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Scholarly articles on the digital vs. analog debate?
Old 7th May 2013
Gear Maniac

Thread Starter
Scholarly articles on the digital vs. analog debate?

Hi all,

I was wondering if any of you might point me towards scholarly articles on this subject of digital vs. analog (ya know, which is better, can software plug-ins replicate hardware properly, are we there yet, etc. ). Obviously, the debate rages here on Gearslutz, with just about every possible opinion under the sun and what I am sure is a bunch of misinformation all around. Are there any peer-reviewed articles/studies on the topic? Something I could quote as a source in, say, an academic paper of my own?

Old 8th May 2013
Gear Maniac

In my opinion, sound is pretty subjective. Especially if we're talking about "better". Have fun with it, though.
Old 8th May 2013
Browse some of the articles in the Journal on the Art of Record Production: Journal on the Art of Record Production
None will answer which is "better" since there is no answer to that question, but they will suggest a variety of approaches scholars have taken to understanding, for example, why certain musicians or engineers have chosen certain ways of working and tools to support those workflows.
Old 8th May 2013
Gear Guru
gearslutz is pretty much peer reviewed and as scholarly as you need to get for such a question. Especially in the mastering forum, the best brains in the business who actually design and use the stuff geek it out for all to read.

Many big name engineers have written books, and all give their own opinions - even if they disagree with each other.

The only thing you get consensus on is:
analog and digital are different
analog can do stuff that digital can't
digital can do stuff that analog can't

It's pointless debating it further. Just make music, or whatever it is that you do.
Old 8th May 2013
Gear Guru

If there were any scholarly articles, on this topic, I would assume they are just more personal preferences disguised as scholarship. I don't see much place for scholarship in this particular debate. If a Scholar wrote such an article trying to "prove" what is "better", I would discount him as being full of ****.

There is certainly no way to determine by scholarship if plug-ins are "there yet". If someone says 'digital sucks' and you say no, neither side is guilty of "misinformation" - just "different taste". The most a scholar could do would be to try and conduct a statistically accurate poll. (As opposed to a word-count or internet search analysis. More bull****)

I suppose a scholar can point to specs, but almost nobody is really arguing that the specs are "incorrect".

They just disagree about what they LIKE. Nobody who prefers tape is trying to claim it DOESN'T have tape hiss, for example.

Scholars have raging disagreements about stuff like: did the Earl of Oxford secretly write the Shakespeare plays, but they don't write scholarly papers about whether Romeo and Juliet "sucks".

Are there scholarly articles about whether Wendy's is better than McDonald's? You can measure the temperature of the deep fat fryers, but you can't measure the 'tastiness' of the Fries.

Are there scholarly articles about who is hotter, Ginger or MaryAnn?

If there are, they too are full of it. That's not scholarship. That's just opinion.
Old 8th May 2013
Lives for gear
Ain't Nobody's Avatar

If you're looking to just write a paper and need footnotes, that's fine, but if you're looking to learn something useful, you'd waste less time and achieve the same effect by beating your head against a wall until you lose consciousness.

People using jargon and charts are more often just insecure and out to prove their pre-conceived notions vs having a mind truly open to actually learning something new. I've found this to be true even of a great many professional scientists and researchers. The conclusion is OFTEN reached before the research begins. There are many cases of researchers throwing out data because it doesn't support their thesis.... or their funding.

On this topic in particular, the whole notion of "better" is so loaded you might as well be asking about religion.
Old 8th May 2013
Originally Posted by wjbratcher View Post
In my opinion, sound is pretty subjective. Especially if we're talking about "better". Have fun with it, though.

If we're talking accuracy -- that's pretty easy. It's measurable/quantifiable in large part.

But most of us are not involved in making audio documentaries so much as creating illusions. We're not looking for literal truth but poetic truth. So to speak.

And the OP's question clearly seems to move beyond accuracy questions.

What works in one project may not be right for another.

If I'm a commercial engineer/producer working on a classical project in 2013, I'm likely to lean toward digital transcription for its greater accuracy.

But if I'm that guy working on a rock project, I might well go for analog tape in order to make use of the well-known and widely loved saturation characteristics of tape to get a 'classic' rock sound.

Horses, as they say, for courses.
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