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Define Analog Recording

Man, have I been slightly off here. I mean, I have always thought when stating I love analog, I'm understood that its "using" nice outboard analog gear "in combination" with a DAW system = Hybrid also. To me it just doesn't mean recording to TAPE.

But, searching for info on analog, I'm now thinking the reason I have received much negativity when talking about how I am into analog, could it be the majority are thinking analog solely means "Tape" and I am stating that I think tape is the better of the two for recording music today?

If so, I need to curve my lingo and set the record straight. :redface:

Personally, you couldn't get me to buy a tape machine for anything. I sold my 16 track, 20 years ago and never looked back ( glad I found someone that wanted it before it was worthless). Now that I have the means, going hybrid, running stems out to some analog gear is what I like and what I mean when I talk about analog. I didn't think analog was so cut and dry.

What is your interpretation of analog?
What is your interpretation of hybrid?

Comments

audiokid Sat, 07/02/2011 - 20:35

Yikes! this is what I feared. I've never used the term pure analog, just that I like analog gear and analog summing, transformers etc. I'm not totally sold on plug-ins for every step and feel the combination of both analog and digital it where its at. Tape.... forget it but its only because I love digital editing and all the convenience that goes along with it. I've not had the luxury of owning a 2 inch so its impossible for me to even have an opinion on it. Never the less, I thought analog gear was considered " analog" too.

Guitarfreak Sat, 07/02/2011 - 20:57

When I hear the word analog, I immediately think of resistors, capacitors, transistors, opamps, diodes etcetc again with no digital influence... real tangible parts not controlled by signal pulses or some piece of software. Words that come to mind are natural compression, warmth, mojo, parts subject to variations in environmental thermal drift... to me that is the heart of analog, but I have been told that my opinion on this is wrong as well. I guess I am in the same boat.

Shanesaw Sat, 07/02/2011 - 21:41

Agree, thats all as analog as it gets. Now digital recording, is these guys that dont even own a instrument and make "music" with their computer. There is a always a conservative and extreme version of anything that has no defintion in stone.... I remember when i recorded at some known house studio up in Joshua Tree, it was known for its vibe and analog reel to reel recording. It was cool seeing session reels of Kyuss who was the Queens of the Stone Age guys first band, Dave Grohl and a few other reels sitting on bookshelves. Well of course someone could say well it wasnt all analog because it ended up on cd and not vinyl from the reel...

Shanesaw Sat, 07/02/2011 - 22:32

Yeah the low end spectrum definately has a round full sound that digital just cant do, im sure it sounded sweet. That was when it was actually really spinning, now its about a Ipod with a plastic cd looking thing the "DJs" are "spinning"... I guess at least its shock resistant now when drunk people bump your table...

Davedog Sat, 07/02/2011 - 23:11

Analog would have to be lack of processing that involves conversion of any sort. Even DAT machines had digital converters. I have some MIX magazines dated around the turn of the 80's and most of the ads are spouting about the 'digital revolution'. There are no DAW ads at all. Synclavier ads, Oxford ads, New England Digital, etc etc. Digital at that time was still to tape. Computers were used to sync and some MIDI programming.....@6 and 8 bits!!

The majority of music made before 1980 was analog. A look on your CD cover will tell you the process. AAD= analog through mastering and the CD you're holding is the 'D'. ADD= analog tracking, digital mastering, digital printing. If its all digital and its an older CD then it will have the digital stamp on it.

The records made before this time are the sounds that we are all still trying to achieve. Its a tribute to the amazing rooms and the highest end analog gear available. MOST of the preamps were all in the board. About the only thing I remember from this time as an outboard pre was usually something the engineer built for a specific purpose, or something taken from something else and used as a mic pre.

It would be safe to say that all these great sounding tracks and songs from that era were analog in its pure form. And the engineers got all the beautiful sounds on large format consoles in a tuned room with experienced REAL engineers and bands and songs coming from deep inspiration. Oh, and OLD mics.

audiokid Sun, 07/03/2011 - 10:22

Still not quite clear with the term when it is used in a sentence to do with examples:

  • recording music
  • our signal chain
  • category
  • topic title
  • word in a description of a forum here

Doing searches all over the web, when I search for the keyword "analog" for music, I find analog continuously related to Tape and really no mention to hybrid or analog GEAR. Because hybrid is really just coming of age, is it just not grouped into the term? Where does analog gear fit in? This is my confusion.

For terminology clarification, when someone says they are going back to analog, are we specifically suggesting going back to Tape?
I suppose to avoid any misunderstanding, always use the word hybrid if we are bypassing Tape, correct?

djmukilteo Sun, 07/03/2011 - 11:50

Just my 2 cents on this and I really don't know if it means much....
Analog is just a linear continuous voltage. The AC power that you plug your gear into is analog.
Everything in audio that you hear over your speakers is analog. Power amplifiers are analog, preamps are analog, microphones are analog. The electronics doesn't constitute analog or digital it can manipulate and control both. The electronic components don't constitute digital or analog they are used in both realms.
Tape recorders are mostly analog...the only time it's not really analog is when the electronics converts the recording signal into magnetic fields and aligns iron particles onto magnetic tape. That's not really analog, some may say it is but it really isn't. It's a transduction from one form to another. The same is true with microphones themselves which perform a similar but opposite conversion of that tape head.
When a digital to analog converter takes digital bits and changes them back into an analog signal to listen to that is once again analog.
The only thing that your DAW software really does is act like a tape recorder. Once you've converted your analog signal into digital bits your DAW can save that pattern just like iron particles used to do on tape. Once it's saved on a hard drive within a computer then the whole digital realm is realized and you have the advantage of non-destructive manipulation of a pseudo analog signal. If you keep everything ITB you don't necessarily have a digital recording. At some point you will need to convert it back to analog again in order to hear it.
Unless you're listening to a live performance....recording is always "hybrid".
So recording sound requires many complicated forms of electronic conversion and transduction in order to accomplish and capture and save in memorial something that has happened in the past. Camera's do the same thing...it is merely the wonder of modern electronics!

Davedog Sun, 07/03/2011 - 16:17

I think when the statement "I'm going back to analog" is used, they are meaning a console and most probably tape. Hybrid is a new term for recording with mixed types of devices. If you print CD's from a digital medium that is originally analog this is 'hybrid' recording. Mixing ITB is probably hybrid since most likely the sources are all analog.

A truly digital recording would be digital sources from beginning to end.

Since I still have a stand-alone hard drive recorder and a bunch of analog sources, my rig would be hybrid, even when I bypass the hard disk and go directly to PT, its still hybrid.

The term was coined to relate to the practice of studios collecting sources ITB and popping back out to process through another set of analog circuits and then converting back to ITB for more process and mix.

DrGonz Mon, 07/04/2011 - 05:01

As the definition on the Wikipedia page states... "A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information by electrical and chemical signaling." Your sensory neurons respond to the sound waves and are perceived as analog signal. As I was pondering all of this thread I stumbled upon this website>>>>
RLE - Analog VLSI and Biological Systems Group
Pay special attention to the part about "Bio-inspired Projects in Sensing and Computing"
I think everyone should carefully read the this web page. I truly believe that this technology in this research will one day improve AD DA conversion.

The true problem with digital formats in the audio world is that it truncates information in a way that is damaging to the true analog signal. Then there is the argument about psycho-acoustics and how our brains cannot perceive this difference. I challenge anyone to find a truly digital recording of anything that was not first sampled in some analog fashion. To hear a pulse modulation would be like listening to a fax modem make a connection from one device to another. And that is DA AD conversion in terms of analog phone lines, in the example of a fax machine.

When people say they are going back to analog they really are trying to say that the hybrid system they are recording on is becoming overly processed by bits. Nothing we have ever recorded on is pure analog and probably never will be, unless we could put an actual human brain in a computer.

I really think this source for that above website is really interesting to read, but it hurts the brain. It's actually funny that in the first paragraph they mention that the brain is working in a hybrid sort of format too...!
rle.mit.edu/avbs/publications/journal_papers/analog_vs_digital.pdf

Mo Facta Tue, 07/05/2011 - 11:01

When one realises that an 8kHz sine wave sampled at 44.1kHz only gives you between 5 and 6 samples per cycle, it's easy to see the pitfalls of digital audio. To demonstrate my point:

At the same sample rate we get TWO samples for a 20kHz tone - that's pretty much a square wave and one that happens 20 thousand times a second.

Granted, this does not begin to explain the impact of harmonic distortion begotten from certain analog gear like tape and outboard esoterica, etc, but it's a fair argument in favor of the linearity of an analog tape recording, which is continuous with infinite resolution.

Cheers :)

IIRs Tue, 07/05/2011 - 13:05

Mo Facta, post: 373661 wrote: When one realises that an 8kHz sine wave sampled at 44.1kHz only gives you between 5 and 6 samples per cycle, it's easy to see the pitfalls of digital audio. To demonstrate my point:

At the same sample rate we get TWO samples for a 20kHz tone - that's pretty much a square wave and one that happens 20 thousand times a second.

Granted, this does not begin to explain the impact of harmonic distortion begotten from certain analog gear like tape and outboard esoterica, etc, but it's a fair argument in favor of the linearity of an analog tape recording, which is continuous with infinite resolution.

Cheers :)

The diagram above is an audio editor's representation of the digital signal. That's not what the signal looks like after conversion back to analog! Put a scope on your analog outs and you will see the original curvy sine wave you started with.

djmukilteo Tue, 07/05/2011 - 13:55

Well once again probably means nothing maybe only to me....but
I think one thing to be aware of in this whole discussion is the fact that all recording of sound is an analog event.
What has happened as with most computer technology adaptations in today's world is the ability for the technology to convert real world analog events into digital representations. This is the real goal of digital electronics and computer systems. And that needs to be discussed as a separate module of equipment that has somewhat enhanced our ability today to capture and store sound. That block of activity has it's own requirements and accuracy. Like I said in an earlier post....that is the new tape deck..so to me regardless if you use a tape recorder or A/D/A converters and DAW that should not alone define ITB/OTB/hybrid.
Conversion and storage doesn't have to be considered. This is what computers and electronics have been doing in almost every field imaginable, so it's nothing new...it's just another application of using computers.
How well it captures and stores the events and then plays that back is all it's really doing.
How well it does that can be a completely separate topic of discussion.
So to an analog purist point of view who wants to use computers to capture and record his sound....using digital "processing" of any kind to the signal source is really the point at which we stray. OTB hardware processing that is strictly discreet electronics and not using any internal digital processing and then re-digitizing the waveform to me could technically still be analog. Using OTB hardware that uses digital processing...that really is nothing more than ITB digital processing.
IMHO...we should remove the A/D/A converters and that chain from the equation.
"Hybrid" should be defined as using digital processing in a digital domain on any analog signal regardless of what type of recording device or method you use.
ITB should be defined as original digital source material either created synthetically ITB or from digitally processed source material brought into the mix from the outside with or without digital processing internally or externally.
OTB should be defined as strict analog sources with discreet electronics manipulations of the source signal....but OK being recorded digitally as long as there is no digital signal processing going on.

Mo Facta Wed, 07/06/2011 - 07:54

IIRs, post: 373662 wrote: The diagram above is an audio editor's representation of the digital signal. That's not what the signal looks like after conversion back to analog! Put a scope on your analog outs and you will see the original curvy sine wave you started with.

I am fully aware of that and I never claimed that's what it looks like after reconstruction by the DA. I was merely trying to make a point based on the pitfalls of sampling at the AD converter.

I guess what I was trying to illustrate was that audio stored on an analog medium is continuous and smooth and requires none of the interpolation trickery involved in reconstructing a waveform in the digital domain back to analog.

And I wish I had an oscilloscope.

Cheers :)

IIRs Wed, 07/06/2011 - 08:32

Mo Facta, post: 373692 wrote: interpolation trickery

As I understand it, this "interpolation trickery" basically boils down to just low-pass filtering at Nyquist. Its really quite simple and elegant compared to the crazy AC bias, pre-emphasis, companding etc. that was required for analog tape...

audiokid Wed, 07/06/2011 - 09:01

Shanesaw, post: 373599 wrote: We are now the generation of ADD recording. Lol. I think when people say they are going back to analag , they mean a console for tracking and mixing, not sure many would be going back to tape. Never know though...

Well, leaving out the word "true" analog, I think it comes down to what generation you are speaking to. To play it safe, for 2011 and beyond I would hardly believe there are many people still using tape, why would you. I can't even order it around here anymore. Tape may have its sound but it is so slow to work with and always degrades the original signal so quickly, its definitely not my thing.

I'm definitely going to use hybrid in there until that last of the baby boomers are retired :)

AToE Wed, 07/06/2011 - 13:34

I've yet to try this, but I've heard from a few of my elders that there's a neat budget trick for getting some tape tone in a recording. You record to DAW, everything as normal, then anything you want some tape tone on you run out to a HI-FI VHS recorder and record it onto the audio channels on a HI-FI VHS tape (has to be the hifi version, apparently the quality of the tape on these was actually quite good considering what they are), then you either put that back into the DAW, or if it was your master channels you could just mail the VHS tape to the mastering facility. Obviously it's not the same as the real deal, but apparently it is quite use-able. One of these days I'm going to have to test it out, hitting the tape with different levels as well.

Davedog Wed, 07/06/2011 - 18:28

Thats a neat trick. Tape is NOT dead. It has evolved. The big boys are digging the old machines out, realigning them and adding a CLASP to the system. If I read the usage correctly, you only need one reel of tape and an alignment tape. Ease of use is one thing that has certainly changed the way we think about recording, but the depth of field and the sound of tape passing over the heads cannot and has not been duplicated.

audiokid Wed, 07/06/2011 - 19:00

Clasp looks impressive but priced for the elite, and IMHO, the elite are thinning out fast. I seriously can't imagine that system being around 10 years from now but who knows. You'd have to sell a lot of mp3 to see the return.

If tape returns like the old days, it will only be a fad like vinyl is in the indie world. I can definitely see tape being used like hybrid though, as an effect for a specific stem for drums but not as a complete return as in true analog, can you?

But, maybe new technology in Reel to Reel and the actual tape will evolve, and I suppose this is what Clasp is.

Davedog Thu, 07/07/2011 - 00:17

Lets look at it this way in terms of return on an investment. Rather than an elitist perspective. You have an established studio with clientele. Clientele who are wanting a return to the 'tape' sound. A reel of 2" is what, $300 these days, and a full album is four reels minimum. So you have an investment of 1.2K per record....Your 24 track 2" machine you invested 50K in years ago hasnt been used in 5 years, but you cant get anything for it so why sell it. Then CLASP comes along. Its stable and it gives you the 'tape' sound with the DIGITAL work flow and editing. More machine brands are being added all the time. CLASP comes in @approx. 10K. You use ONE tape for everyone. Your mothballed machine now has cache as a viable part of the system again, you have another selling point for your busy room, and it is the ULTIMATE HYBRID SYSTEM on a level with RADAR.

Not elitist but a sound investment for the studios who still have the machinery sitting dormant. This type of technology isnt a fad its the beginning of the new world.

Mo Facta Thu, 07/07/2011 - 09:50

IIRs, post: 373698 wrote: As I understand it, this "interpolation trickery" basically boils down to just low-pass filtering at Nyquist. Its really quite simple and elegant compared to the crazy AC bias, pre-emphasis, companding etc. that was required for analog tape...

You're referring to the anti-aliasing filter that's applied to prevent erroneous frequency artifacts that creep in when the waveform is reconstructed. I'm not a DSP guru but I am aware of what you are talking about.

My point is still that regardless of how it is constructed, there is still only a maximum of two samples for the highest frequencies in 44.1, which I have a difficult time reconciling when it comes to what may be lost in the digitization process.

And please let me state where I stand here. I am a digital audio guy. Always have been. I use it every day and I'm not adverse to it nor do I preferably take an analog soap box. I do however think that when it comes to the esoterica and aesthetics of analog vs. digital audio, it's difficult to quantify. The information that I put forward regarding the pitfalls of sampling, particularly at the AD, made sense to me on some level because, after all, the psychoacoustic effects of reproduction systems that have wider bandwidths (such as vinyl and tape) are largely undetermined.

Cheers :)

AToE Thu, 07/07/2011 - 10:57

Davedog, post: 373711 wrote: Thats a neat trick. Tape is NOT dead. It has evolved. The big boys are digging the old machines out, realigning them and adding a CLASP to the system. If I read the usage correctly, you only need one reel of tape and an alignment tape. Ease of use is one thing that has certainly changed the way we think about recording, but the depth of field and the sound of tape passing over the heads cannot and has not been duplicated.

I hear that UA plugin that emulates a Studer is pretty good though, what would be very interesting would be to hear an actual comparision, set up a real one, mimic it's settings. tape brand etc in the plugin, then cut some tracks out of a DAW onto the tape, apply the plugin, then do a blind listening to see who can identify which is which.

I'm sure it's not the same as the real deal, but for 300 bucks it looks to be one very impressive effect for those who have to live inside the box for now.

audiokid Thu, 07/07/2011 - 11:57

Davedog, post: 373716 wrote: Lets look at it this way in terms of return on an investment. Rather than an elitist perspective. You have an established studio with clientele. Clientele who are wanting a return to the 'tape' sound. A reel of 2" is what, $300 these days, and a full album is four reels minimum. So you have an investment of 1.2K per record....Your 24 track 2" machine you invested 50K in years ago hasnt been used in 5 years, but you cant get anything for it so why sell it. Then CLASP comes along. Its stable and it gives you the 'tape' sound with the DIGITAL work flow and editing. More machine brands are being added all the time. CLASP comes in @approx. 10K. You use ONE tape for everyone. Your mothballed machine now has cache as a viable part of the system again, you have another selling point for your busy room, and it is the ULTIMATE HYBRID SYSTEM on a level with RADAR.

Not elitist but a sound investment for the studios who still have the machinery sitting dormant. This type of technology isnt a fad its the beginning of the new world.

I see your point with older decks sitting around. The brief research I did on Clasp last year, I still think its an attempt to refit something obsolete and build an investment around something that may or may not have third party support next year. Its part of the good with the bad (old with the new) don't you think? Like investing in a vintage 57 Chevy for ride that is meant to do a lot of high speed cornering in rain, snow, wind, cold, hot for a year run on a tank of gas. You are relying on third party manufacturers parts and quality control in a loop to keep it alive.
I'm a firm believer of high end, but never to invest in companies or product that are on the leading edge, sitting vulnerable. They are usually the brilliant folks that get outdone by something not quite as brilliant that make it more affordable for the majority. IMO, anything using TAPE, is a bad investment. Tape stretches and motor speed deviate. In a digital world, those two pitfalls are the absolute worst enemy. Maybe I'm missing the whole Clasp concept but...

And besides, who is going to keep making tape that meets our high demand for another decade. I had to special order tape from the USA and that alone is a red flag. I just find anything to do with Tape, a totally archaic idea in a fast and moving digital world all going online and SS storage.
Even the concept of me using analog gear in my hybrid summing system is kind of goofy but I like it for sound designing. As stellar as my rig is, I'm not convinced it is how I will finish music a year from now.

That being said, who knows. Thank goodness there are companies like Radar and Clasp still around. They are the ones that set the bar.

audiokid Thu, 07/07/2011 - 14:48

AToE, post: 373742 wrote: Did someone add that video to my post or is that some really amazing feature of this boardware that it knows what I'm posting about and adds content?!

Yes, I was just going to mention this but you beat me to it. Our thread is getting pretty interesting, intuitive and engaging so I thought it was appropriate to add that to your post and our thread rather than on its own. I personally think the AV is a great addition to our forums and that was spot on. I encourage more video cross references. Hope you didn't mind?

AToE Thu, 07/07/2011 - 15:06

audiokid, post: 373743 wrote: Yes, I was just going to mention this but you beat me to it. Our thread is getting pretty interesting, intuitive and engaging so I thought it was appropriate to add that to your post and our thread rather than on its own. I personally think the AV is a great addition to our forums and that was spot on. I encourage more video cross references. Hope you didn't mind?

Oh no, not at all, just almost had me thinking you had an AI running these forums or something for a minute there!

I should own a copy of that UA Studer emulation soon, I'm really looking forward to playing with it, especially for the slower tape settings on drums, maybe bass, lots of fun stuff to play with in there.

audiokid Thu, 07/07/2011 - 17:07

Thanks Dave, I was looking at it before I dropped all the cash down on these RME converters last month. And last year when I was seriously thinking about tape and hybrid systems. Its impressive and I enjoyed the videos and believe it, but it involves Tape, and tape IMHO is not here to stay. Even if its the best there is, I still wouldn't go that direction because of the large footprint it takes, green energy and the need for tape that has to rewind. So many negative aspects compared to other systems. There will be better than this in no time at all.

I think Clasp is ideal for the for the people that want to squeeze another year or two out of their archaic reel to reel. I don't doubt it sounds so much better than what they have.

peace :)

x

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