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Understanding Analog & Digital In Terms Of Audio
Neither analog or digital is "better" or "best". An uncolored look at the underlying simple truths of both formats.
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It is also slow to come back to where it started after the loud passage has passed. Additionally, it adds subtle even order harmonics.

Going back to our food analogy, modeling the nice sounding analog compressor digitally is like trying to capture all the subtlety of the vanilla bean. Artificial vanilla has the same basic chemical composition as the real thing, but tends to lack the many subtle additional flavors and aromas that make real vanilla what it is.

Manufacturers offer compressors using inexpensive light dependant resistors for many thousands of dollars. When we run analog audio through digital equivalent, we want the designer to capture all the subtle nuances of our funky analog unit.

Digital designers claim to accurately model the analog world, but just like our lowly vanilla bean, it’s not that easy.

What digital audio equipment most certainly offers is precise control and repeatability. Extensive recall of presets is technically much easier in digital.

Yet some users will still pick analog equipment because quality of sound outweighs the easy life of presets.

In equipment like digital mixing consoles, dynamic and snapshot automation allows the near instantaneous reset of console-wide, complex setups. That can be a particularly useful feature when the front-of-house console is handling multiple acts in quick succession, to offer just one example.

Similarly, on a major tour that is using in-ear monitor systems, which are not greatly affected by the nightly change of venue acoustics, setup times can be drastically reduced. Digital consoles such as those made by DiGiCo, Yamaha and Digidesign offer varying levels of features and price.

Digital processors like the Lake Technologies Contour digital loudspeaker controller let you do things that are otherwise impossible in the analog domain, such as impossibly steep-sided filters and multiple EQ curves stacked one on top of the other.

Alternatively, there is the hybrid approach, digital control of analog circuitry. Several recording console manufacturers experimented with the approach in the early ‘80s, and in the live sound arena, Jim Gamble offers a hybrid console.

Bruce Jackson has been involved with several leading audio companies and mixed Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand and Bruce Springsteen, among many others, over the course of his illustrious career. Steve Harvey is a veteran, widely published professional audio journalist.


Comments (5) Most recent displayed first | All comments in chronological order
Posted by George S. Louis  on  11/28/11  at  07:06 PM
FYI about polarity at the link: http://www.ultrabitplatinum.com/?page_id=725 . If you find that interesting, I can send you a text only version sans commercial references. You may also find my think pieces about polarity and imaging at: http://www.ultrabitplatinum.com/?page_id=88 and at: http://www.ultrabitplatinum.com/?page_id=1513 interesting as well, or not.

If you'd help me sort out the mistakes, when and if they're corrected, you just might become an instant overnight music-lovers' folk hero. Or on the other hand be tarred and feathered and have your ears cut off and served up to you on a silver platter for your last meal as an audiophile guru. I invite you to visit so that I can take you out for a meal on me and then we can share some of your music and mine on my custom built (by me) audio system on a CD player with a digital domain remote controlled polarity switch. My system is the best I've heard so far for discerning polarity that still must be done by ear. Those who hear CDs played over my system don't usually have much trouble hearing polarity. But whatever happens it will be just between the two of us, if that's what you prefer. It'll be attorney client privilege, or Perfect Polarity Pundit privilege, you decide. But ultimately for the sake of the music, it's up to you to either be part of the problem or part of the solution, so that 30 years doesn't become 31. Besides email you may also call me 7 days a week at 619-401-9876 or toll free at 888-588-9542 between 9AM and 11:45PM Pacific Time.

Best regards,

George S. Louis, Esq., CEO Digital Systems & Solutions Email: gslouis@gslouis.com Website: www.GetBetterFidelity.com Phone: 619-401-9876 1573 Kimberly Woods Drive El Cajon, CA 92020-7261 P.S. How difficult would it be for companies' voice menus instead of saying "Please listen to the entire announcement because our menu has changed recently before making your selection" to "Our announcement was last changed on such and such date? And that would also save time and electrical energy.

Posted by Alexander Jenkins  on  11/28/11  at  04:50 PM
My comment of respectfully disagreeing with the "comment above" refers to Zal's expression of analog not affecting the sound, not the article.

PS , if I misunderstood Zal's comment, then simply take my thoughts as a general comment.

Posted by Zal  on  11/28/11  at  04:50 PM
As a mastering engineer, we once had a shootout with 3 top A to D converters...one sounded best but I noted that another sounded the most like the original analog master tape, and that's the one we chose to master with.

While I am well aware of the changes that can occur with different gear, and there are times when this is efacacious, we were looking for the most accurate to the original.That's the situation I was referring to.

As a musician, I know that when it comes to a Jazz piece (in general) you start out with the original melody and them embellish, and take off from there...but if you start off in an altered state, it's hard to get back to the original (at least enough to appreciate it after the musical astral travels). Of course, the analogy is a bit flawed here as the musicians COULD choose to go back to the original melody somewhere in the song, but, if we are talking about capturing the purity of sound, once it's altered, there is no turning back.

Posted by Alexander Jenkins  on  11/28/11  at  04:42 PM
Great article. Fun to read.

As a medical professional once stated, "every medication has side effects. There isn't a medication made that is truly transparant to the body". Such it is with anything we use to capture or process sound. So to respectfully disagree with the comment above, when using analog to capture the sound as close as possible to the "real thing", I also use it to alter/color the sound as the article suggests. While it may not be processing using 1's and 0's, it still adds color which distorts (alters) the sound from the original. For instance I use a dynamic mic on a snare because inertia from the sound pressure of a snare hit causes the diaphragm to continue motion beyond the natural length of the sound coming from the snare. This lengthened sound is artificially created due to the inability of a dynamic mic element to stop fast enough. So while the sound is still "analog", it is now like the artificial crab example in the article. I like the taste of both and am happy to have some great analog and digital options nowadays. Even the digital remakes of analog processing, which while close to the originals and even if spec-wise appear to react exactly the same, still have a new character of their own.

Posted by Zal  on  11/28/11  at  03:25 PM
While it all starts as analog, it also all ends as analog, or you just won't hear it.

And analog doesn't have to be recorded or processed to sound good, it just sounds natural just the way it is while digital is meant to mimic that natural nature of analog. Analog sound doesn't have to mimic anything....

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