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Brittle Digital


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  • Brittle Digital

    You've heard it countless times before.

    Digital is convenient and all that but it sounds "sterile", "cold" and whatnot.

    And so, manufacturers put ALL sorts of products out to give you a "warm sound", "The 'oomph' of tape", that "analog groove" and whatnot.

    Did Digital sound this "brittle" back when tape-based digital recorders such as the Tascam DA-88 and the Alesis ADAT were all the rage?

    I have a feeling I know *how* you're going to answer, but, I want to keep this open and fun.

    This will also shed some light on a few other things I'm wondering about, all related of course.

    This thread will also determine whether I should go ahead with "Plan B" so to speak.

  • #2
    The original BF ADATs were not good, any product currently on the market sounds way better.

    At this point, other than the cheapest of USB input devices, digital is just fine.

    If you spend enough on some decent converters and record at 24-bit, if it's not indistinguishable from the source, you're doing something wrong.

    If you're not working at Ocean Way or somewhere, the least of your worries is the storage medium.

    Quality of the song, performance, instruments, mics used, and the room are 99.9% of the formula.

    What's your "Plan A?"
    "Thank You, NASA!"


    • #3
      I recorded analog for a good 25 years before going to digital. I can tell you this, I'd never go back. The good old days were not good old days when it came to recording analog as many seem to think. It was expensive, highly labor and maintainence intensive to record analog and thats only the beginning. The technical knowlege and experience had to be supirior as well to get anything pro recording analog. Because analog was expensive, only the best musicians could afford to record in studios. Thats why there were so many good analog recordings, not because the technology was superior. The cost to record at the best studios kept the amatures away. Thats the whole thing in a nutshell. With the low cost of recording digital, any kid with a PC and a great mic can make a pro recording if he knew what he was doing and had the ability to play well which most dont.

      The main thing Tape had over digital was its ability to saturate the tape. The saturation captured the harmonics in a pleasing way to the ear sort of like how tubes vs transistor amps would saturate which is what most consider warmth.

      In the earley digital stuff 30 years ago (Yes its been that long) digital was sterile sounding because they didnt have the tools to make it sound otherwise. Even so you listening to some of the first digital albums like the first Police album and having a great analog front end made all the difference in the world. With all the advancements since then its a completely moot point and complete nostalgia to think analog is better in any way at this point. They arent making analog equipment any more any way so, even if you think its better its immaterial. Manufacturers arent going to be making equipment noone will buy. They go where the money is to be made and digital is it.

      I will say this though. To get a pro recording digitally, it may be less labor and maintainence intensive, but the equipment needed like quality mics, preamps, the room acoustics, amos etc, and the performance of the musicians have to be just as good as any analog setup to get good fidelity. It also takes just as much experience mixing as it did analog so those things havent changed. In fact with all the options available to mix an audio engineers toolbox went from a few basic tools to thousands of options, each requiring the engineer to have experteese using like a surgeon wields a scalpel.

      Many new to digital try to record digitally and when the results are sterile they figure it must be the technology and there must have been something about the old technology that gave the old masters the edge in producing pro recordings. They are right but they just dont know what it was.

      Its Milage. Thousands and thousands of hours experience eaking every last drop of sound quality into a recording along every stage of the process beginning with the musicians themselves, through tracking, mixing, mastering, and playback. Studios of the past often had teams of people involved, many sets of ears listening and refining the sound on the tracks to deliver that warm sound many favor. If anything, those teams of people have been reduced to just a few involved who wear many more hats then they might have in the past. In a major studio you may have had one guy whose only job was to set up mics. He was the best of the best at it and probibly developed most of what we know about the best mic placement, but thats all the guy did for a living. Another guy may have only cut records. Having the proper cut depth was a huge factor in getting a great LP and thats all the guy did for a living.

      Now we have audio engineers who do it all including mastering. The care may not be put into details. if you got a bunch of guys ready to point a finger at a guy failing at his job, you're going to have your ship wrapped tight in any one stage of the process. When you only have one or maybe two guys running a studio, "good enough for the money" may be the best you get. So there may be a lack of warmth.

      So its not that warmth cant be captured digitally now, its simply how far you want, or need, or can afford to pay for. Engineers are willing toi invest all the time needed to make a great recording but it dont come cheap. The time an engineer needs to make something sound great takes just as much time as it did. There may be time and effort saved tracking because theres no mechanical beasts to maintain and rewind. But there again the talent you may be recording cant even play a dam solo through without making a gazillion mistakes, or are so wishey washy they can commit to a single lead so they record 30 tracks of the same part and figure they can choose the best part later. All that takes even more time and effort.

      If anything recording analog, the musicians who could produce a low cost high quality album where the ones who created the warmth in their tone and performance which was closer to live. So many recordings sound sterile now because its so much easier to build a Frankenstein recording that is surgically pieced together from bits and parts or performances. Its no woner that the music sounds sterile lacking emotion because those parts are all spliced together. If anything, thats the real lack of warmth. The lack continuous emotional flow in music is the most serious problem in music today. Its heard in the recordings and its heard in the musicians performances live.


      • #4
        ^^^This right here^^^
        Also, in the early days of digital, engineers were still using analog tricks like boosting the high end and saturating "tape" that didn't give great results on a digital platform.
        Originally Posted By Trace-P38
        Flogger wins.

        Originally Posted by Uma Floresta View Post
        Because we floggers won the music war some time ago.

        Originally Posted by Mike Riley View Post
        Preaching to the choir Rush in on a whole different level to quote a movie You might listen to Rush but you cant here Rush