The downsides of digital audio

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Marcus Black, Jan 21, 2005.

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  1. Marcus Black

    Marcus Black Guest

    DAWs are here to stay and they bring a lot of good features to us, and I like it. But this is what bugs me about working in DAWs:

    - Sometimes I feel like everything is not in time, as if the time-alignment between tracks differs from time to time. Especially true to soft-instruments, but audiotracks aswell.

    - People with a non-analog background that I occasionally work with are not able to make decisions. Emergency-exit always wide open. Why ? Because it´s possible. You can undo everything and always go back to square one. Consequence ? Nothing is ever really finished. There´s always the possibility to change anything. Amp-farm instead of a real amp... because then you can change the sound... well, you get the point.

    - In the days of 24-tracks, when you had a physical limit of 24 tracks, the tracks were filled up and if there was a free track at mixdown it was either a miracle or it had to be used just for the sake of it. Unfortunately this still seems to be the case with 100+ tracks to use.

    - How are we supposed to archive the stuff we record ? If you make a major hit, chances are that somebody wants to do something with the recording in, say 20 years. Open a PT6.0-session in year 2025...?? I don´t think so.

    - A&R-people who wants to change everything all the time just because it´s possible. "You can have the mix back right away, right ?" No, I mix on an analog desk, with outboard processors. They don´t get it. To all of you (euphonix-users) who have analog desks with total recall, never tell the A&R-people that you can recall the mix fairly easily. It will never get finished.

    - People listening with their eyes instead of ears. Tip: turn off the screen and hear new things.

    - Latency. Even the systems that are supposed to be latency-free are not. A digital process can never be done in no time.

    - Overprocessing. People throwing in a million plug-ins on one channel, on every channel...and the 2-bus. ´coz you can.

    - Plug-in-mania. Since when do you REALLY need 30 different compressors, 15 of each ?

    - Fixed tempos (metronome). Classical musicians and composers still understand that variations in tempo is a very effective trick. Adaptable to pop/rock aswell if we weren´t so stubborn about the fact that editing is easier if recorded material is played to a click.

    - Over-edited stuff. If everything is exactly on-beat you don´t hear the different sounds anymore. But still, that´s a sound on it´s own. At least it won´t breath life into a track.

    - Everybody is suddenly a Mastering-engineer.

    There´s a lot I like about DAWs aswell ! What do you love/hate about the DAW-way of working ? Have a nice day.
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    I'm with you on basically every point.

    Especially the "Mastering Engineer" thing... :lol:

    But yeah, such a great tool - SO easily abused. I miss the days of a strip of tape where you screwed up an DID IT AGAIN instead of just copying it from the last verse...
  3. Thomaster

    Thomaster Guest

    by all means: no offense! but i just dislike the prejudiced undertone of your statements.. let me explain:
    Maybe you should re-adjust your equipment.. all i gotta say.

    i dont see the problem
    archiving digitally is easy and involves no loss (unless you're using cheap discs/drives/whatever) tapes however, degrade in time.
    so... 'opening' that reel of yours in 2025?? i dont think so...
    this is something that has to do with the relationship between busines and music which is, apparently, becoming closer
    great advice
    like you will ever hear a 3ms. delay... dude, get over it, you can't even hear the difference.
    thats just something stupid people do, like the people that connected wrong (analog) cables, back in the days
    since the quality of the plugins has become more diverse. and since there are more choices and more specialties to choose from.
    an improvement IMO
    True, to a certain extent. (i think you're biggest problem is that there are more in-experienced people nowadays, cuz this is, again, something in-experienced (ok, stupid, if you will) people do.
    and.. its a style-thing.
    define life..
    true, but what do you expect? everyone spends their money on a DAW, plugins, monitors, software, etc. to do everything on their own. why not give mastering a try?
    i am..

    all in all, my guess is you're frustrated with the quantity of 'stupid DAW-people' that's been added to your 'analog heaven'
    its just something that will cure with time.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I agree with all the points Marcus makes ... right on! As far as latency and the tracks not sounding in time, I run into this problem too. I found that if I turn off all the plugs before I record a new track, this problem dissappears ...

    The one thing Marcus does not mention is the affordabilty factor of new and powerful tools makes it possible for people who have no business recording to do so ... I know this comment reeks of "attitude" and I admit it ... but that doesn't change the way I feel. Much of the reason that there is so much bad music these days is just about any moron with a few grand can set themselves up as a "producer" ... and because the cost of a production facillity is more affordable people with no background in music are recording horrible sounding stuff and then calling it "lo fi" and claiming "I meant to do that" ...

    All the while, producers with talent, the players they used to hire and the studios they booked, are all going under because the no talents with thier bedroom studios are "cheapening the product" ...
  5. bhd2vek

    bhd2vek Guest

    In the end, doesn't this create a market for talented producers, players and studios?
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I don't see how ... perhaps you can explain it to me ??? I see it as work that used to be done well in studios with competent engineers and producers is going to home studios where people just record over and over until they make a mistake that sounds good ...
  7. bhd2vek

    bhd2vek Guest

    I understand your point and agree with you. My point is that the technology available to home studios has helped expand the recording industry. There are more players playing and more studio's (using the term studio's loosely) recording.

    So as the market continues to be flooded with these sonic "mistakes", a hole is created and the demand for a higher quality product increases.

    Have some quality studios lost business to the home studio? Probably yes. Will this continue? Probably yes...

    Will the really talented studios gain market share in the long run? Probably yes. Because of the competition, there will be studios who drop out... this means that the work from those seeking the higher quality product gets divided among fewer studios.
  8. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    and everything else you said ... :roll: ... very true

    It can be hard to have good discussion on any forum as the depth of knowledge and requirments of the DAW is very diverse.

    I tend to keep my recordings below 32 tracks and use the DAW as if it were a 2inch 24trk

    I still don't trust the software and constantly check latency and timning between sessions and particularly after an update to system or application

    .... :roll: .... I think if we put our heads together we could set up a simple audio test that would show even a 3ms error can be heard

    Understanding how the gear works and what errors might be there can help you make choices on how best to use both time and equipment

    It is a very cool time to be in audio and am very happy to be in the time of the DAW ... and I love complaining about them too ... 8)
  9. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Obviously, this only applies to a percentage (although a rather substantial percentage) of recordists:

    Latency and other anomalies aside, I think a large part of the whole point is that DAW's, plugs, unlimited tracks, etc., give people with little or no experience a HUGE amount of rope to hang themselves with.

    And many of them use as much rope as they can, instead of simply learning how to tie a good knot first.
  10. cleamon

    cleamon Guest

    All this talk reminds me of "the old days" in software development where a talented programmer had to squeeze the most code into the least memory (a typical desktop business computer had 16 KB ram and 1-720 KB disk drive - yes those are K's), using 1st and 2nd generation languages/compilers, etc. Then came the gush of cheap (high capacity) hardware, 3rd and 4th generation langauges, virtually unlimited resources. I remember when visual basic came out and people were saying "wow, now anyone can 'program', just point and click". Well, they were right, but then 90% of it was crap. The market was glutted with 3rd rate (or worse) software. However, the aforementioned "talented" programmer was now able to do so much more, with more precision, with more robustness, in much less time, etc.
    My point being, don't blame the technology, blame the user of that technology. The good talent WILL prevail!

  11. gtarist3587

    gtarist3587 Guest

    wellllllll, here comes the ignorant "home studio" no background in analog first recorder was a tascam digital portastudio guys opinion....for what its worth. I can EASILY see where you guys stand on the matter and completely appreciate it. but you gotta remember everyone needs a window to get their beginings from and i think DAW's are doing that for people. Also, anyone who has an ear for music can tell the difference between good and bad recordings so let people make overproduced recordings i mean who cares really? i know i sure as hell respect anyone who can wire up an analog board with a shitload of cables / patchbay and stuff VERY IMPRESSIVE i'd love to learn it if i had an opportunity but truth is being a 17 year old at home all i have availability to is digital stuff....i have a digital mixer firewired into a g4 laptop i mean sorry but it's very convienient for me. I would MUCH rather be in a big studio playing with lots of outboard effects and learning how to make crucial decisions without the comfort of the "undo" button. i'm going to school in the fall to study recording engineering and i'm hoping to learn all of the meantime i will stay in my garage recording my and my friends bands demos on my DAW
  12. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    This is a punch in the face to me....yes I have a "Guitar Center" bedroom studio and I suck ass at what I do, but I'm working my ass off trying to be decent at something I love. I don't deny that my work is $*^t, but I'm trying and doing my best. When I get a client I don't feed them a crock of crap....I tell them that my gear is nothing special and the result will only sound as good as their peformance and gear sounds...if it sounds better we got lucky! They are happy with that because the price is right.

    I just kinda felt like a cheap shot to the guys that want to break into recording that are very passionate about it as I am. I don't think I'll ever going to be a great engineer or record a breath taking track....but I'm going to die trying. I won't call myself an engineer until I feel that I deserve it. Until then I'm an idiot that spent a few grand at Guitar Center.
  13. eFe

    eFe Active Member

    Jul 26, 2003
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Well, nice topic.
    First of all, I agree in most of the points in the first place.
    I read here lots of forums, people asking if they should buy a new edition or an old one of a mic, a cable brand, a popscreen, one inch, half an inch from the beater head, every single little step in the audio chain that makes it sound better and I just think that those 3 ms of latency can be ^#$%ing your job.
    But...I live in Argentina, a country where 1 dollar costs 3 argentine pesos, and 1 EURO costs 4 so, the only way I had when I started recording was buying a PC and start trying to make thigs sound better. Gtarist3587, I was your age when I started doing the same as you, I worked for 5 years before I could study something, went to studios and served coffe, then rolled up cables and then started buying my first mics. I don´t have much gear but I know I use it the best way I can. I spent ours listening to my mixes, not putting hundreds of plug-ins but listening to an EQ to be sure it is not ^#$%ing it. I still use the same computer I was using 4 ears ago when I started so I can´t plug so much plugins, and when my PC startes crashing I have to do mixdowns with groups of channels like I were doing ping pong with tape.
    Overall, I think DAW tech has given us lots of posibilities, from those who knows really few tips but have a musician ear to listen, to those who really apreciate the most pure sound and can give those tools good use.

  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Morons can be found behind both the cheapest bedrooms setups and the most outrageous audiofile boutique perfectly sonic studio known to man. That doesnt make or break talent. It never has and it never will. If someone wants to invest in a sonic idea perpetrated by the most drooling homerecordist with nothing going at all then it is their privledge to do so.Someone sitting on the sidelines without any direction and calling it one way or another is just noise. If you want to make a difference in what is being heard and seen then go out and do it. You will only achieve as much as your effort will allow and in the end, your success will be determined by nothing other than than the commerce it can generate. If you can succeed in your bedroom to a viable commercial success then you must know SOMETHING....and who's to say its good/bad? Taste is never measured by the price of the spoon.
    I am late to the digital world.I CAN most definately 'hear' 6ms of latency in trying to achieve order in a mix. I do not like click tracked songs per se but love the way they edit.(not always true)...I think that making technology available to the masses can only bring the very best to the surface eventually. And create opportunity for talent that would remain undiscovered were it not possible due the price. I take a very dim view of those that think that everybody not involved in the historical rise of recording technology and an adherent to the old-school methodology is simply one of those million monkeys with a typewriter and has no business expressing themseleves to their abilities. Eliteism kills off creativity faster than anything else. Just because someone has 'been there,done that' does not give them exclusive rights to creativity no matter how simplistic,uninspired,or poorly accomplished it may be.

    Years ago I attended a few workshops with the late Howard Roberts. He would come out and play a minute or two of incredible guitar....Really Incredible...then he would put it down and not touch it again for a couple of days.And he would teach how to to to learn...One thing he always said was there were no bad musicians, only those less accomplished and experienced than others, and you never know where youre going to find the next Segovia...
  15. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
  16. p0llen_p0ny

    p0llen_p0ny Guest

    Hmmm, I think blaming the proliferation of cheaper DAWs for the state of music is going a bit far. If you haven't noticed popular music has always been sh*t for the most part. I'd blame globalization and multinationals for this more than I'd blame some poor sap with a digi001.

    I think this is a very exciting time for music. More people now more than ever are dissatisfied with the current state of music, and for the first time regular people have the means to do something about it. Sure you're going to get a lot of crap made by people who don't know what the hell they're doing, but there is still a lot of great stuff being made. But I digress.

    More power to them! I don't see the harm in wanting to do everything yourself. I've done it and you learn a lot in the process. It's not that I think I can do better than a pro ME... It's just fun to tinker with it and see what it's all about.

    I agree, it is easy to slip into mixing by eye. But that's also true with analog. I've seen people dial in a certain eq setting or comp threshold before they even hit play.

    Man, you're bumming me out. :wink: You had people abusing multitrack with endless bounces back in the 60s and 70s. Those idiots had kids and unfortunately people like that will be around til the end of time. Focusing on the negative aspects of digital is fine but most of these can be said for both analog and digital. Maybe you should retitle your post "The downsides of complete morons working in studios". :p

    Good point. I believe everyone should start off with a 4-track recorder just to get an appreciation for being in the moment. But there were so many times where I would have sold my soul for an undo button. Lot of good stuff erased because I wasn't paying attention. But then, that's where you get that appreciation from I guess. The volatility of analog is exciting, but I wouldn't trade my undo for anything. Well... for a Studer A80 maybe.
  17. Thomaster

    Thomaster Guest

    roger that serge
  18. bhd2vek

    bhd2vek Guest

    Very well put.

    And doesn't the availability of the technology also help develope the "studio discipline" of the artists themselves. If they spend time cutting tracks and mixing their demo's themselves, they will be better equipped should they need to book some time in a professional facility. It won't be as foreign to them...
  19. DaveG

    DaveG Guest

    Hey Kurt if you truly feel this why are you here on this forum proliferating it, why not keep all your hard earned knowlege to your self and keep all the wanabees in the dark instead of giving them the amo to "cheapening the product", smells like hypocrisy to me.
  20. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    A dense mix can be a nightmare,(ie a mix with a lotta tracks)It is hell to mix and its easy to get it all messed up and sounding muddy. I oftentimes when presented with a dense mix (brought about by too many tracks available) start by pulling my hair first and then I'll mute just about everything but the vocals, the drums, the bass and the main rhythm instrument such as guitar or piano- then I'll start adding stuff trying to maintain a balance-

    Having said that, a dense mix can also be a thing of beauty in competent hands. just listen to any Sting Cds- a lot going on but it is right on the money(IMHO)
    Actually I thought the last one (sacred love) was too loud and overcompressed for my taste but what can you do, the man is in the thick of the volume wars and tryting to remain a current act- but still the mix is dense and it still retains a sonic integrity that its hard to find in most dense mixes, specially if done by inexperience engineers-

    If you are an inexperience engineer, try to stick to less dense mixes by recording less instruments at tracking time. It is far easier to achieve pleasant and/or proffesional results that way. Or you can do what I do and start muting tracks so i can regain a sense of perspective first, then add things little by little until enough is enough... that is the trick though, knowing when enough is enough and letting it go-

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