Analog and Digital Audio

PBS WIRED SCIENCE sat down with the members of the band Great Northern and two top recording industry engineers to see if they could tell the difference between analog and digital recordings. I had never heard of the two “top recording industry engineers” and simply was surprised they didn’t just use Ken Andrews and Steve Albini who were also interviewed for the debate. Anyone else know these veterans? I am not sure how much I believe the results. Not to mention the set up was flawed in many ways.If I was setting this test up. I’d let the listeners A/B the signals and give the option to use headphones. Sure this was meant to be more casual. But if you are doing something casual why not use regular people. You know the people who actually buy this music. But then again I am not a scientist. And that’s not what it’s about. I still find it very hard to believe that a top tier engineer couldn’t tell the difference between analog and digital in the same recording. To me, it’s so clear in the way the drums often sound. But hey, maybe it’s why I am not a “top recording industry engineer.” I also felt they were equating digital recordings to MP3s. It’s not like when a band goes in to a digital recording studio they are recording on iTunes at 128kbps. That would be like saying an analog studio is recording on a dictaphone.

And when does Steve Albini say anything that isn’t just asinine? When will he get it through his thick analog head that digital is not a replacement for analog recording systems and it has it’s own merit? It’s simply another means to capture audio. Albini is the king of audist behavior. It’s like diesel and unleaded. Is either better? Red and Blue. Film and Digital cameras. Classrooms and Online Classes. Christianity and Buddhism. It’s not better it’s not worse. It’s not “vs.” – it’s “and”. It’s not a contest. It’s not a game. It’s what works for you. And doesn’t make the other one less. Each has it’s benefits and it’s limitations. And newsflash Albini, even analog has it’s weaknesses. It’s true.

And I still can’t stand the way Albini’s drums sound so goddam chalky. It will be the day when Albini includes some high-end frequencies in his drums.

Thanks Brock for the link.

4 Responses to “Analog and Digital Audio”

  • I saw this on Wired Science tv on some redic channel that is way up in the 700’s and I didn’t even know we had. It seems pretty crazy to think that analog is ever going to be taken over by digital recordings. Its all a preference thing. Just like you mentioned with film and digital cameras. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks and there will always be a market for both. Would the Beatles have used digital recording if it had been invented? I would argue yes but there are bands today that still prefer analog (Dr. Dog, for one).

    So yes. Steve Albini is a jack ass.

  • Wow, I thought to myself, “I should check this link because I don’t think thats right” and then I totally didn’t. Forget that guy’s site. But seriously… is the place to be for analog recordings and good music.

  • Wow, thanks for sharing, that was quite interesting. In my Auditory Perception, Psychoacoustics, and Music Cognition class (I just like writing out the title) we talk about such issues and whether not people can really tell the difference. We even read an AES journal where supposed “professional” audio engineers tried to tell the difference between CD quality and higher quality audio such as SACD or DVD-Audio. Basically they couldn’t, it was actually less than 50% accuracy.

  • I don’t know what argument you were listening to, but Albini makes some compelling points while Ken doesn’t – “what can digital do that analog can’t?” -“well, editing, but oh wait you can do that in analog, just more tedious”. I guess Ken prefers quick burger to finely aged steak. And ALbini has acknowledged the whole argument you set forth about two things occurring at once, but the reality is they ARE in competition. Thank Albini for many of the few musical acts we have today that aren’t Xeroxed crap and for inspiring tons of musicians through his early Big Black work and focus on integrity in music, a seldom found commodity.

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