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Digital vs. analog recording

Member for

21 years
Digital vs. analog recording.

Anyone having experience of A/B testing identical material
played back from a 24 track analog side by side an 24 track
digital machine?


Member for

15 years 10 months

Kapt.Krunch Thu, 04/03/2008 - 06:25
No...but that's too open of a question, anyway, really.

Anyone who may have would need specifics of which items you were referring to, the test methods, and the condition of the items...especially the tape machine.

I believe conventional wisdom is that a high quality tape machine, set up and maintained properly, and properly used is able to equal, or even surpass the sonic qualities of most digital recorders.

MOST?! Depends on how good the digital recorder is, and how it was set up and utilized.
A good digital recorder will sound better than a average-to-bad analog recorder.

And, to make matters worse, the same exact signal sent through to both simultaneously may not end up being recorded at the same levels because of input differences between the two machines, and/or input level settings. How do you exactly match the recording levels each machine sees, and how do you know they are least without going inside the machines and finding a test point somewhere to measure. Level meters are useless for that. And, if one item boosts the input just a bit more internally, and possibly even boosts it at a different level to the output, how do you even measure for certainty the input level with an o'scope, and trust you didn't negatively affect the signal from the output when you tried to match it with level control, somewhere? See how confusing this can get? :?

There are a lot of variables that can affect it either positively or negatively.

Sure, you can take measurements with all kinds of test equipment...and hope those are calibrated properly to compensate for any variences in the input or output stages.

Will they be connected to record through, and play back through, the same source and destination points, or will they be going through separate mixer channels, possibly, in and then out...which will add uncertainty?

Probably just have to use your ears, is what it will come down to. I'm sure if you listed the two contenders, you may be able to get a lot of answers that say something like "Well, THAT should sound better than THAT, in my experience".

Just some things to consider.

So, anyway...who is in each corner?


Member for

17 years 2 months

JoeH Thu, 04/03/2008 - 09:31
Nicely "Crunched", Kaptain! ;-)

I've spent probably half of my career involved in either one; analog till about the early 90's and digital ever since. Sooner or later, it won't matter anyway, if it still does at all. (Software emulations will just get better and better, and the differences, such as they are, will eventually be moot.)

Let's remember that they're supposed to be mainly STORAGE MEDIUMS, not necessarily coloring tools or ways to manipulate sounds, (although that does tend to happen with analog, esp when pushed to its limits). If you want analog sound, export it, or route the tracks out. If you want pristine accuracy, stick with digital.

My preference has always been for the cleanest, quietest, accurate way to store my tracks, mixes and archives. Cost is also a factor, so is longevity and security.

The cost of storage size available on a 500 gig HD these days makes it almost ridiculous and unfair to compare it a similar amount of a analog tape. Unless you're very very rich, with a large stockpile already on hand, you're just not going to be able to keep up, let alone find any of it much longer. (One reel of 2" analog tape running at 30 IPS used to go for anywhere from $100-200. No idea what it costs now, but that's about a half hour of music on 24 tracks.

I don't know who's still making the stuff, but my guess is the pool is getting smaller all the time.

And then there's the maintenance involved....Guess which one's harder to just keep above the "normal" baseline of quality?

I could never run my business the way it is now, and offer my clients what I offer without digital multitrack. No one I know would or could pay for the same material on an analog format. Sure, it's a great sound, very nostalgic and lots of fun, but it's just not cost effective anymore.

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 04/03/2008 - 15:25
Well, it was a kind of difficult question since few have this experience to direct compare their production from the two media, digital/analog.
I stick to the digital my self, for many of the reasons mention above.

But I'm still the owner of a 24 track analog, and it's a pity still not to have
the "force" of the analog recording adopted to the digital.
But, I'm sure it's a matter of time ( some years), and we will be there.
If we talk about measuring, pure, clean, silent, comfort and costs, the discussion are off course dead, digital wins.

But if we leave it to the ears only, it is for me a different story.
I started my career as a studio engineer back in 1975, so off course, I grew up with the analog.
But I was dying to move on to digital in 1988, and went on a Sony 24 Dash machine for 6 months testing.
(Things has changed digitally since then, I know).
First of all, after each working day, my ears was ringing of overdoses of transients.
The sound felt a little stiff, flat and dead, but I was happy to have clean and silent tracks.

So after 6 months of digital testing, I decided to think twice, and did the transferring back to my analog machine.
Then I had the BIG KICK of my life. The punch, the warmth, the smoothness in
the high end, the tape compression, how the sound takes you.
I stayed another 9 years without moving from the analog concept.

I agree in most digital arguments, and I work digitally today, and I'm happy to have left
all this analog calibrating, noise and mechanical struggling.
But I'm waiting and hoping for the day my ears are pleased in the same way as with the best of the analog sound.And sure, that day will come!

I think it's healthy to still have in mind the analog days, to push the digital technic and developing forward to give us the best from two worlds.

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Fri, 04/04/2008 - 01:43
Breath, we are virtually contemporaries of each other. I only started a few years earlier. Yup, my MM 1200 was a great sounding machine! I don't miss the maintenance on that beast. I do miss the sound. And I did simultaneously track & listen back to the MM 1200 and the DA88's when I first got those. Besides, I archived a bunch of my 2 inch stuff, since I was selling that machine off. Yes the depth and life to the analog is still elusive. But the closest I've heard is DSD. We just have to wait a little longer for a 24 track DSD recorder to show up at Banjo Hut for under $2000. I'm not holding my breath.

And yeah, $175 for 17 minutes of recording time at 30 IPS. You only needed about five rolls of that stuff for an album. That's without any alternate takes. At least at 30 IPS, the recorder could make it out to nearly 30kHz. My custom console was flat to 175kHz. Or was that 150kHz? I forget. DSD, is flat to 100kHz. Smoke that!

My favorite flavor. Smell that smell. Yummy. Flat & FAT.
Ms. Remy Ann David