As a musician, I love analog but I embrace digital. Actually I don’t just embrace digital, I love digital as well.
It amazes me that there are still people who will bring up the Analog Recording is better debate. I get it. You can’t let go of your past.
I’m fortunate enough that while I started recording in a bedroom with a TASCAM portastudio, you know the ones that recorded 4 to 8 tracks on a cassette tape, I quickly moved to digital recording as I saw the future. I learned oodles about recording and noise, thanks to that old portastudio. Hell, I have 100s of cassettes that I should transfer into my computer. Though at this point I would have to borrow a working portastudio as I gave mine away to a budding musician. She never gave it back.
Another reason I don’t go digging thru those old tapes is that it would only be a reminder of my beginnings, I highly doubt any of those recordings would ever be salvageable.
I never released any of my song recordings done on tape. All recordings I’ve released were all digital recordings.
However, I have worked on other people’s projects that were recorded on tape. Some sound great, some, not so much.
I quickly moved to digital recording on a computer as soon as my budget allowed me to purchase an audio card. I was limited to 4 tracks, but what a difference it made in sound quality from a portastudio to a computer. What I discovered though was that digital is not forgiving like tape – it was a mirror image of what you fed it. There was no magic vibe automatically created by digital recording.
So I learned that you have to give digital exactly want you wanted, otherwise you’d get disappointed. That made me more determined to make sure I understood how to perform and record to get what I wanted.
Recently I got into a discussion with another songwriter about recording formats. They came right out saying that digital sucked and analog ruled. Their claim is that 1’s and 0’s can’t supply depth to a recording.
Spoken like a true novice.
This particular songwriter claimed they wanted to learn what the differences were between analog and digital. However, with the opening salvo being that digital recording was already weaker, it made for a lame way to claim they were looking to start a conversation to learn such differences.
My answer eventually boiled down to this:
“The difference is mental. Entirely mental. If you actually believe you will achieve a better recording with analog gear – then you will. If you believe you will achieve a better recording with digital gear, then you will. It’s entirely a mental thing for the artist.
In blind A/B tests, you will never know the difference. So why does it matter?
What matters is the performance of the artist/band and the competency of the engineers.”
They had nothing to hit back with.
Of course it helped that other producers jumped in talking about the advantages to digital recording: Speed, ease of use, etc. One older producer went so far to say that one couldn’t pay him enough to go back to working with tape and all analog gear.
Over the past several years and as recently as a month ago I’ve upgraded to newer audio interfaces. The most recent update is the Apollo 8p Quad. It gives me a bunch of additional processing power, along with enough inputs to now track full bands if I need to.
As you know with my career, I’ve been an in-the-box guy for a long time now. I use a laptop (along with a specially designed midi pedal) for my live guitar rig too. That’s how in the box I go.
Great recordings still require several things. An awesome musician or musicians to perform. A means to record. An engineer that understands those means. A quality mix engineer. A quality mastering engineer. These are things that are needed to get an awesome recording. It doesn’t matter if it’s analog or digital (they’re just means).
It doesn’t hurt to have great microphones. It doesn’t hurt to have great mic pres. It doesn’t hurt to have a great room. It doesn’t hurt to have awesome outboard gear. Those things will enhance a recording, as long as they’re used appropriately.
I love the idea of analog, but I embrace the beauty and ease of use of digital.
I’m usually a hermit in the studio, but I’ve opened up a little and had a little episode of backseat producing that led to a discussion that involved Manolo Blahnik shoes. In the past, I rarely let people in the studio while I’d be singing. Hence the reason why I’d produce them myself. I’m changing things around. Especially since I’ve been having George Leger III producing vocals for me.
Another first happened during the vocal recording session of American Mayhem. I allowed my buddy Greg Nicholson and his girlfriend to sit in while I was recording vocals with George at Utopia Parkway studio. Greg and I have written songs in the past. But he’s never sat in on recording with me as the artist. George has one rule – which quickly gets reminded to Greg as he offers up some advice.
While waiting for George we get into a discussion about the Apollo by Universal Audio and shoes by Manolo Blahnik. All of this prior to Greg and his girlfriend are about to go watch the World Cup football (soccer) between USA and Portugal. See, he’s for USA and she’s for Portugal. I’m sure that was an interesting match for the two of them. As we all now know, that was a moving match.
Backseat Producing And Manolo Blahnik
Are you’re P’s coming out okay?
Pah. I don’t know.
‘Cause you had a lot of P’s. So I was just wondering how.
Oh yeah, they’re not popping in the mic.
Ok. Cause sometimes I have to like turn my head just a little bit when I’m singing a P even with a pop filter.
Ha ha ha.
You’re a guest. Not a producer.
No side, no backseat driving.
Exactly. Please. We have work to do. Okay, here we go again. Ready?
Mumbo jumbo. It makes people go really?
In other words…
Why do you need this?
It’s like so when you start updating your studio and she’s living with you at some point in the future. I’m projecting here. And Greg’s like “I need to buy this.” and you’ll be like “Really? Really?”
Remember, that’s what George and Jody said.
This stuff does make a difference.
Do I get a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s?
I don’t know what that is.
Really nice shoes.
I don’t even know what the hell that is. But like, Okay.
A pair of nice shoes is that what that is?
Yeah. They cost quite a bit.
Alright. So, you get the toys in the audio gear. She gets the toys in the shoes.
That’s only fair.
I believe in this. I believe in being fair.
But here’s a question. How much are those shoes?
Between $300 and $500.
That’s totally fair.
Per pair. How much is what you want to get?
The Apollo? How much is that Apollo? About $2500?
That one? $2799 plus tax. No. $2500 plus tax.
I was thinking between somewhere between $2500 and $3000. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.
I was like, we already shook, we already negotiated this deal.
I did not know how much that cost!
I don’t know how much your shoes are, but I’m thinking my thing is 10x of what we just negotiated.
ha ha ha ha.
Fair trade. Fair trade.
Well, now I have to get the most expensive pair of Manolo Blahnik’s now.
No I think it’s only fair that you would get at least a dress.
Ha ha ha.
To go with the shoes.
That’s only fair.
Come with me as we give the Universal Audio Apollo a shootout at Utopia Parkway studio. My Avalon 737 was at the factory so we decided to give George’s Apollo a shot at being the mic pre of choice. We set up a couple of different channel strips to see which input path would give us the best signal for my Telefunken C-12 and my voice on my song “Thump Thump Thump”. It was down to a Neve with an LA2A and a 610 with an 1176.
[sarcasm]It’s riveting. So riveting. Especially if you’ve never been in a recording studio.[/sarcasm] Recording isn’t always the fun and games that people think it is. We do actually spend time figuring out exactly what the best course of recording a sound is. Time consuming comes to mind. Office managers determining a project’s work path is probably the best analogy. After that the real work begins. Laying down the musical parts.
Universal Audio Apollo Mic Pre
Thump Thump Thump recording
Testing mic pre’s.
Testing the Apollo mic pre. Okay Universal Audio.
I lie awake in the middle of the night.
Channel strip two. Well it’s actually one, but I flipped them around.
Well… we’re. It’s the second take on the channel strip on the Apollo.
There’s a push and a pull.
I lie awake in the middle of the night
There’s a push and a pull. As the gears begin to grind.
You know what? That, the 610 sounds more… rock-and-roll. If I was to put a… it has more “ah! to it” more ah.
There’s more meat to it.
That how, that’s how I would describe it.
It’s got more protein, more girth to it. Okay whereas the neve LA2A has a bit more of a refined thin thing.
Yes it’s interesting, I guess there’s a difference in the models. Cause it’s basically the same mic going through 2 different model emulations and they do sound different. Yeah. They are so hard core. I mean really truly. More hard core than most companies are. They want their stuff to be right. and they just really won’t stop until they are.
It’s the 610 76 that wins.
Okay, to give us the meat.
To get the song to ether.