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Five Digital Audio Myths Busted

 Beware bogeyman digital technology...


by Craig Anderton



Is digital audio as bad as they say it is? Or is it as good as they say it is? We don’t care as long as the music doesn’t suck, but please—spare us the following myths.





Music as we know it has been destroyed by [insert bogeyman digital technology: Beat Detective, Auto-Tune, quantization, etc.].


No, lazy people misusing your bogeyman digital technology of choice have destroyed music as we know it.



Vinyl contains actual waveforms, so it’s inherently accurate and doesn’t need drastic digital-audio-type filtering.


Oh, but it does: mastering puts in a -20dB cut at 20Hz, a +20dB boost at 20kHz, and requires a very specific filter shape to both do the damage while mastering and undo it (in theory) during playback—the infamous RIAA curve. In fact, vinyl requires teeny-tiny little bass waveforms so the phono cartridge doesn’t imitate “dancing shrimp” at the sushi bar.



Here’s why digital audio sucks: because of the stair-stepping at the output caused by sampling.


Let’s hook up this oscilloscope. Zoom way in. No, zoom in more...more...now, what do you see? Right! That’s why they’re called output-smoothing filters.



Boosting EQ at 25 kHz for “air” is ridiculous unless you’re a dog.


These filters have skirts that extend into the audible range, and can affect the highs in subtle ways. Besides, my dog likes listening to music, and he’s always begging for more 25 kHz. And for better woofers…although I think he woofs quite well.



Tape is a more natural way to record than digital technology.


Absolutely! That is, if you think that suspending a zillion little magnetic rust particles in plastic and then telling them how to line up as they get dragged past an electromagnet, which has to be fed by a high-level supersonic signal just so the audio doesn’t sound like a buzzsaw, is totally natural.




Craig Anderton is a Senior Contributing Editor at Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages. Go to Craig Anderton's official website.


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Mooseboy  |  July 03, 2018 at 9:41 am
"a high-level supersonic signal" 

The word you're looking for here is "ultrasonic", not "supersonic".
herbernst  |  July 02, 2018 at 7:41 pm
Thank you for saying fearlessly and accurately something that has needed to be said for ages.
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