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Once you start getting into audio production, and eventually start kind of drooling over different gear, there are a couple things that will come up, and I just want to touch upon them lightly to kind of tell you what I know about them, so that when you come across some of these different ideas or conflicting viewpoints, you have a little bit of background on what they are all about. This is by no means me giving you the straight story. It's just trying to let you know what the debates all about or kind of what the two different viewpoints are in some of these circumstances. The first is that of analog versus digital. This is basically a battle between tape machines and everything else, because pretty much everything else these days is digital, whether it's your computer setup or your portable four-track recorder or a digital tape device like an ADAT.
The argument goes that working with digital results in the kind of a colder, harsher sound quality, and that analog devices, tape machines, produce a warmer, smoother sound. Now, the first is a lie and the second is sort of true. So, digital machines actually give you an accurate representation of what exists. It might be warm. It might be cold. It all depends on what you feed it. Tape machines, on the other hand, aren't digital and they tend to add a little bit of color and texture to the sounds when you record them, especially if you use a little bit of tape saturation, or send enough signals so that there's a little bit of distortion on the tape.
But for some reason, that distortion on analog tape is a little bit more palatable. It's not like digital distortion, when we hear it, we really don't want to hear it. But analog distortion actually tends to feel a little bit like warmth, or it adds a little bit of fuzz to the sound. So, I am not suggesting that one format is better than the other. I am simply saying that when people are trying to look for that analog sound, they are thinking kind of this warmth, but really it's not necessarily an accuracy. It's more a result of an inaccuracy, but it's an inaccuracy that we've kind of come to love, or an imperfection that we've become used to, that sound of tape saturation or distortion on tapes.
Digital doesn't quite have that luxury of adding any sort of color to the sound. It's always going to kind of be pretty true. What you give it is what you're going to get. So, if someone says to you, "Oh, digital audio. That's too cold. That's lifeless," you might want to respond by saying something like, "As long as you have warm sounds or warm sound sources, digital audio will capture that warmth just fine." So, I just want you to understand the basis kind of the analog versus digital debate. I am personally pretty excited that both possibilities exist, and I like to use both when I can.
That imperfection that becomes warmth in analog is a very cool thing, and a lot of people are actually using a combination. If you go to a lot of professional studios, you'll see that they'll be using tape machines to get a certain sound, then they'll commit those recordings on over to a digital machines so that they can work with them in the digital environment, but take advantage of some of the tonal qualities and characteristics you can get from recording to analog tape.
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