and which has ALL the frequencies available at any given power level.And this is NOT your general audience.
  20. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    You can mesure noise wow&flutter etc....
    But you can not mesure the difference your hear.

    That's not true, DSD(SACD) is supposed to but the result is something else...

    Have you ever heard that digital collors the sound?
    If you just use your ears analog sounds more real and natural while digital often sound unnatural.
    - try to compare human voices, how does they sound in real life and how does they sound reproduced analog and digital.

    I don't know about you?! but i will sure do my best as a mastering engineer in getting the best level of quality.


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