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Has digital matched or surpassed analog tape?
Old 17th May 2015
  #1
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Has digital matched or surpassed analog tape?

What are your opinions on this matter?
Old 17th May 2015
  #2
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Drumsound's Avatar
yes, no, sometimes, maybe.
It really depends on who's in the room.
Old 17th May 2015
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scraplord View Post
Has digital matched or surpassed analog tape?
Surpassed, a while back. And it doesn't bother me even though I grew up in the completely analog 1960s and 70s.
Old 17th May 2015
  #4
Depends on what the task is.

If the task is accurate audio transcription, yes, by far.

If the task is imparting the particular saturation that many people associate with the way records are 'supposed' to sound, then probably not -- although there are, of course, many who feel that various plugins or outboard devices or summing (etc) can help deliver variations on that saturation that may or may not prove satisfying, depending on one's perspective.

That said, it's worth noting that not everyone -- particularly among those with long experience with analog tape as well as digital -- are not that crazy about analog or about analog for all purposes. I'm a fan of classical, folk/acoustic, and jazz, and, to my thinking, those genres and a number of others benefit from the clean accuracy of digital transcription more often than not.

Happily, I think most folks who are conversant with the objective measure of audio will agree that digital provides a highly accurate conduit for the presumably euphonious distortions that comprise 'the analog tape sound.'


My 2.
Old 17th May 2015
  #5
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The records I listen to over and over again tend to be analog. I do like how digital sounds when their is a lot of layering with parts; drum samples, live drums playing alongside programmed drums, guitar signal split and going to different amps ect.
Old 17th May 2015
  #6
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I guess it depends on what criteria you're judging.

Digital recording in theory is capable of reproducing a waveform exactly. In practice it comes very close. Analog tape has never been capable of that. As it turns out, the inherent distortion and compression of tape has a character that many find pleasing despite the fact that the waveform is less accurately represented.

And of course when it comes to the sheer ability to edit and manipulate audio, digital surpassed analog ages ago.

I'm thankful for the convenience and editability of the digital medium, but I'd love the chance to record music in an all-analog studio someday.
Old 18th May 2015
  #7
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Probably 15 years ago. Or more.

It has not, and never will surpass the romance and nearly religious dedication that some people harbor for all things analog.

But soundwise? 15 years ago. Or more.
That said, in 1993 I had a NED D to D system that I preferred to my Studer 24trk. But hey. That's me.
Old 18th May 2015
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scraplord View Post
What are your opinions on this matter?
For those who value transparency and lack of color or character, analog tape is an impediment and hi-res digital is the vehicle.

For those who value beefy bass, slightly subdued treble and harmonic & transient saturation, digital is an impediment and analog tape (or OTB consoles or tape sims, etc.) is the proper vehicle.

But for heavy and dense sounding drums, it has just gotta be the latter. heh Digital sux 4 dat !
Old 18th May 2015
  #9
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I think they're just different things. One can make a picture with oil paints or pastels, and one can make a record with a tape machine or a computer.



Turbo
Old 18th May 2015
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by eldon2975 View Post
For those who value transparency and lack of color or character, analog tape is an impediment and hi-res digital is the vehicle.

For those who value beefy bass, slightly subdued treble and harmonic & transient saturation, digital is an impediment and analog tape (or OTB consoles or tape sims, etc.) is the proper vehicle.

But for heavy and dense sounding drums, it has just gotta be the latter. heh Digital sux 4 dat !
When I first started engineering, not long before the advent of the CD, I'd been playing in bands for about 5 years and I already suspected the hardest thing I had to learn was how to make drums sound not like they do in real life, but like they did on a record. I was right.
Old 18th May 2015
  #11
I think the question should be...Can digital match or surpass analog tape? The answer to that question I think is yes.
Old 18th May 2015
  #12
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vernier's Avatar
Analog and digital are opposites ..completely different in vibe and feel ...(( Mexican food/Italian food )) vs brussels sprouts.
Old 18th May 2015
  #13
The value in the difference would depend upon the task. Some people love the sound of drums or heavy guitars pushing real tape, I doubt most of us could tell the difference between Nebula and OTB for many similar things in a blind test.
Old 18th May 2015
  #14
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A Massive yes....

That being said, when I want the tape vibe, I still like to use a simulation to get that vibe. Slate's VTM is one really good plugin for this type of thing.
Old 18th May 2015
  #15
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I'm thinking about equal. But that is if the digital converters have nice analog line stages inside them.
Old 18th May 2015
  #16
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Digital surpassed analogue back in the 1970s and 80s - that's why I went digital back in 1983.

But certain things had to be re-learned and digital did show up things that were hidden by analogue tape.

But some people still like the character and distortions added by analogue tape - so as an effect it's still a valid format.
Old 18th May 2015
  #17
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Old 18th May 2015
  #18
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Digital has more potential - meaning that with analog it's mostly a matter of trying to recreate a 'golden standard' that becomes harder and harder to maintain due to changing resources, production and philosophical aspects.

In short, professional analog gear was made (and sometimes still is being made) to last forever. With digital it's a constant matter of 'breakthroughs' 'improvements' and 'game changers'. Which has both good and bad sides.

The good side is that digital really becomes better all the time. The bad side is that too many folks fall for the hype of the carrot and stick. They are in a constant state of updating stuff and A/B-ing stuff rather than concentrating on the work at hand.

The fact that DAWs now include 'Storefronts' is a sign of this I think. You'll be reminded of all that beautiful 'improved' stuff waiting to be bought every time you fire up your DAW. Or you're even being forced to buy stuff even if you don't what to which is what Avid does now.
Old 18th May 2015
  #19
Objectively, yes, by a wide margin. Modern ADC's have a 120 db dynamic range compared to analog tape at 65~70 db or so. Noise reduction spreads that out to 100 db.

DAC's fare even better with up to -132 db dynamic range. THD specs of the best conversion is at or below .001% THD+noise. Analog tape is .15% at 1k, best case, 1/2% average. Measure at 100 hz or 10k hz and it's a whopping 4% THD.

That is why I don't like cymbal reproduction with analog tape, 4% THD is excessive in my domain.
Old 18th May 2015
  #20
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You know Jim (and the rest of you.)

The character that tape formulas like Ampex/Quantegy 406 and 456 or any of the 3M or BASF/AGFA equivalent types is something that I really like and enjoy hearing in certain types of production.
I used to record a lot of aggressive rock stuff back in my pure analog days and getting those drums sound is near impossible with digital, but the biggest difference is the cymbal sound and overall high freq. content.
I just really prefer the analog cymbal sound on aggressive stuff.

Then again, some musical styles really benefit from digital.

We could go on forever couldn't we?


BTW... I'm back...
Old 18th May 2015
  #21
So, we're all agreed, using analog tape is easier than getting your ham-fisted, cymbal-bashing drummer to lighten up a bit in the exciting parts, right? heh


I think there are simply genre-oriented stylistic issues that tend to define what listeners expect to hear from a certain style of music in any given period. We expect to hear certain types of snare and cymbal sounds in certain genres -- and, for rock, which grew up and entered dotage during the analog tape era, anything else than what the aging, core audience expects can be a tough sell for tradition-bound rockers.


[Full disclosure, I'm definitely part of that age demo. As the Beatles sang, "When I get older..."]

Last edited by theblue1; 18th May 2015 at 06:05 PM..
Old 18th May 2015
  #22
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Don Solaris's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by scraplord View Post
Has digital matched or surpassed analog tape?
Apples and oranges.
Old 18th May 2015
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
Apples and oranges.
I strongly disagree.

If you can't compare one recording medium to another what can you compare?
Old 18th May 2015
  #24
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Don Solaris's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by O.F.F. View Post
If you can't compare one recording medium to another what can you compare?
I don't see the point of comparing to two totally different mediums because the test would be unfair.

Sure, every high school student can calculate equivalent bit depth from s/n ratio of a tape or measure its frequency response and we all know digital already surpassed all these numbers few decades ago. That test however tells nothing about the dynamic compression of a tape. It says nothing about tape saturation effects. Nothing about print thru etc, because these don't exist in the DAC at the first place. Apples and oranges.
Old 18th May 2015
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
Apples and oranges.
Quote:
Originally Posted by O.F.F. View Post
I strongly disagree.

If you can't compare one recording medium to another what can you compare?
I strongly agree with both you guys.

I just think there have to be separate fields of comparison, as I tried to suggest. If you're talking accuracy of transcription, it's one. If you're talking the oft-desired distortions implicit in the 'traditional sound of rock,' it's the other.

That said, I think a lot of folks need to realize that not EVERYONE thinks that 'traditional sound' of supposedly euphonious distortion (that is a manipulatable artifact of the 'imperfections' implicit to analog tape when considered strictly as a transcription medium rather than a production tool) is all that. For much of the music I find myself listening to, I'd often rather hear properly captured digital from the word go on a given project. But fortunately, I've developed the ability to enjoy music for its musicality, even when the sonic container leaves something to be desired. An ability I developed in the analog era when I struggled to get the best sound out of my 'tables and analog tape decks.
Old 18th May 2015
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scraplord View Post
What are your opinions on this matter?
According to sampling theorem yes it has far surpassed analog. The problem is, not all digital equipment is created equal. So in many cases it is perhaps not as good as analog tape. Also what sound are you looking for? do you want clarity and greater dynamic range? or do you want mojo? It's not a black and white debate... There is lots of grey area...

They both have advantages. IMO it seems the clarity of digital scares many people. It doesn't hide all that much, and it pretty much gives you back what you put in. Analog adds flavor, it also can smooth things out more. So in the regard, no digital has not surpassed analog. However with regards to dynamic range and frequency response digital far surpasses analog tape. Hence greater clarity.

So it comes down to the sound you are looking for as well as the vibe. I like digital, I like tape.. I use both. It depends. They are both great. It's situational for me. I like drums and bass guitar on tape... I like guitars and vocals on digital. Nothing beats the digital work flow. Analog sometimes doesn't have enough tracks for me... track on analog dump to the DAW...
Some people may argue tracking digital with the right compressors can compete with tape on the smooth and mojo factors.
Old 18th May 2015
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Solaris View Post
I don't see the point of comparing to two totally different mediums because the test would be unfair.

Sure, every high school student can calculate equivalent bit depth from s/n ratio of a tape or measure its frequency response and we all know digital already surpassed all these numbers few decades ago. That test however tells nothing about the dynamic compression of a tape. It says nothing about tape saturation effects. Nothing about print thru etc, because these don't exist in the DAC at the first place. Apples and oranges.
So the differences which would show up in a detailed comparison are the reason you can't compare two things which ostensibly do the same thing?

Compare a tube amp to a transistor one? Not fair because they are different.

Compare a diesel car to a petrol? No way! It's apples and oranges because they are different.

Obviously you must be recording purely digital since you think it impossible/unfair to compare it to tape and on paper it is better.
I quite like tape at times because of its saturation etc but then I have taken the liberty and have compared it to digital despite it being 'apples and oranges' in your world.
Old 18th May 2015
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scraplord View Post
What are your opinions on this matter?
yes, it has.

and that was 25 years ago ... you are a little late, mate!
Old 19th May 2015
  #29
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Don Solaris's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by O.F.F. View Post
Compare a tube amp to a transistor one? Not fair because they are different.
Well TBH there's no much difference between a tube and a transistor. They both participate in exactly the same physical phenomena such as clipping, linearity, feedback, biasing, dynamic range, temperature coefficients etc and both can statistically be compared one against the other, parameter by parameter. The result would be fair test. In tape vs. DAC we have a lot of missing variables on both sides, which makes test - unfair.


Quote:
Originally Posted by O.F.F. View Post
Obviously you must be recording purely digital ...
My tape deck disagrees...

Old 19th May 2015
  #30
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With tape noise is your second best friend in a dark room.
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