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-   -   Does analog gear really sound "better", or is it just a learned response? (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/1216159-does-analog-gear-really-sound-quot-better-quot-just-learned-response.html)

Joestudio 19th May 2018 02:08 PM

I deal with this in broadcast. Just 2 years ago we were switching a room from analog to digital mic processors. We bought digital for the host and cohost and the 2 guest mics were still on analog. No matter what we did the guests always sounded bigger and fuller. Not in the room, not in the headphones, but after the airchain. We tweaked the digital processors any way we could, even brought in a factory rep. The guest mics always sounded better over the air. Our solution was to buy more digital processors so the mics all sounded even. We could never recapture the sound.

Limit54 19th May 2018 02:58 PM

It's simple. We all love saturation and distortion. It's awesome and there ain't nothing like electronic parts that do that better. Electricity and heat can create some magical **** to my ears, with a well built box that is.
I thought it was all bull but then I got myself an ssl buss comp and I literally crapped my pants.

ardis 19th May 2018 04:05 PM

Actually 18 FPS or even 16 is where vision works in film, 24 was for sound and remained a standard FWIW.

Analogue allows a bit of compression and pleasing distortion. Digital doesn’t do random well due to its nature. Doesn’t mean it can’t but like anything there are degrees.

Conversion is a sticking point but unless you’re on vinyl, you have to do that somewhere. Paul Frindle on here is someone you should research for a real opinion worth something....

Brent Hahn 19th May 2018 04:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cardinal_SINE (Post 13325045)
... you can't really use film as an analogy since sight and hearing are not comparable. This is a really complex topic which requires a background in physics, Neurology as well as anatomy.

Complex? A dimwit like me with a background in Wood Shop would explain it like this:

"When someone takes your photo with a big ol' flash, you see that flash for quite a while after it happens. But your ears don't work like that."

Lance Lawson 19th May 2018 05:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by IanBSC (Post 13325116)

My external point of reference has been DSD and very high sample rate PCM (384 and 192khz). Both of these are digital, but sound closer to what I like about analog. It sounds more natural to me, but is because some flaw or coloration that emulates analog is being added? Compared to a live source, these formats sound more transparent, rather than less, and dont add noticable harmonic distortion, compression, frequency rolled, or tape artifacts.

That leads me to believe that what sounds more natural and realistic, actually is, and often "cold" or "clinical" sound is also a distortion of reality.

But you can make a case that stuff like tape compression, harmonic distortion, toll of, etc. are things we are habituated to.

On the other hand, harmonic distortion enhances detail, compression and rolloff reduce sharp peaks and sibilance. We might just like them because they are easy on the ears.

This lovely thing we call analogue is in nearly every case the sound of magnetic tape. If you go back to even the very last direct to disk records made just prior to the advent of tape they still sound boxy and stiff. Almost every recording made before magnetic tape sounds technically awful. Magnetic tape was the first medium that actually sounded like reality. A while back I posed the question whether or not the stylus/cartridge system used for playing vinyl records added any desirable or undesirable artifacts to the sound of a record. There wasn't much opinion about it. But we can test the "desirable/undesirable" analogue playback artifacts by playing a record that was recorded from start to finish in digital and pressed to vinyl. My guess is that there will be something missing in spite of the clarity and presence a digital to disk might present.

As far as analogue tape emulations the secret to using them I've found is you have to abuse the heck out of them. That is you have to turn the emulator up all the way and run it about three layers deep. Then you begin to get a reasonable tape effect. I prefer to run the signal through my tape machine and be done with it though.

newguy1 19th May 2018 05:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sharp11 (Post 13325043)
What "sounds better" is subjective.

I also don't know of any empirical data suggesting people "prefer analog".

Ironic, the example of film:

People (the brain) will accept 24fps with zero dithering as "fluid motion", but for some reason 24 bit depth and 48,000 samples per second (more than twice the frequency any human can hear), a reconstruction filter with a low pass element and dither (noise) to round off those 48k "steps" resulting in an exact replica of the audio signal that went in coming out the other end (verifiable on any oscilloscope, digital or analog) - for some reason, all that engineering isn't "good enough".

Instead, we have to go back and make the case for a process where particles on a piece of plastic are arranged by magnetism to point in a certain direction, then decoded by scraping the plastic (and removing/rearranging those particles with each pass) with a "playback head" resulting in high noise floors, distortion, and overall lower fidelity (and even worse for vinyl) as the bee's knee's.

It's astounding to me, I can only imagine many people of my generation (in our 60's) have so little hearing left, they actually believe there's intrinsically better sound buried within all the noise, wow and flutter.

I bought my first CD player in 1987, and never looked back.

To each his own, however - so whatever floats your boat. :)

Wow post #6 in for the kill. Never heard it put quite this way.

Sharp11 19th May 2018 05:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lance Lawson (Post 13325895)

As far as analogue tape emulations the secret to using them I've found is you have to abuse the heck out of them. That is you have to turn the emulator up all the way and run it about three layers deep. Then you begin to get a reasonable tape effect.

My experience is just the opposite, I use subtle layers of distortion, sometimes different plug ins in a chain - some thing like "decapitator" sounds "best" whn not driven too hard, IMO. Since I grew up with analog, I know what it's supposed to sound like, and I like older music with subtle distortion (not talking about guitar amps).

Some of the natural distortion on older recordings is pretty abysmal, IMO - listen to the vocal on this 1967 track by Clarence Carter (when he opens up @ 1:09) ... harsh as hell.


Arthur Stone 19th May 2018 05:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13325865)
Complex? A dimwit like me with a background in Wood Shop would explain it like this:

"When someone takes your photo with a big ol' flash, you see that flash for quite a while after it happens. But your ears don't work like that."

What about ears ringing after a loud noise? AFAIK both visual and auditory illusions stem from perceptual uncertainty (e.g. following shock, sensory deprivation).

Brent Hahn 19th May 2018 05:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Arthur Stone (Post 13325958)
What about ears ringing after a loud noise?

In my 20's I did 4 sets a night at least 3 nights a week for close to 5 years. My ears have been ringing ever since. Not the same thing.

Sharp11 19th May 2018 06:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13325969)
In my 20's I did 4 sets a night at least 3 nights a week for close to 5 years. My ears have been ringing ever since. Not the same thing.

It's all about the brain, the brain "sees" and the brain "hears" - the eyes and ears are just data collectors, the information is decoded in your brain, and you can be equally fooled by either sense; your hearing and your vision.

newguy1 19th May 2018 06:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13325969)
In my 20's I did 4 sets a night at least 3 nights a week for close to 5 years. My ears have been ringing ever since. Not the same thing.

Its called an afterimage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterimage

And it does happen with sound too: https://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/1.1919373

Its something different than tinnitus.

oudplayer 19th May 2018 06:04 PM

If our primary transducers (mics, speakers) actually sounded like "the source" I think we'd be in a very different position. The gross discrepancy between "raw" sound capture (regardless of medium, analog or digital) and the original sound in the room leads us to all sorts of trickery and throwing loads of money at the problem. And a couple of generations of producers/engineers deciding that since it ain't gonna sound anything like the source then it should really not sound like the source exacerbated the problem, aestheticizing all the distortions and nonlinearities, and subsequently making some of those sound "natural" to many people. At this point, doesn't matter a whole lot whether you throw digital or analog technologies at the problem...

Brent Hahn 19th May 2018 06:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by newguy1 (Post 13325979)
... it does happen with sound too: https://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/1.1919373

It says:

ABSTRACT

If a white noise with a half‐octave‐band suppression placed anywhere from 300 to 7000 Hz is presented at an over‐all sound‐pressure level of about 60 dB for 1 min and then switched off, a decaying, poststimulatory sound similar to a pure tone is heard for about 10 sec. The pitch of the post‐stimulatory tone corresponds to a frequency within the suppressed band.

And I say:

In 24 fps film projection, each image is actually projected for about 1/48th of a second, and we perceive the result as a smooth moving image. Create a 24 fps DAW session, put one second of 1K sine wave on the timeline, slice 24 half/frame gaps into it, and play it. Tell me how smooth it sounds.

newguy1 19th May 2018 06:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13326002)
It says:

ABSTRACT

If a white noise with a half‐octave‐band suppression placed anywhere from 300 to 7000 Hz is presented at an over‐all sound‐pressure level of about 60 dB for 1 min and then switched off, a decaying, poststimulatory sound similar to a pure tone is heard for about 10 sec. The pitch of the post‐stimulatory tone corresponds to a frequency within the suppressed band.

And I say:

In 24 fps film projection, each image is actually projected for about 1/48th of a second, and we perceive the result as a smooth moving image. Create a 24 fps DAW session, put one second of 1K sine wave on the timeline, slice 24 half/frame gaps into it, and play it. Tell me how smooth it sounds.

No idea how it plays into your larger point lol. Just clearing up that fact.

Your ears are indeed producing a steady stream of reactive phantom-tones to varying degrees, just like eyes. Past a certain point it becomes more obvious and noticible. A full range of tones produces the tinnitus-like screech you hear for a few hours or more after leaving a loud concert. A narrower range of tone will produce a more specific phantom-tone. Anyone can personally test this by listening to a chord or single note loudly enough for a bit, and then plugging up and cutting sound from your ears as much as possible.

Brent Hahn 19th May 2018 06:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by newguy1 (Post 13326006)
Your ears are indeed producing a steady stream of reactive phantom-tones at all times to varying degrees, just like eyes.

It may happen some to degree, but definitely not "just like eyes." If it was, we'd have no need for 48K WAV's. 48 without the K would be overkill.

newguy1 19th May 2018 06:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13326011)
It may happen some to degree, but definitely not "just like eyes." If it was, we'd have no need for 48K WAV's. 48 without the K would be overkill.

It gets complicated, but the phi phenomenon is the real reason for seeing motion in a series of rapid individual images:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phi_phenomenon

It doesn't actually have to do with the persistence of vision that comes from the afterimage effect. That simply works to prevent you from seeking the blackness between frames when it comes to film specifically. Which helps the phi phonomenon take place when it comes to the way film (specifically) works (as digitial won't have black spaces between image frames that is the result of moving tape), but isn't the core reason for seeing motion in a series of indiviual pictures.

Not sure how that translates to sound and digital audio. . :lol:

Cardinal_SINE 19th May 2018 07:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13325865)
Complex? A dimwit like me with a background in Wood Shop would explain it like this:

"When someone takes your photo with a big ol' flash, you see that flash for quite a while after it happens. But your ears don't work like that."

That's not how simulating light work digitally... It's an illusion to digitally generate images.

Cardinal_SINE 19th May 2018 07:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sharp11 (Post 13325978)
It's all about the brain, the brain "sees" and the brain "hears" - the eyes and ears are just data collectors, the information is decoded in your brain, and you can be equally fooled by either sense; your hearing and your vision.

yup

Sharp11 19th May 2018 07:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13326002)

And I say:

In 24 fps film projection, each image is actually projected for about 1/48th of a second, and we perceive the result as a smooth moving image. Create a 24 fps DAW session, put one second of 1K sine wave on the timeline, slice 24 half/frame gaps into it, and play it. Tell me how smooth it sounds.

Apples vs oranges, and I suspect you know why ;)

Cardinal_SINE 19th May 2018 07:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pangolin (Post 13325624)
plenty of pleasant (mostly) digital recordings.

Now that prosumer converters like UA Apollo and Protools HDX sound ok, the future is brighter. Digital is going to consistently sound decent from here on out. Pro converters from Burl and IZ have sounded great for a decade now. IMO better than Analog. When I bought my first UA2192 I sold my decks within a year. There was no comparison. Never looked back. Bought some Burls and don't miss my tape machines at all. They don't sound like tape but they sound like what I record. If I drive them hard they sound better than the source IMO.

Arthur Stone 19th May 2018 07:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn (Post 13326002)
It says:

ABSTRACT

If a white noise with a half‐octave‐band suppression placed anywhere from 300 to 7000 Hz is presented at an over‐all sound‐pressure level of about 60 dB for 1 min and then switched off, a decaying, poststimulatory sound similar to a pure tone is heard for about 10 sec. The pitch of the post‐stimulatory tone corresponds to a frequency within the suppressed band.

And I say:

In 24 fps film projection, each image is actually projected for about 1/48th of a second, and we perceive the result as a smooth moving image. Create a 24 fps DAW session, put one second of 1K sine wave on the timeline, slice 24 half/frame gaps into it, and play it. Tell me how smooth it sounds.

That may be because the auditory mechanism has greater temporal resolution than vision?

Magnum29465 19th May 2018 08:06 PM

You all are arguing a painting (analog) vs a Photograph (digital)...

SDB_12 19th May 2018 09:37 PM

I learn and change and evolve everyday with this stuff, but here is a little of my journey with this.

Been doing audio and music production oh, 17ish years or something...started in my teens...started on digital workstations and eventually went to a small pro tools rig. I was in bands, and always the one recording us, as well as other local bands, and it snowballed from there. I sucked, couldn't ever achieve the sound in my head starting out, everything sounded kinda mushy and narrow...but I kept going with it.

Ended up enrolling in a college for Audio Production, 4 year Bachelor degree, got to work on an SSL, outboard gear, etc. It was fun, I thought it sounded amazing and would be the solution to all my issues. At this point, I'd been working in Pro Tools a few years, getting better but still not making great stuff. So one day, while at home mixing a song for my bands EP, I remembered I had an old 16 channel Peavey Mark III mixer in the basement, so I went down and grabbed it. My interface (M Audio at the time) had 12 outs so I rounded up the cables and plugged it in and mixed a song on the Peavey. Within a few hours I bounced it and compared it to the ITB mix I'd been working on for weeks, and the OTB mix blew it out of the water! That was it, I was convinced that analog and OTB mixing was the ONLY way! I was so excited I posted it on Gearslutz to wow everyone (like 12 years ago...it's gone by now).

Little did I know, this would end up really distorting my view and limiting me over the next decade. I slowly started buying outboard, bought a Mackie Onyx...eventually upgraded to a Midas F16, then the F32, then a Dangerous summing mixer, bought a bunch of cool outboard compressors, eq's, etc...it's all I wanted to spend my money on. All the while, I continued to get better and better at mixing, producing, etc. Had a sweet hybrid setup, all the tools I'd really need both digitally and analog...

However, I found myself always gravitating toward ITB more and more over time as I got better...b/c OTB was just too demanding on my time with recalls, jumping between projects, etc. I landed a job in post/tv and it was all digital, no time for analog stuff. Then I landed a job mixing live worship every weekend for broadcast on a CL3 console with the Waves soundgrid system...all digital. Been doing that for 5 years now...every single weekend.

So, as you can imagine, I got good at working very quick, with plugins, and figuring out how to mix ITB. I've even had people tell me that my live broadcast mixes sounded so analog...whatever that means. This baffled me, as it was 100% digital...I'd go home and do A/B comparisons between plugins and my hardware, always liked the hardware better and thought it sounded more "real." So, I continued to hold on to it, using it less and less, but it was there.

One thing I noticed, was that at work mixing broadcast on a CL3 console (digital console)...I use a lot of Waves plugins, but often prefer to EQ on the console itself with the knobs. It took awhile, but it hit me! Maybe I don't necessarily prefer analog gear, just b/c it's analog gear...maybe...I prefer it b/c I can grab knobs and use my ears...hmmm...

So I bought the Softube Console 1 system, and noticed that I would EQ things a bit differently with my eyes closed using knobs than I would with plugin EQ's. I didn't always cut so much low mid information with Console 1...often times I'd do my cuts a little higher...around 1k or so...just depending on the source. It doesn't matter where, just that I'd do things differently...interesting...

I could go on and drag this out more...but long story a bit less long...I recently decided to make some big changes...have some big plans of traveling and such in the near future to pursue music...and this forced me to just give up on my "analog is king" theory. I listed all my gear for sale, and right away sold a few key pieces including my $3000 summing mixer...it's gone. I had a mix to do...and just did it 100% ITB...no summing, no outboard, nothing...the artist tracked it at home, using 1 or 2 cheaper mics, into a middle of the road interface and sends me the tracks...I mixed it...and it's one of the best mixes I've done...certainly the best I've done for him so far (we're doing a full album and this was song 4 of about 12). I had no limits, I could do whatever I wanted, and the best part...I knew I could always come back later with the click of a mouse..

All this time I've held on to the idea that I HAD to have analog gear in my mixes to make them sound pro...it was holding me back...why? Because my Warm Audio pultecs weren't always the EQ I needed for a vocal, or the mix bus...but I had them so needed to use them. My Overstayer VCA compressor isn't always right for the mixbus...but I had it so it needed to live there. My 1176 and LA2A sound awesome, but running them on channels 11 and 12 for vocals and bass all the time wasn't very creative...and it was limiting b/c what if the bass sounds better going to the drum buss...but no I can't b/c it needs to be on it's own summing channel with the 1176 or 2A on it...

I'm still selling my gear, still have lots of it, but it's not being used...I'm 100% ITB right now, and I'm loving it! I just did a mix that whoops most anything I've done OTB...it sounds punchy, modern, and just how I heard it in my head. I've learned how to mix ITB (still learning every day)...sometimes in the analog domain all you need is a 1073 into a 2A and the vocal sounds great...but with plugins...it doesn't all the time. But guess what? You don't HAVE to use a 1073 and 2A on the vocal...or maybe you do...but also need some tape saturation and a multi band compressor and deEsser...and it sounds fantastic. Through years of experimentation and practice, you'll find out what works ITB...which plugins you like to do certain jobs...how to take the "digital edge" off and how to add depth. You'll learn how to make things sound wide, and big summing all ITB...yes it's different and takes time, but you can do it.

So I'm finally, after 17 years...at a point that I can honestly say I don't feel like I "need" analog pieces in the chain to mix, or even record. I even want to start experimenting with some of these mic emulations someday...I'm sure they sound great! And in the end...if you use your ears, and your knowledge and the tools that you have at your disposal to make the music sound the way you hear it in your head, it doesn't matter if it's analog, digital, both, or whatever. And the end listener CERTAINLY doesn't care at all! All they care about is that the song is catchy and touches them in some way.

In a perfect world, I'd love to mix in an SSL room with walls of outboard, b/c it's fun, looks cool, and yes...it sounds absolutely killer. But, I can't. I never will be able to do that and make a living. So I've decided I won't let it bring me down or limit me in my creativity by trying to have a few pieces that I just "have" to use...now my world of mixing is completely open and free. If I want a Fairchild on the mixbus...I do it...if I want an SSL...I do it...drum bus no problem...3 drum busses with different chains...no problem...it's so freeing. But I had to get to a place in my mind that I truly believed I could do it ITB without outboard...it took me a decade...but I'm there. Now that I've embraced ITB mixing...I plan to master it. Because it's the future and allows me the creative freedom to work with anyone I want, in anyway...very quickly. I can record on the go...mix on the go...recall mixes 8 months later...it's great.

As of now, digital is the future. Whether it be live mixing, broadcast, tv...studio work, mixing, etc...most musicians coming up have laptops and produce with digital gear...so I'm going to master it. It's been really fun so far kfhkh

...on a side note...plugins are wwaaaaaaayyyy cheaper...and I get to buy new "gear" all the time when cool new toys pop up! I don't even have to wait for shipping now!

Whatever you decide works for you...do it for the right reasons...do it because it truly works for YOU and your situation...not b/c it's what others are doing or what you think you need to do...use your ears to make decisions and decide for yourself. Don't go on hype...it's really wonderful and allows you to create and make music at your absolute best.

Lance Lawson 19th May 2018 10:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sharp11 (Post 13325930)
.

Some of the natural distortion on older recordings is pretty abysmal, IMO - listen to the vocal on this 1967 track by Clarence Carter (when he opens up @ 1:09) ... harsh as hell.

Tape emulations are introducing distortion. The kinds of distortion that the software writers perceive as present in tape. Emulations are just that emulating but not duplicating. There is far more undesirable distortions than there are desirable distortions. The thing with tape is by the luck of the draw desirable ones are present. However all of them are something that we sort of hear although we're not conscious that we're hearing them. Or to put it another way we can't voice what we hear we can call it harmonic distortion or whatever but you hear it without hearing it and you perceive it without being able to articulate how it sounds. Full, fat, warm is a kind of abstract way we've constructed to voice those harmonic distortions. It's sort of like porn. I can't describe it but I know it when I see it.

BIG BUDDHA 19th May 2018 10:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TurboJets (Post 13325151)

I'm not aware of any "digital" piece of audio gear that is purely digital. Everything thing has an analog front end and analog back end. And the better the analog components and circuit design, the better the sound.

If it weren't for analog we would hear nothing.

i agree with you on that one, and a microphone is analog as well.

therefore the same principals apply. so simple....

Buddha

zohomoho 20th May 2018 12:06 AM

I remember this NPR story where they played the same song to teenagers, both on vinyl and MP3. The kids overwhelmingly chose the MP3. I think it is a cultural phenomenon.

newguy1 20th May 2018 12:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lance Lawson (Post 13326359)
The thing with tape is by the luck of the draw desirable ones are present. .

Yeah I think it comes down to this.

Tape is more limiting and technically inferior, but "by luck of the draw" these limitations and technical inferiorities are sonically pleasing. So its something of a different game entirely than working with digital, with its endless options and perfect clarity opening up considerably more room for error.

Lady Gaia 20th May 2018 12:45 AM

Analog artifacts sound better than digital artifacts, so that may explain a part of the preference. Clicks, pops, clipping, and aliasing are all pretty nasty compared to small amounts of flutter, wow, and tape hiss. Perhaps more importantly, and certainly represented throughout this thread, some side effects of the analog chain have become inherently desirable – controlled levels of saturation and distortion can do magical things to an otherwise flat recording.

Does that mean I think analog is superior? No, but I do understand the fixation. It's partly because digital can go wrong in so many ways that it's something of a minefield for the inexperienced, particularly with earlier technology that doesn't provide the virtually infinite headroom of floating point representations. It's partly that there don't tend to he happy accidents working in digital. You either get exactly what you asked for or you get something dramatically worse. I would rather learn how to get the sound I'm looking for than lose that level of precision control, but not everyone is going to agree.

Curiously, we're starting to see the same kind of nostalgia for the ways that digital artifacts and analog together resulted in some happy accidents. Early samplers had a strong character born of low sampling rates or dynamic range and simplistic pitch-shifting algorithms with the nasty edges rounded off by analog filters. Now the likes of the early E-mu and Akai gear are prized by those who would rather not spend time trying to create the sound they grew up with, but just want to leap straight to that quality and see what they can do with it. I can understand that mindset, too, though I don't share it.

BarcelonaMusic 20th May 2018 12:50 AM

I like the sound of hardware compressors better than software. I do have a few nice plugins, but IMO nothing beats the real thing.

Lance Lawson 20th May 2018 01:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lady Gaia (Post 13326595)
Analog artifacts sound better than digital artifacts, so that may explain a part of the preference. Clicks, pops, clipping, and aliasing are all pretty nasty compared to small amounts of flutter, wow, and tape hiss. Perhaps more importantly, and certainly represented throughout this thread, some side effects of the analog chain have become inherently desirable –*controlled levels of saturation and distortion can do magical things to an otherwise flat recording.

I was recording yesterday and assumed that the levels were OK and for the most part they were. However in three sections it clipped and on playback there were three horrid loud nasty blasts of noise from the clip. Had the same signal been to tape most likely it would have been passable. There is nothing uglier that digital clipping.