Analog vs. Digital Mixing


Well-Known Member
Mar 31, 2002
Henrik I don't have a great system compared to Bob Ludwig but I do have a highend system compared to most recording studios. But I now I understand your point and I agree with you.

I can clearly hear very small errors in my system and have been amazed to listen to old and new commercial mixes to find lots of funny little mistakes.

Regarding Phase Distortion, it is easily measured relative to wavefront data by using a sinx/x impulse response which has almost equal energy at all frequencys, and looking at the time domain wveform after it passes through a system. Any changes in phase at varying frequencies will change the risetime and creat overshoots, undershoots and ringing. This is a very standard tranmission test through space.

Regarding analog v digital "reality", it is interesting that we say analog which has neasurable and noticable distortion, color and added noise sounds more like the source than a relatively undistorted digital copy of the same. This is a symantic arguement. Obviously we cannot argue about which someone prefers because that is personal taste, but we can argue about which one is closer to the original sound. I think we develop expectations for sounds on certain media, and even though nothing that was ever recorded actually sounds like the source, we all have our favorite variations.

When I record in digital I do not follow a formula or a particular practice. I experiment until I find a sound I really like, (applying common sense such as gain management and mic interference etc) then I push the button. What I really like about digital is once I set up the recording chain and print the recording, I get EXACTLY the same sound I heard through my monitors (listening through the digital signal chain) every single time I play it back.

Analog was always a moving target. You made the input monitored sound sound like A in order to get it to sound like B on playback. Playback was always an "enhanced" version of the input. Luckily it was a very cool enhancement and talented engineers developed secret recipes for getting to that final sound.

As a mix engineer I hated having to anticipate the high end rolloff that would occur from multiple playback passses of tape over the course of a mix. Digital does not degrade.

The trick with digital is to use great A/D converters and monitor the digital signal path while tracking, And to make sure you use great DACs for monitoring. I would argue that both ADC's and DACs have made orders of magnitude improvements in performance over the past 2 to 3 years and the equipment and mix buses we have now are very superior to what we had just 2 years ago.

Its funny but all I have to do to feel better about digital is listen to an old led zepplin song every once in a while. The music was great, the production was great, the sound quality was not as great, and this is true on a lot of 70s and 80s recordings that were very successful (might of had more to do with what they were smoking than what the medium was) :)




I'm curious... as someone who is working extensively in digital how do you deal with analog signal processing during mixdown (compression etc.) If you wanted to use a Distressor on the drums (not because it's analog but because it sounds good :) ) how would you patch it into your signal chain? or do you only use plugins exclusively? would you print it to a new track?

Just wondering how this is dealt with in a pro environment.

thanks for all your insights!


Kurt and all

I've read this before, you miss the sound of your console, but you don't miss the monthly bills.

I still have four analog consoles and never had any problems other than a dirty connector.

I've bought a used DDA big board in 1996. It's fired up in the morning and shut down in the night.
And it never had a problem. So not a single bill in more than six years.

About what Uncle Bob mentioned, many people listen to very decent sounding home stereo's and really appreciate a great sounding production.

It's the indian, not the arrow, just to use a cliche. I had the pleasure to record some really great and very great bands and musicians.

One of these bands, a jazz fusion band, recorded a CD with me in 1995 with a small Seck 1882 board, a Tascam MSR analog (semi pro) tapemachine and a number of Sennheiser MD421 and similar quality mics, even a couple of AKG C1000's! :p

This CD was CD of the month and got a 10 for sound quality, which I'm very proud of.

I have yet to hear a production of this kind of music that sounds better. Musicians are always surprised how good the sound is. Mixed manual on this small board. No outboard gear is used, no compression, no reverb. Just the sound of the band and the room, recorded all at once in the 30 m2 room.

Now why am I telling you this? Because we engineers keep jabbering about gear, but a really good engineer can make a killer sound with a Wackie board and a couple of SM57's. That's why.

You can listen to a small fragment of this on my website, the band is called "The Troupe".

Yesterday a band visited my place (and booked) and they had brought a demo with them. Recorded on PT they said. It sounded flat and like there was a blanked pulled over the sound.

But when I record something on Nuendo, it sounds just fine. I still prefer 2" tape, I mix to tape as well, a matter of taste.

It seems to me that more engineers are returning to mixing by an analog board. Am I right or wrong?

Peace, Han
Last edited by a moderator:

Kurt Foster

Well-Known Member
Jul 2, 2002
You must be living right! Tape machines and consoles that never need maintenance.. my dream.. Or perhaps you aren't running them 12 hours a day 7 days a week with a bunch of different engineers, like I was. ???

All I can say is in 5 years I added up what the maintenance was on my MCI 636 console was.. it came to over 5 grand. I paid 10 grand for it and sold it for 6.. Out 9K.. I don't even know what the tape machine cost to keep. After I added up the expenses on the board I stopped because I figured that it would kill me to know what the 2" cost to operate.. what you don't know, won't hurt you. The MCI consoles sound great but generate a lot of heat and basically self destruct. Very high maintenance.

I've been running a DAW now for almost 2 years with no maintenance costs.. The clients are just as happy, like you said a good engineer ... and the costs are way down for me. Instead of working for the landlord and the studio tech, I keep what I make. I charge half what I had to charge to keep the doors open on the analog studio and I keep it all instead of spending it all..


Well-Known Member
Jul 3, 2001
Originally posted by teleharmonic:

If you wanted to use a Distressor on the drums (not because it's analog but because it sounds good :) ) how would you patch it into your signal chain? or do you only use plugins exclusively? would you print it to a new track?

thanks for all your insights! [/QB]
FYI: One of Nuendo's latest tricks is the ability to perform a realtime mixdown. This means that you can patch in external gear onto your D/A outputs and bring them back in, with the correct delay compensation applied to keep them in, in synch with the rest of the audio.


Well-Known Member
Jul 3, 2001
Originally posted by Solar:
Originally posted by sak:
I think its all a matter of taste
If it is, apparently listeners prefer analog, since all the hit records are mixed that way.
Do they? Or do hit record get manufactured by big companies that have huge marketing budgets and correspondingly large recording budgets, so they buy time at the most expensive recording studios they can - the ones using old analog gear? :>

Since it's all going to be
[=""]squashed to hell and back (link)[/] what difference does it make?