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Analog vs. Digital

Frequently I have clients ask me this sort of question: Isn’t analog equipment better than digital? My answer is yes. And no. They’re two different technologies that each have their own unique sets of pro’s and con’s. Lemme es’plain.

Analog recording has the benefit of being ‘continuous’ which basically means that it represents a waveform with just about infinite resolution whereas digital recordings can only approximate the waveform (although it does a good job at fooling your ears that it sounds continuous).

Analog gear does not typically behave in a ‘linear’ fashion, there are attributes which are somewhat random and unpredictable but they sound musical. Digital on the other hand pretty much does exactly what you tell it to do (I’m not talking about plug-ins that emulate analog gear) which is the main reason people say digital sounds ‘cold’. Neither one of these characteristics are value judgements, both can be used effectively depending on the context.

Analog gear requires physical space and a lot of maintenance (both time and $$$) whereas digital gear resides mostly on a hard drive and maintenance can be as simple as downloading an update. Analog gear is very expensive as well, e.g. a Shadow Hills compressor costs about $9,000 but the digital version is about $300.

To make matters more interesting many software developers are creating plug-ins that emulate the behavior of analog equipment, in fact they’re doing it so well that it’s often hard to distinguish between both in what we call ‘A/B’ tests.

In the end it’s best to think of both analog and digital as tools, left in the proper hands much art can be created.
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