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Old 25th September 2009
What Changed in the 90s to Affect the Sound of Records

I've seen many posts asking about "how to achieve this sound?" or "how to get a tight low end?" etc. etc. My question is sort of a different approach. I'm wondering what factors changed the sound of mixes in the early 90s. It seems to me that the sound of records changed significantly from that period and has maintained a similarity in quality.

It is a general question, but I'm thinking mainly about urban music: R&B and hip hop. IMO that format changed from that period and has maintained a certain mix sound since then. The sound I'm referring to is a tight low end, somewhat dry mix, lush vocal harmonies, and overall, a very solid and focused feel. Everything seemed very present and loud as well.

We were getting into a new era of influential engineers and producers (Tony Maserati, etc.), and the sound changed, but beyond the human contributions, what technical/gear changes made such a drastic difference? Was it the beginning of the PT and DAW era? Was it the sudden renewed popularity of tube and other high end analog gear? Was it the fact that CDs had become the primary format? I know SSLs were common mix consoles of choice, but many of those models had been around for a while, so I don't know if that could have been much of a factor.

Anyway, just wondering what others on here think of this.