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Just this morning I was part of a conversation of some "audio engineers" who were complaining about the sound of digital, especially Pro Tools. They told the client it would have sounded better had it been recorded analog. This is the biggest piece of misinformation on the planet today. Lets see, the best analog tape in the world had a signal to noise of about 60db versus over a hundred for 24 bit digital. The distortion was in the realm of 2%-5% for analog tape versus .003% for digital. It just so happens that digital is a far better storage medium than analog ever dreamed about being. Stating it like a friend of mine here in Nashville said, "Putting Pro Tools in the hands of most of these would be engineers of today, is like giving a monkey a machine gun." I have also heard the argument that one DAW sounds better than another, and that too, within the digital realm, is mostly nonsense. The Analog I/O can sound very different from brand to brand, but the digital signal itself is governed by rules that are set in stone, and unless you have a clocking problem where you have tons of drift or jitter, there is so precious little difference between the digital competing formats that it is not worth talking about. Don't believe me? I have access to an Audio Precision SYS-2722A audio anaylzer which can test both analog and digital performance in every realm you could imagine. I have done these tests. Between Pro Tools, Logic, and Neundo, and I can guarantee you as long as you don't run the audio into clip, there is not a person on this planet that can hear the difference between these formats in digital format only. Now, yes there are some differences in the sound of the analog, but I can guarantee you the digital is virtually identical, assuming you don't do something stupid like clocking errors or clip the incoming audio. The one major problem I see when working in Nashville's studios today is that those engineers who never had training when it was analog consoles and analog tape machines, is they don't seem to understand how to make music. Believe me, audio engineering has far less to do with the gear, or the storage medium than it does the talent of the engineer doing the work. Rules of audio, techniques and creative thinking is the required element regardless of the format. Quit complaining! YOu guys have far better equipment than we ever dreamed about 25-30 years ago.

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Just spend a little time adding in the 2-5% distortion in a few choice places and you're good to go :) with 40 dB more dynamic range.

I think what most argue about are not technical specs but perceptions.

Take old tube mics for instance. They all tend to have roll offs starting around 5-6K that make them sound warm. Our ears are accustomed to hearing this natural roll off (caused by air in the real world). I don't claim to know all the science involved, but I do know that these are the characteristics of tubes and analog that people perceive to be pleasing.

Digital tends to remove those natural sounding high end roll off slopes so that is why most people think it can have a harsh sound compared to analog. Doesn't make it better or worse, it just changes our perceptions. The biggest problem I see in modern engineering is the tendency to make things overly bright. I still fight it myself after 30 years. Digital seems to exacerbate the problem so the engineers who understand this and can bring creativity and musicality to the table, will be the ones who push our industry forward.
Interesting observation. I don't think I've ever actually heard the "one DAW sounds better than another" argument, but I'm sure it's out there. The Digital vs Analog thing though, I've heard a lot of. My take on it is this. My first albums were all on on vinyl. It clicked and it popped, but mostly it sounded pretty good. Then I got some tapes. They hissed some, but didn't click and pop. Other than that, they sounded about the same. Then I got some CDs. The most obvious thing about the CD's other than there being no discernable noise, was the dynamic range, and the brightness. That leads me to two thoughts.

Brightness isn't necessarily bad, but like all things, it's best in moderation. A china boy should sparkle. If the goal is to sound natural, digital seems to have a better shot at it than anything else, but the ear has to know when enough is enough.

Dynamic range. It was a beautiful thing when it was used. Now the only advantage digital has over analog is brightness, because suddenly, everything has to be crushed. It's a classic case of two steps forward and one step back. I think the loudness factor of modern music is part of the reason it feels like so much background noise sometimes. Music that actually has dynamics, that isn't just loud all the time, where the beat actually has a pulse rather than just being something that's happening in the music, is much easier to listen to than music that's just loud.

So yes, digital has a lot of potential, and it could be much better than analog. Unfortunately, so much of what was recorded analog because there was no other way is so much better than what's being recorded today, that perhaps a lot of people do perceive it as sounded better, and attribute that to the medium rather than the technique.


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