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Author Topic: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?  (Read 31283 times)

Mister Trent

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #405 on: December 30, 2005, 03:17:29 pm »

INTERESTING ANALOGIES TO ANALOG VS. DIGITAL THAT I FIND WORTH DISCUSSING

Analog vs. digital?  What's wild/cool/fun to note is that this EXACT same aesthetic/artisitc consideration is being fought out in both film and the art world.  Here are some fun observations; let me preface them by stating my personal preference: I think analog sound rules.

FILM: DIGITAL VIDEO VS. 35MM
I remember watching Danny Boyle's the horror film 28 Days Later and being impressed by it- but then upon talking to some of my cineophile friends (including one, "Stephanie" who is an accomplished NYU film school grad) they were like; fuck that; it's not even a FILM; it was shot on digital video, not 35MM.

Later, reading an interview with Danny Boyle he explained that the scenes of empty London had to be shot so quickly that they had no choice but to use digital and try to make it look more 16MM( read: analog) in post production (read: later they put an "analog plug-in" over it in Final Cut Pro); and so not to be too jarring of a contrast with the other clips they decided to shoot the entire film that way with the exception of one scene (which IS in 35MM (?!?!?!?), and DOES look jarring once you see it- because it looks so much more "film." than the rest of the movie, but I saw the whole movie before I read the Boyle interview so I had to go back and watch it again.

From what I understand Michael Mann's Collateral is also a "video" instead of a film albeit with the visual equivalent of a super high sampling rate of Mann's own invention.

Points?  None, but here is an observation- my film friend Stephanie who dissed 28 Days later is a big Cure fan; when I pointed out to her that one of her favorite Cure releases was digital instead of analog and made her listen to it side by side with an older release she realized one sounded warmer. But being a true film snob, she didn't care...but still dissed the "videos" as not being films, LOL.

In fact film has eerie parallels- 16MM and 35MM (1/2 inch and 2 inch machines).  People use video the way we use digital- cheap home use, a minimum standard that will make people stand up and take notice provided we wrote good songs, and endless editing
since a lot of us NEED this since we lack engineering skills to nail it right the first time.

ART WORLD: OIL VS. ACRYLIC
Not to be longwinded here, but the same issue- I have known some clever artists who have made their acrylic paintings look "oil-esque", one of my friends John Cycyk used to add black pigments to his acrylics to make them looks darker ("more oil") and use heavier strokes, i.e. the equivalent in our world of hitting digital front end with killer pres/comp to "warm" it up.

Observations: For me, this is less than successful, certainly less so than film.  Acrylic is easily recognizable as such, as is oil. Oil paintings DESTROY acrylic. And it bugs me to see them and I wish that the artist had robbed a bank to get oils because its so much warmer and more tri-dimensional- like Caravaggio versus a cartoon strip.  I imagine this is how Steve thinks of Pro Tooled recordings. But that's just me.

FINAL OBSERVATIONS
Most of us are much better at judging/recognizing the documenting medium used of the art to which WE consecrate most of our work- I doubt that most people even reading this realized that Collateral and 28 Days Later are not even films; they are videos.  

For me personally, for film it doesn't bother me as much, although now I am WATCHING for film (what does this say about me, LOL)....for paintings, oil versus acrylic....let's just say I think acrylic SUCKS.  It ruins the experience for me.  

And musically? For me, digital doesn't "ruin" the experience...but I can hear digital from a mile away (on drums especially), I have become so attuned to it. I DO think like Tom Petty who says (I am paraphrasing here) that even if someone is not aware of the medium or directly comparing, analog will always give an extra boost to a song's impression in the same way that people prefer the warmth of a fireplace over a heatpack (that last bit was mine, LOL). But I can be fooled I guess, every once in a while.

And I will be trying to fool people myself shortly- I am doing freelance productions in San Francisco and my workload is finally such I can't keep hitting up my friends for editing time so I will be getting a new machine loaded with SONAR 5 this weekend for my flat....I just can't get the work done any other way at this point.  God knows I'll be doing the equivalent of putting black pigment in my acrylic and running tracks thru
my old man's vintage Ampex I am getting repaired/hotrodded to get a transfomer inline...whatever it takes.  Ultimately, I think digital is like digital reverb.  As long as it doesn't sound annoying, we can make it work.

I hope (gulp). For rnb, country, hip-hop, yeah....but I have rock clients too...has anyone ever created a digital rock album that CUT it?  That sounded better than a demo?  Anyone have an mp3 to prove it exists? I would love to believe it's not the car, it's the driver, but the medium, and maybe the necessary processes involved, don't seem to favor rock and roll.  Despite ruthless, er..."trainspotting" I have yet to hear one.

OK guys, thanks and cheers Trent

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Jon Hodgson

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #406 on: December 30, 2005, 03:37:45 pm »

Mister Trent wrote on Fri, 30 December 2005 20:17

has anyone ever created a digital rock album that CUT it?  That sounded better than a demo?


Well what do you mean by a digital rock album? Or indeed an analogue one?

What I mean is that at one extreme you could have Mics into mic preamps and into DAW, and then everything else is digital from then on, including dynamics, all the way until your final CD.

At the other extreme you could have no digital involved at all, with the final product being delivered on vinyl.

In between there's an endless number of variations, for example one producer might track everything to analogue tape first, then put it into the DAW for editing, another might do everything in the DAW except master to analogue tape to add warmth, another might do drums and guitars on analogue but vocals on digital. Some might use digital recording and editing but tube outboard for a more "analogue" sound, some would just use emulation.

So what would you consider a "digital" album?

(edited since it seems my brain was disconnected from my fingers when I typed it the first time)
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Mister Trent

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #407 on: December 30, 2005, 05:15:29 pm »

Good question! Smile The technical answer would be an album tracked on 2 inch or 1 or 1/2...mixed however. But the best answer would be an album that doesn't SOUND digital, whether it was  recorded on blackface ADATS or not really doesn't matter.

And I think I might have found one example: after  posted I just listened to the debut album by The Bronx, no one would confuse this recording with the depth and dimension of say, Zep IV but it does rock!  I repeat: It sounds like it was recorded and mixed digitally but it DOES rock.  If it was recorded digitally I would love to know how they did it, there is hope after all! Smile

Interestingly enough in my old band did a 2 inch recording that was well tracked but the mix sucks- I can send you an mp3 if you'd like; this is one of the reasons I am getting a digital home setup- because I know even my mediocre mixing skills can do a better job in a digital environment given the luxury of time than we were able to get on the studio dime.  

Cheers and peace Trent

PS: Incidentally this thread started with the analogy of guitar players loving tube amps over all else; funnily enough this is one place where, as a guitar player of (God) 25 years I disagree. (Note: digital amp sims are NOT my thing)- solid state amps have proven themselves a million times over in certain applications to be the equal of tube amps.  Most of Brian May's great guitar sounds on record were not the AC30, but the "Deacy" created by John Deacon- a solid state amplifier that was just a reversed speaker without even tone controls. The infamous Ty Tabor King's X sound acknowledged by many rock guitar congnescenti as a holy grail tone (he hid the amp labels so no one would discover it) turned out to be a Gibson Lab series.  Zappa tones?  The Pignose.   Blissed out rawk a la Cult Love album ("She Sells Sanctuary") was a Roland JC.  Clean tones in general like Fripp's stuff with Sylvian- that shit is direct.

This said, for those of us that are into tube amp sound- a cool trick to give a solid state amp tube characteristics (and often cooler, depending on the application) is to put a cheap old Joe Meek "green box" such as a VC3 in the amp's FX loop and engage some compression- the character of the pre plus the optical comp element in many ways sounds warmer than tubes- a phenom noticed by Michael Molenda of Guitar Player magazine in an outboard preamp/comp shootout.  

You can get these VC3s dirt cheap on Ebay these days because the new ThreeQ series is out- DO NOT use the ThreeQ by the way for this app- the pre is WAY too transparent compared to the older models and you have to use levels of compression that are "audible" to get any (therefore non) satisfactory effect.  All of the warmth, even better mojo, plus far better consistency and maintenance issues to deal with than tube amps.  Sadly this does not work for digital modelers though!

Peace again and Happy New Year, Trent

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PaulyD

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #408 on: December 31, 2005, 01:07:36 am »

Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms was recorded on a Yamaha digital 8 track. I always thought that album sounded great. And I'll be danged if that wasn't recorded over 20 years ago...

How about Ry Cooder's Bop Till You Drop? That was almost 25 years ago...Makes me wonder how many great albums were done on Synclaviers that we all thought were analog. Zappa? George Duke? And what of Neve and Otari hard disk recorders?

I think for most of the people visiting these forums (myself included), the greater concern is the room(s) we record in, the mics, the pre's, the compressors, mic technique, and getting the levels right on the way in.

It seems great engineers can make great records on nearly whatever's lying around. Let's join them.

Paul

vernier

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #409 on: December 31, 2005, 02:12:09 am »

Sony 24-track digital ...sound of the eighties.
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Tidewater

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #410 on: December 31, 2005, 11:10:52 am »

PaulyD wrote on Sat, 31 December 2005 01:07



Makes me wonder how many great albums were done on Synclaviers that we all thought were analog.

Paul



Hold on... ok... after examining the lights... I think we are in record.... yes.. ok... uhh.. arm.. 12... count starting with 5 from the left on the second row... uhh.. hold on a second, this one is flashing.. I think you erased 12... hand me the manual..

Happy New Year, topic!


M
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chrisj

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #411 on: December 31, 2005, 12:49:29 pm »

Johnny B wrote on Thu, 29 December 2005 08:07


Since when was digital ever useful? Perhaps its useful for decimating 3D analogue sound waves...chopping them up, slicing and dicing them, and turning them into neat little zeros and ones that will be sent thru bad digital math and come out sounding...thin, cold, brittle, and ice cold.


Look, this is not that complicated.

The chopping up and slicing and dicing is not a problem. Neat little zeroes and ones are your friend. You can get all 'Jurassic Park' with them, it's very liberating. You can do crazy things that cannot be done conveniently in analog.

Bad digital math is the problem. Even changing the gain of a track on the fly, much less fancier stuff like equalization, gets you a special kind of bad digital math that relates to treating the sample values like 'pieces of the audio', which they're not.

They are only pointers to the underlying wave shape which won't ever exactly correspond to the sample. What you want to be focussing on is RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN samples. That will retain the sub-sample timing information.

People don't usually do this, they write code to edit 'samples' individually.

Thanks to being on the losing end of an argument with Sony's Paul Frindle I started doing it, and digital done properly loses nothing, nothing whatsoever to analog. Not 'vibe', not warmth not depth not anything. It was all about minute jitter/timing irregularities produced by not considering the relationships between samples... when I fixed that, bingo.

I mean, listen to my CAPE tracks, even as mp3s (the teams have full res versions). Campfire/Galactic/Arsenal/Transmission. Most or all were mixed digitally but I counteracted that- I'd be able to do even more, with stuff either mixed analog or mixed with minimal bad-digital-math. The comparisons that were coming up for people were Dark Side of the Moon, Dixie Dregs, etc. People were being reminded of analog masterpieces. What I'm talking about here is not airy-fairy intellectual stuff, it's visceral. MY JOB is to hit people with the most musical experience off whatever music I'm given to work with.

For the reasons I outlined, historically analog is way better at doing this, but I think I'm establishing that it's not an axiom- you just have to do digital exactly right to completely capture the magic. When we're talking Pro Tools, that's pretty much digital done consistently wrong, though they improve bit by bit (ack! pun not intended)

Now if we're talking about whether it's sad to take musicians and plunk them in Pro Tools and put out casio-tone versions of their musical thought, that's another story, a whole other bookshelf. But please let's not call that 'digital' as if there wasn't the capacity to record exceptional digital.

The funniest part is, I'd be able to get more, much more, out of a recording that was done digitally but Albini-style, all documentation and as purist and unprocessed as a jazz session or classical gig. Frankly, if you sat a band down in front of two really good mics and sampled it through a damned good converter at merely 16/44.1K I would be able to take that recording, run with it, and you'd freak and swear it had to be great analog throughout.

It's digital overproduction that's bothering you guys.

vernier

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #412 on: December 31, 2005, 05:53:45 pm »

Even good digital is still different from analog. They are different.
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Johnny B

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #413 on: January 03, 2006, 02:31:50 am »

HappyNewChrisj! wrote on Sat, 31 December 2005 17:49


Bad digital math is the problem. Even changing the gain of a track on the fly, much less fancier stuff like equalization, gets you a special kind of bad digital math that relates to treating the sample values like 'pieces of the audio', which they're not.

They are only pointers to the underlying wave shape which won't ever exactly correspond to the sample. What you want to be focussing on is RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN samples. That will retain the sub-sample timing information.

People don't usually do this, they write code to edit 'samples' individually.

...I started doing it, and digital done properly loses nothing, nothing whatsoever to analog. Not 'vibe', not warmth not depth not anything.

It was all about minute jitter/timing irregularities produced by not considering the relationships between samples... when I fixed that, bingo.




Care to elaborate on the part in bold, I'm curious about the details of process you are using.

///

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Johnny B

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Re: How Come Many Musicians Prefer The Sound Of Analogue?
« Reply #414 on: January 03, 2006, 02:32:51 am »

Smile
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"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality,
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they do not refer to reality."
---Albert Einstein---

I'm also uncertain about everything.
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