I am doing a paper on why analog sounds better than digital for certain types of music such as rock, hip-hop,funk and blues. What are some major factors that make analog sound better than digital? Why would a band want to go through the extra trouble to record to analog and then master the recording digitally? Why does digital make music sound grainy? Why does analog compress the higher frequecnies and is this generally a good thing? Any other comments promoting the use of analog or knocking digital are welcome and very much appreciated.
Originally posted by bob strawser:
I am doing a paper on why analog sounds better than digital for certain types of music such as rock, hip-hop,funk and blues.
First, it's what we have heard by tradition. Second, by the nature of how digital audio recreates a wave form, a principle that is far too complex for this forum, you're not going to get the same resolution from digital you will get in the analog domain.
When the sampling rates start to get over 500k, then you're going to start to get the bottom right, as well as negligible phase shift from the aliasing filters. Combine these two, and you'll have clearer richer audio. The irony is that us old guys that grew up listening to vinyl will most likely be dead or retired, and the guys that are coming up now will be the "old guard". This "new old guard" will have been raised on grainy/spitty sounding 44.1-16 CD's, so in the back of their mind, it will be their reference standard.
What are some major factors that make analog sound better than digital?
Analog doesn't necessarily sound better than digital, just different. It's what our 'western' ear is trained to hear. The manner in which analog treats the overtone and harmonic structures is considered pleasing to our ears. In several "eastern" cultures, digital audio, especially "Pulse Code Modulation" digital audio is a preferred sound. Of course these are cultures that have had stuff like 10 note scales for several century's prior to the modern era. In other words there are major 'cultural issues' that are determining factors.
Why would a band want to go through the extra trouble to record to analog and then master the recording digitally?
Usually because it seems like a good idea at the time. For me, working in the analog domain is just easier than working in the digital domain. The rooms I like to work in are set up 'analog'. The places where I end up working in 'digitally' are usually someone's basement, in other words, not a 'proper studio'. Everything is a compromise, most things are a pain in the ass as opposed to a smooth flowing, creative environment.
Big time 'digital' joints are few and far between, as well as expensive. For me to work in the analog domain, with a Neve 8078 desk, a Studer A-800 24 trk recorder, with "real" environments, and an excellent microphone/outboard collection, full meals and lodging for the band is only $1,850/day.
This is my 'home away from home': http://www.longviewstudios.com/barn.html
To work in a similar "all digital" environment with a similar level of enticements, I'd have to go to New York or Nashville [I'd rather have colon cancer than work in helLA]. When all is said and done, between time, tools, travel and "living expenses" it will also be significantly more expensive.
Why does digital make music sound grainy?
See above diatribe on 'resolution/sampling rate'...then read a little on the theory of how digital audio recreates wave forms. The smaller the steps, the better the resolution, the better the resolution, the more like music it sounds.
Why does analog compress the higher frequecnies and is this generally a good thing?
It is if you're used to working that way. For me, I'm pretty used to what a piece of analog tape is going to do to what I'm about to record. Using it is kinda second nature, sorta like toilet paper. Something we use just about every day, but don't really think about the application a whole lot, we just use it.
There are anomolies to working in digital that are just different from the anomolies of working in analog. Kinda like one painter works in 'oils', another in 'Krylon'...they're just different mediums that are employed to a similar end...that end being the creation of an artistic expression.
Now, I don't particularly think I'm looking forward to seeing the 'Mona Lisa' recreated in "spray paint", nor do I expect to see a subway train "tagged" in 'oils' in the near future. Each has it's place.
Any other comments promoting the use of analog or knocking digital are welcome and very much appreciated.
Wow...doth ye have an agenda here? Dude, I'm the resident Luddite...you're workin' my side of the street, give it a portion.
Digital audio has been with us for damn near 25 years on a professional level. The fact of the matter is that it's just beginning to achieve an level of acceptablity (in my mind, for others it's been "the berries" since the day it came out).
There are new working techniques that have been developed, new tools, methods, things that can't be done in the 'analog domain' can be accomplished digitally. There is going to come a time when all audio is recorded digitally, and it will be consistantly better than music stored in the analog domain.
The fact of the matter is that 'digital audio' is pretty early on in it's evolution. 25 years, in the scheme of human existance, is kinda like a piss hole in the snow, pretty damned insignificant.
The reason they call this whole 'recording' thing a "medium" is because it's 'rare' that it's 'well done'. May I humbly suggest that you not worry as much about the tools as the application of the tools to achieve your intended goal.
Best of luck
Thank you for your well thought out reply to my posting on analog recording. Yes, I doth have an agenda. I'm not trying to knock digital, in fact I'm recording a country album in my basement on a Roland VS 1880 (pretty top of the line huh?) and I am very pleased with the sound. The reason I am asking for pro-analog and con-digital comments is because my English teacher wants me to go against the grain or current trend in this case. So in lemans terms can you expand upon the complexity of how digital creates a sound wave and what sampling speed means and why resolution can be lost in the digital medium? And some more comments on why analog can be more appropriate particularly in rock music. I could even use comments about artistic vision on this subject (like putting record crackle on a recording for effect)
Digital recording is somewhat analogous to motion pictures or television. In TV a rapid succesion of still images is taken and then played back at a speed where it appears to be a single moving image. This rate for TV is 30 images (or frames) per second. Digital audio recording takes a sample of the audio (in signal voltage) at a certain rate and stores each voltage as a binary (digital) value and plays back the succession of samples. The sample rate for sound is much higher than TV. It's believed (and contested) than the frequency range of human hearing is from 20 - 20,000 cycles per second (Hertz-Hz). The Nyquist Theorem states that for a digital system to record a signal the sample frequency must be at least twice the rate of the frequency being recorded. So to record a 20kHz wave the sample rate must be at least 40kHz. The CD audio standard is 44.1kHz with a 16 bit word. At first glance this may cover the full range of human hearing and seem to be all that is necessary. However in getting there there are limitations including anti-aliasing filters etc.etc. There's a lot of debate and I won't go farther than this basic explanation of digital audio in this post. :roll: