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Mr. Hardgroove

Tape vs Digital - Vinyl vs Digital etc....

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Vinyl is an intensely flawed playback medium. Anything that starts with the premise that dragging a rock through yards and yards of plastic is going to sound great is facing a seriously uphill battle. Add to that the insane amount of pre-emphasis and de-emphasis, and...well, it's an intensely flawed playback medium. I believe the reason for the "vinyl resurgence" has nothing to do with audio fidelity, but that's a whole other discussion.


Tape...well, I have a love/hate relationship with it. A perfectly set up, aligned, and biased tape system with Dolby is going to sound really good. When DAT first came out, the reality was that tape could outperform it by any spec you cared to use. The problem is getting a perfectly set up, aligned, and biased tape system with Dolby in the first place. Furthermore, tape deteriorates over time and self-erases on playback; there's nothing you can do about either one.


The reality is that tape is a signal processor, and like audio transformers, processes the sound in ways that people find subjectively pleasing. Once I was doing a seminar with Bruce Swedien in Mexico and he talked about capturing sounds on tape, then transferring immediately to digital to preserve the sound quality. I thought that make a let of sense. But, he also said he never used compression...and I pointed out he just said he used tape :)


If you analyze how tape processes a signal, it's extraordinarily complex...not unlike tubes. But there's no doubt it's processing the audio. We just happen to like that processing, so it's not surprising to me that your friend Ken likes it better than dragging a rock through yards and yards of plastic. :)

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