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.