One of the most heated conversations in the audio community is the comparison of digital and analog recording. While some people consider analog recording the holy grail for making records the truth is that the whole industry lives in the digital domain. Nevertheless, mixing and mastering engineers still like to add some sonic flavour using emulations of their favourite equipment. In that case, why not use the real gear? Is there a benefit of using analog equipment compared to work all in-the-box? When should I consider using analog gear? To answer some of these questions and help ease the eternal discussion let’s go through 4 things to consider about digital and analog workflows.
1- Electricity and Data
When we work in the analog realm, the electric signalsget processed and sent through circuits, cables, patchbays, passive and active components and even turned into magnetic fields by storing it in tape. Each step adds and removes something from the signal until it reaches the speakers and then our ears. During the recording process some engineers try to reduce the path from the source to the recording media as much as possible so they capture the analog signal in its purest form.
When we work with digital audio we only move zeros and ones. The data gets transferred between the DAW, plug-ins, computer and audio interface. The only analog signal that moves in this scenario is the one coming from a microphone or an instrument into the audio interface and from the interface to our speakers or headphones. Once the signal arrives at the converters the analog processing ends.
2- Processing Signals
When we record, mix or process audio through analog equipment the audio signal gets modified through filters, compression, EQ and saturation. Every electronic component will change something in the signal. That is part of the charm of this workflow. But as special as it sounds, each time you do a mix you will get a different experience. If you try to repeat the same processing on a signal on a different day you might not get exactly the same result. Even if you get all the settings from the equipment just right. Small changes in temperature, dust or even the smallest errors when dialling each knob will change the sound of your mix.
On the other hand, no matter how many times an audio file gets played, copied or sent through DAW buses. If no processing is applied the data remains the same. And if you repeat the same processing at any given time, the result will be the same. ……
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