Is Analog mixing and processing superior to Digital mixing and processing?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by ChrisH, Feb 12, 2013.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Yep, I know this has been discussed too many times already but I'm looking for some real answers and some real proof.

    Does anyone have any proof that the end mix result when using a high quality analog console,
    all outboard analog gear for processing, really sound better than mixing all in the box with plug-ins?
    I'm not talking using tape vs a hard-drive.
    I'm talking the actual sonic difference of changing volume with a DAW vs with an Analog console with real faders,
    and using actual hardware instead of plug-ins.

    I understand that all consoles have their own sonic character, so yes it's going to sound different from different from digital and from console to console.

    However the actual question is, does digital mixing and processing degrade your mixes since
    its just adjusting numbers INSTEAD of actual analog faders, analog eq, transformers and wire?
    Thus making Analog Superior?
  2. Blue Bear Sound

    Blue Bear Sound Active Member

    wow, wow, wow.... so many implied misconceptions in that post, I don't know where to start....

    The short answer is - what do YOUR ears like? Keep doing that....
  3. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    The short answer is no IMO. Great radio hits are being performed ITB all this time.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    cure for digital audio

    there's no real way to quantify it in scientific terms / methodology. it's truly a question of personal preferences .... for reasons stated many times from what i've heard over all these years, i prefer all analog.

    if i had my way all computers would be smashed with the apropriate baseball bat and thrown out of the back of a pick up truck as a sacrifice to the freeway gods (i'm serious).

    2 inch tape / 16 track @ 30 ips ( punches are faster) an API / SSL / NEVE or even an old MCI 600 and mixed to a 1/2 " half track @ 15 ips ( to spread tape hiss in different octaves) ....... hard to beat.
  5. Blue Bear Sound

    Blue Bear Sound Active Member

    Over-the-top-rhetoric aside, both analog and digital can, and do, sound very good.... if one knows what they are doing with either format.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    ...and thousands and thousands of great sounding records were made with tape machines.

    This debate isn't going away anytime soon...

    There are plenty of pros and cons to both formats.

    I've heard plenty of junk coming off of a 30 foot SSL - and I've heard some amazing mixes coming out of digital "bedroom" studios... and vice versa.

    So, in the end, IMHO, the engineer is a far more important quotient in the recording chain - than is the type of equipment or tracking format being used.
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well, I have a theory on this. ITB is cheaper, takes up less room and is good enough. Its a no brainer. This has nothing to do with superior.

    If superior is what the OP is all about however, two top level formats done right are superior because you logically have more options for sound design, that is a double no brainer.

    Its all about money.
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Chris really said it all. In the past 10 years, I've actually done more ITB than analog. And I preferred the analog. But I use both. I can hear the difference. Generally, I listen beyond the difference. They certainly both have their pros and cons. In today's age, more cons than prose. That is you are being conned more by the pros LOL. Especially since many of them are now releasing lower-cost equipment to suit the current world economic structure. I mean even SSL now offers pro-consumer gear. Are with a lot of the flavor and a lot of the quality of their high end stuff. And so if you like that SSL sound from a 4000 or even a 9000, it's now affordable for ya. Because ya don't have to buy the entire console anymore. You could just get yourself a 500 rack. You can build your entire tutti-frutti boutique hybrid control room out of everything from 500 series modules from so many of the manufacturers now releasing products in that format. So you can have a Neve next to an API next to an SSL next to an Dean Jensen 990, all them y'all's. And ya can have eight channels of each. No job too big or too small for a series of 500 racks.

    I personally prefer the sound of analog summation. But I frequently use digital summation also. It has its own sound. And lots of guys turn out stellar sounding things/productions that have all been done completely ITB. They're not complaining. And though sometimes they might be folding it down through the analog console?

    On my recent trip to Nashville, summer, 2012, I visited most of the legendary hits studios. What do you think they were equipped with? What do you think half of these country songs are being turned out on? It's all analog. Some of it even coming from 2 inch analog tape. Something Dave Grohl has been going off about upon the last Foo Fighters, all analog release. And everybody marvels over that sound. It's real. It's moving at the speed of light altogether. There is no data multiplexing going on. And what you get a perceivable difference in the sound. So only you can decide for yourself. I don't denounce or evade digital because of its sound. But it is a matter of convenience and cost. Cost being the primary factor. PCM is a very viable and usable format even though I don't care much for it. I don't like that fluorescent light like sound from PCM, at any sample rate, at any bit depth. And with people telling me what they can't hear that I should also not be able to hear. You either have to agree with them because they're right or you don't agree with them because you hear it differently. And if you hear it differently, they can't possibly tell you what you're not hearing. But they'll argue with you about that which you may have perceived that you weren't supposed to hear? And I can't help them with that mis-perception. Obviously they're hearing is not as finely tuned as my own? They're just equipment junkies/monkeys. They're not professional listeners they're design engineers. That's a real big difference there. So while they know the theory, we know what it sounds like. And the two are not necessarily related. Sometimes they are. Other times not. So we're talking about these kinds of minute perceivable differences with people that listen for a living. Not people that design equipment for living, theoretically telling us what we should or should not be hearing.

    Chris and others have realized the value of a summing box. I don't want or need one. I have a Neve console. I have API mixers. And while it might not be as squeaky clean as Chris's summing box, I find it extremely enjoyable and more than adequate. I don't care if my audio is going through additional unnecessary Neve circuitry and Transformers. Especially if that's the sound I want and it is. Sometimes I make a point to go through additional unnecessary Neve circuitry because that is a sound that delivers greatness. Chris just doesn't have the room or the financial wear for all to purchase a large framed vintage console. Not what he needs for his work. And he's got a beautiful sounding system that sounds considerably different from my own stuff. And right it should. That doesn't mean that's the sound that I want. It isn't. I'm rather steadfast in what I like and dislike. And no sales pitch is going to change that. I worked on top of the line digital consoles. I've worked on bottom of the barrel digital consoles. I've worked with the best analog consoles. I've worked with the worst analog consoles. And this doesn't change anything for me. I still have to simply deliver a professional product. Regardless of the equipment of the control room I walk into. I have my favorites for sure. But I really don't care what it is as long as it works and works well. Even George Massenburg worked on vintage analog consoles that were very different sounding from his own design and consoles. So with his superbright, super detailed sound, how the heck could he have used a mid-1970s Neve to record and mix Linda Ronstadt on? In fact that recording did not sound much different than when he used his own designed console and equipment. How do you explain that? It's technique and only technique. He knew how different that Neve sounded from his own console design. And he engineered around that, I guess? Otherwise he would have appeared as a schlep engineer if he had blamed the Neve console for a crappy recording effort. But like I've said, ya can't do that. You should never use your equipment as an excuse for a poor delivery. He doesn't. I don't. Bob Clearmountain doesn't. And he'll tell you what consoles he worked on, which he didn't quite prefer using like a 4000 G. He doesn't like the G. He likes the E. But he'll use the G, if it's in the control room. So he keeps going back to his 1978 4000 E, in his own studio. He is not interested in the new crap. I can't blame him.

    I think the new digital consoles, frankly, are great, incredible! Everything you need is in that console. You don't need any of that outboard stuff unless you want to use it. I had a digital console that I rather liked but it blew up. The cost of shipping and repair exceeds the value. So I keep going back to my what? Nearly the 40-year-old Neve. Because it's like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps going and going. That digital crap is designed to last 2-4 years, maximum. Is that a good investment of your dollars? No but it's something we all have to deal with. Total planned obsolescence. Like were all supposed to learn how to use our computers differently than we have since the 1980s, because we now have smart phones and tablets and the operating system " will still work with your laptop or desktop ". Which says to me, that new Windows 8 operating system was not intended to be used for any kind of professional or business applications. It was designed primarily for smart phones and tablets. Those are toys. They're not even real computers. They can't do what we need them to do. And if anybody thinks I'm going to purchase a piece of equipment that relies upon a smart phone to work, they've taken obviously more LSD than I ever have or will. No way. They are out of their freakin' minds if they have any. They've designed everything to be a toy for children. Nobody will know what to do in life if there isn't an app for that?

    These times... they are a changin'.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Personally, I think it all comes down to the engineer, much more-so than it does the platform.

    A great engineer will be able to provide great sounding audio - in either format.

    Yes...there are certainly upsides and downsides to both, it's been endlessly debated, and I have no intention of kicking that particular horse here again ...

    But ultimately, the fidelity is determined by the engineer - and not by the gear or the platform.

    IMHO of course...

  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well this post is Dedicated to all those who hear, appreciate, and demand the best of both worlds.

    I admit I am just a child learning compared to some here but Wow, I'm blown away with our forum and comments like this. To think that people of your skill level would believe a computer alone will do everything equal to pro audio hardware is mind boggling and disturbing me. Each has its pro's and cons beyond the abilities of any engineer. Tools matter to professionals.

    This is exactly saying you can make a u87 sound like an sm58. Or you can get a Hammer HM2EQ top end to sound just like this clinical marvel:
    Ya, you can make due but... Come on guys, you all are freaking me out here. " Stand back guys, I'm here now. I've got my plug-ins :biggrin: . Seriously, these plug-ins sound and look just as good as that Neve. I'm here man. I read this on GS, a great engineer doesn't need a Neve or hardware today. My Pro Tools system and me running it !. I know what I'm doing, I'm here and I know what you want."

    Would you bet your life on this statement? I sure wouldn't.

    For once can we get past the dilutions of grandeur and wishful thinking. It may not matter when is comes down to economics but, Gear! power, cable, copper, I mean seriously... all things clearly make a difference in sound quality.
    I cannot believe you all think your skills are this great that you would get an equal sounding mix between these two products:
    over this:
    Pro Tools |


    Its hard to even imagine anyone thinking this. I can't even discuss this anymore without a fun challenge.

    The beauty of it all, its all music and who cares, especially if we don't compare.
    But I do care and why we are all most likely here, yes? We do care right? I hope we still care. Do we?

    The OP asked:
    Is Analog mixing and processing superior to Digital mixing and processing?

    I say the combination of the 3 are by a long shot. Digital alone is not, its generic.
    You all claim its the engineer, not the gear.

    You all have more skill than I. I am a musician just having fun here so I should clearly be ready and easy to get my ass kicked and finish this debate once and for all.

    I'm pretty certain I could take anyone one of your mixes (preferably some well produced stems that are 100% ITB) and run it through something right now that would sound different, if not quite noticeably better in a blind test. I would use 3 things to start.
    An analog summing system , STC-8, Bricasti M7 and possibly finish it with a Software Limiter. I call that hybrid.

    Who's game?
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I like Canadians Chris. Canadians always makes sense. It's just us dumb folk down here in the lower 48 wheeze All Sutheners Blow your border. We know how to spell corn whiskey you spill it NASCAR. We don't need to say we all the time or au revcaviaroir, or any of that confusing French stuff. We all have enough to do trying to learn Spanish maybe before us Caucasians become the minority. I mean I've understood that many Canadians cannot speak French? So what do you do when you get a letter from your Internal Revenue Service and its all in French? I guess you just give it to your accountant or H&R Block? Let them worry about the French. I'm only kidding I'm only kidding. I love the French Canadians so much I left a few pieces of myself behind in Montréal almost 12 years ago this coming 27th. I gave them the best of me. And now I am persona non grata in Canada because some middle eastern terrorists attacked my country and just a couple of miles away from where I lived. And then they tell me that emotional battery is against your laws? And so that's normally what I expect from my friends, the French Canadians LOL. I think it's what we all expect? It certainly gives us something else to joke about other than our own politicians. I mean it's not every day that you can walk into a lovely restaurant and be seated. And then watching other people get seated. Get their water. Get their drinks. Get their hors d'oeuvres, at more than three tables and you're still waiting for water because you and your partner are speaking English. Not quite what we would call Southern hospitality LOL. But then... they ain't Southern. They're French. And you know they don't like you guys either because they don't even want to be a part of the country that you live in. Golly by golly gosh that doesn't sound like they're quite right in their heads? So if my brain damage, subsequent surgery, French first name and I think I say OUI, with a French Canadian accent? LMAO It got me into a strictly French speaking nightclub back in 78 LOL. I really had no idea what the maître d', the coat check guy or the bartender said to me? I just answered the same way each time. Seemed to work until I asked for a whiskey sour... in English. And then a shouting match ensued between the maître d' and the bartender. I was really trying very hard not to laugh hysterically. The bartender was most definitely bawling out the maître d' for allowing me in the door. And I did not have to understand one word of French to know that LOL. And then I spent the rest of the evening there with a lovely young French-Canadian gal who, through our own frustrating communication skills, was able to convey to me that she felt quite alone and isolated in her own country because she could speak no English. And where she indicated that that's what most other Canadians speak. But she was raised in a very strict old-school French-Canadian way no outside English allowed anywhere in the household. I think that night I was a little ray of sunshine for her? She was not a happy girl. And I felt badly that that had been imposed upon her by these wonderful cool, laid-back Canadian folk. She felt trapped. Ripped off. Her freedom denied. And she's part of one of the most progressive countries in this world. You're so much like us and yet so different. And believe you me I appreciate your difference. Being from Detroit and taking numerous regular trips into Windsor Ontario and watching and listening to all of that CBC broadcasting, I've always felt that Canada was my second home. Your government certainly told me differently when I tried to go back up after 9/11. And where I had been allowed in the previous year spending thousands of dollars, of American dollars which at the time was worth twice that of your own. And the following year I am persona non grata? You know... neither one of our governments really got their crap together. And we're both better than most. I'm an atheist but thank God for that. I like it that we are all here in the North American continent including our cousins south of our border. We're lucky people, all of us. And I count my blessings daily, in spite of the fact I'm an atheist. And particularly because I'm still alive and shouldn't be. I hate intermittency's! You can never properly troubleshoot an intermittent. So for the time being and eight years post-brain surgery, every day is a good day no matter how bad a day it is. But y'all know I'm still living in denial over the demise of my truck. Throughout most of my career, I've been in the right place at the right time. That ended about 10 years ago however or maybe eight. And there's not been one blip of work on my radar screen. I certainly wouldn't be the first DC Metro recording facility to call it quits. Everyone is suffering if you can't generate the work on your own today. Otherwise it's BS garbage jobs paying minimum-wage. So bartending is looking more attractive. A new career. Who better to mix drinks? It's just another control room. Stand up console like at a radio station. All I need is a microphone on a boom arm and I'll keep everybody in the bar entertained. And you know as a bartender you always get a quota of free liquor to give away. Which means ya get people to perform stupid tricks. And who better can do that than a Producer? And the rest of the night you're engineering drink mixes and even manning the music playback system oh yeah. And you know how to squeeze out the best of whatever you can from whatever it is. And where I might also create a track sheet to indicate who was drinking what? So Debbie on track 13 may have had a blue Hawaiian. While Joe on track 22 had a cosmopolitan. Ricky Scott and Bruce on channels two three and four all had Budweiser. And the rhythm section of Betty, Frank, Jacqueline and Bo on tracks seven, eight, nine and 10 had buffalo wings and margaritas (two with salt shakers) So I've already got it down. Kind of like those sort of audio engineers that set all of the console's equalizer's before anybody plays a note LOL? So I'm doing right, good? I mean good, right? My other left?

    Do you want whipped cream on your Jack Daniels?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    What happened to my paragraphs?
    gdoubleyou likes this.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    enter/ return bar lol: What do you mean Remy?
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Chris... if you read my post more closely you'l see that I wasn't belittling either format. Nor was I knocking the incredible technological advances that have made our work easier, our work flow smoother..

    But in either format, if you don't have someone who knows what they are doing running that gear, yu'll end up with much of what we hear these days... over compressed, balls to the wall limiting, EQ where 20 hz is boosted through the roof in order to get low end.

    Cats like Geoff Emerick, Ed Kramer, Roger Nichols and other bad asses made fantastic recordings on tape.

    Sgt. Pepper and Aja' still stand, to this very day, as testaments to sonic greatness.

    Yes, of course mixing n the box can have its advantages, but you cannot discount that thousands of fantastic recordings were made in the days before those tools were available. Take a listen to stuff even older than that... recordings from the early 50's Capital Records stuff = Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Judy Garland... the sonics on those recordings was - and still is incredible.

    I find it funny that you mention that ITB issuperior to OTB when you have a pretty nice rack of OTB I'll make you a deal. I'll be happy to trade you my entire Waves Diamond bundle for just one of your 1176's ;)

  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think you should shut up until you've been married to one for 27 years... ;)


  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Donny and friends, no disrespect, I'm just being my blunt self and stirring the pot.

    I dunno here. Its like pulling hens teeth around here to talk about more than ourselves. None of what I do in life is all based around just me. In fact, I can't think of one skill I have in my Trade (in or outside music) that is solely based on just me or an employee getting it right based on the person alone. What an arrogant statement that would be if I walked into a group of people and said here I am. When I hear you all talk that way, that's what I hear around here over an over. I just don't give myself that much credit like you all do. Good tools helps me learn. Bad tool, I just get frustrated and want to quit.
    I actually turn down work if I can't use the products I need. I won't touch a job if I can't use my tools and the best stuff. But you know what, I get paid a lot of money to do what I do and I have endless testimonials. And you know what, I would never get those if I didn't have the whole package. I never talk about how great I am when people praise my work. I simply say, good tools and material sure help, thanks! I always praise the products. Its a circle. Thank goodness there are people that clever to make something that works and makes my life easier, more fun. Great sounding.

    So, I'm smart enough I suppose to know what to buy and wise enough to know its not just me that makes a great finished product in a technology driven society. So when people come to us here and we say its us that makes the sound. man, how boring.

    IMHO, the answer to the OP isn't what you are all giving, its a no brainer you need to know what you are doing with everything in life. This is a rudimentary skill we learn the day we use a knife. That is the part that sets us all stupid around here with those statements, IMHO.
    You all are stroking yourselves so much and its hard to stomach.
    Its so self-righteous sounding to me :(
    It would be cool, no awesome to get past that every time we have these hybrid discussions and actually talk about technology instead of putting ourselves always first while watering down the manufacturers that build incredible gear. I don't get it.
    I would never be where I am without tools. It would be a cold and short music career that's for certain. End of story.

    The OP is not at kindergarten level. He is asking a question on a pro site assuming we all know what we are doing. It would be cool if we figured that one out IMHO and stepped it up.

    Okay, I'll shut up now. I need to get out of here and go fishing. Its been a long winter.


    Re Canadians:
    Donny, you love her though eh!

    Majority of Canadians I hang with like wearing jeans and t-shirts to work. We put less importance on how we look and say sorry a lot, even if there is nothing to be sorry about lol. We aren't that fussy about acting like we know it all and get bothered by arrogance. We all know you need a good coat to keep warm and it takes energy to heat a house or drive to work. So technology is always how you get there to stay warm and survive.
    When we find a new way to do something, we get really excited about it and give it all away lol! Maybe that's what you all love/hate about us. :)
  17. Jerry McMaster

    Jerry McMaster Active Member

    Analog Mixing is far better if done on quality gear and mixed by a pro.

    Mixing is a art form, I have had to work on both and am constantly going back and fourth

    I will pick analog mixing every time if I have a choice , Dimension depth and warms with impact over the flatso DAW every time.

    The DAW mix has bells and whistles and recall which as the end of the day recalling flat non dimensionality sounds is just that!

    DAW are popular because of price not because it is the better way sonically.

    Recording Wise

    A mix of the two is great either track DAW but mix some where Analog with as much good gear as possible is the best of both worlds in my mind.

    It all comes down to the experience of the mixer in the end, if you have that over format to start with you are further ahead.

    If it were me I would mix analog all the time and often do.

    Live Digital is now king and the Analog console is dead, The large format Midas Ati;s Soundcrafts to me sounded far better then most of what is touring now.

    Light weight recall and foot print and winning , sonics are generally not untill you go top end Digico Midas Studer
  18. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    one thing people seem to blanket is how digital "adds up" or "stacks". for instance, i subjectively hear 24ch of stock eq from a mackie d8b, sounding better than 24 ch of stock eq on dp, or pt. do dsp card processes stack better than ram based? digital has this whole world thats being re-fined, like when they figured out 15ips. until we have no physical air movement in the perception of sound, we will have analog. even if we hard wire to the brain, it'll still be some sort of analog. Digital is only getting better. how it stacks, and how people use it is just as realavent as audio has always been.

    what i'm interested in this thread, is how are we taking advantage of digital? the 13yr old starting out surely doesn't have a jump on us, or does he. but particularly to processing, digital gets ripped on, yet so many of my peers favs are in fact digital, h3000, spx 90, stuff like that. i know it's old hat.

    and to remind everyone, unless we're mailing each other tapes or records, it's digital at some point. i'd prefer that my contemporaries, tell/show me things that pertain to this fact. the usual analog suspects already rule, old, or re-ferbished, or new, those things are pretty established and purchaseable. how is the digital element taken advantage of? people don't seem to question the value of the analog stuff. what's the most beneficial way to exploit digital? that seems to be a challenge for anyone still doing it. however questionable the new analog stuff, is, digital stuff is still the most unknown/unrefined part of modern productions.

    the digitsl is the area in need of most attention/improvement in a hybrid system, i think, in an average system.

    my latsest revalation is how plug-insstack. or don't. what do ya'll think?
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Some plug-ins and DAW's are worse than others. I try not using anything ITB that isn't necessary. 10 years ago, I thought it didn't matter. All I wanted was more DSP so I could use the little monster's, Today, Sequoia 12 has all I need. The rest I do OTB, The more digital, the more boring wall. I am convinced f this.

    Yesterday, working on your track Kyle, I was at a 32 buffer and it was a smooth as silk. Try that with a pile of processing clamping down on your party, Man, I would like to have 24 API EQ's all ready at will. I think I'll start with 8. Thats my next dig.
  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    32. so awesomely nice!!. well my superior usues has 2 of the 550as, and the graphic lunchbox deals. i haven't used 'em yet. but he likes his trasnformer based stuff.
    i 'subjectively' fell like the sound quality would be different, becuase you employed a specific system. im not trying to suckup, but i honestly think that every process makes a difference. it was still 'full' .and 000's 1111's are processed differently per case by case... .

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