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Digital vs. Analog

Posted: July 12, 2017

Perhaps you've been exposed to the almost mythic debate between analog and digital recording. I recall a friend of mine, carefully slipping his vinyl back in its sleeve, mentioning that he prefers analog to digital recordings. This was the first time I had ever considered that there was a difference. So, if you have ever wondered how these two stack up, here is a quick run down on the differences between digital and analog audio recordings.

How are they made?
Analog recordings are a continuous replication of the original sound wave. It is a physical imprint of the sound on a magnetic (tape) or vinyl (record) medium. Because of this, it is the closest to the actual sound wave that a recording can get. This fidelity can be affected by things like the equipment or the medium used during the capture.

Digital recordings aren't continuous, but are more like snapshots that combine to recreate the original wave. Using numbers that represent the frequencies, digital recordings approximate the original sound. Think of those cartoons you, or your friends, made on your notebook corners in school. The images aren't really moving, but it looks like they are. Digital recordings work similarly.

What does this mean?
Because of the fidelity to the original sound, many artists and audiophiles prefer analog because of the warmth and texture of the sound that they attribute to the full bandwidth from the physical imprintation of the sound. The only problem is that analog recording can be expensive, whereas digital is relatively cheap.

Digital recording equipment is not only cheaper, but extremely versatile and can last indefinitely. Digital lets artists record pretty much wherever they want, as long as they have a laptop with some recording software, headphones, microphones, and an audio interface. But all of this comes at a price as digital recordings are often thought to be a little colder or more technical in their sound because they are an approximation through numbers.

Most music is a combination of the two
Artists have recently returned to analog recording, preferring the recording experience and the sound it produces. But digital isn't going anywhere. In fact, many artists tend to use a blend of the two techniques in order to get a warmer sound and greater control over the final product. To do so, they might use an analog audio interface (like this one) to get that great connective sound of analog with the ease and control of digital.
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