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Analog vs. digital experiment
Old 11th May 2006
  #1
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Analog vs. digital experiment

Could we arrange some kind of analog vs. digital experiment so those who aren't familiar with both of them (like me) can get a clue on the difference in terms of final sound. I only know what the difference is theoretically, but I would like to hear the sound of it as well.

We do it like this. We choose a commercial song (anyone of taste) and record 15 seconds of that song straight into the analog and digital medium so that it peaks at +6dB (analog) and -0dB (digital). No additional processing is allowed (so no software limiting). Then we enhance the difference by applying limiting until the average volume is let's say -8dB (the first version, the second version is as loud as we can get it with the L2 without artifacts) with an L2 software limiter as a post fader effect on the mix output bus. No dithering is allowed and the material should be directly recorded as 44,[email protected] to peak at -0dB. Then we use the site http://www.yousendit.com to send before and after limiting clips for each domain (if we have access to both) and post references here. If we have access to only one domain (most certainly only the digital domain) we can post before and after clips of that anyway, just to see if there is any general difference in sound quality between the two domains.

This is not the most accurate way of comparing the two domains, but I hope it will give us some clue about the difference in final sound.

BTW, choose a song that is not very compressed, if you can find any...

Last edited by RainbowStorm; 11th May 2006 at 01:42 PM..
Old 11th May 2006
  #2
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theblotted's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
instead of going thru all the trouble and not getting any accurate results, why don't you simply go buy A/B CD?

it'll at least be closer in accuracy, and you'll learn a lot more than simply "analog vs. digital".

http://www.theabcd.com/index.html
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #3
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblotted
instead of going thru all the trouble and not getting any accurate results, why don't you simply go buy A/B CD?

it'll at least be closer in accuracy, and you'll learn a lot more than simply "analog vs. digital".

http://www.theabcd.com/index.html
Wow, thanks, I was not aware of this site... Cool!
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 15 years
Ooops... I think I pressed the purchase button...
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #5
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frontierfran's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
theblotted...

not to spoil things, but did you hear this CD? if so, what were your thoughts?
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #6
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theblotted's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
frontierfran,

i won't recommend anything i've never heard.

that said, the CD will open lotsa stuff: both eyes/ears and can of worms.

the website and CD sleeve explains the procedures of their testing. this is good and all, but some of the results are too extremes at times, and too subtle at other times.

for example, there's one where the drums are recorded on one day, and not touched for 5 days (including mic positions), and then recorded again. the differences are astounding. almost make you think there's other factors involved.

i did however, learned some interesting things. like how i prefer analog/tape for smoothness in the high's, but prefer digital for the punchy clarity in the low's. again, this is program dependent, as you'll hear if you have the CD.

ymmv. hope that helps.
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #7
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theblotted's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
Wow, thanks, I was not aware of this site... Cool!
np
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #8
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Albert's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblotted
for example, there's one where the drums are recorded on one day, and not touched for 5 days (including mic positions), and then recorded again. the differences are astounding. almost make you think there's other factors involved.
There are other factors involved. The drummer, for example. While the drum set and mic positions may not have changed, the drummer lived five days and came back and there's no way he played exactly the same.

Let's also not forget atmospheric conditions, humidity, and other weather factors.

It doesn't surprise me at all that the drums sounded different after five days. I would be astounded if they had sounded the same. That's such a common phenomenon it should be considered the rule not the exception.
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #9
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Somewhere around here I have a mix that was printed to both analog & digital & mastered by Brad Blackwood...

The analog side was a Studer A80MkII RC 1/4" running I think 456 or 499 at 15ips...I'd have to check the level to know what I printed at but I think it was either +5 or +6 over 185nWm.

The digital was to a Mytek AD at 44.1

The differences are NOT huge.

I'm cleaning up the mix room today so I'll dig that disc out & see if I can get 15 or 30 second wav files up here in the next few hours...
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #10
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theblotted's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert
There are other factors involved. The drummer, for example. While the drum set and mic positions may not have changed, the drummer lived five days and came back and there's no way he played exactly the same.

Let's also not forget atmospheric conditions, humidity, and other weather factors.

It doesn't surprise me at all that the drums sounded different after five days. I would be astounded if they had sounded the same. That's such a common phenomenon it should be considered the rule not the exception.
that's what i figured. thx for the confirmation.
Old 11th May 2006
  #11
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Dave Peck's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
Could we arrange some kind of analog vs. digital experiment .

We choose a commercial song (anyone of taste) and record 15 seconds of that song straight into the analog and digital medium (snip) Then we enhance the difference by applying limiting
There are a few problems with the proposed methods.

1. If you use a 'commercial song' you are using a source that has already been through some unknown amount of analog and/or digital recording and re-recording and you are just adding one more generation of each. If you are trying to hear what types of artifacts are being added to the signal, or what details are being removed from the signal, you need to start with a signal that hasn't already been subjected to some unknown amount of these effects. So you need to use a LIVE source that has never been recorded before, either to analog or to digital.
2. The two types of limiting you are proposing may have completely different effects. That's fine it all you are trying to do is hear the differences in the types of limiting, but if this is supposed to be an analog vs digital test, don't subject the two recordings to different processing. In fact, don't subject either of them to ANY processing.

A more accurate test would be something like recording live multitrack music simultaneously to:

- a DAW and direct to 1/2" stereo analog. Compare the analog playback to the ITB summed playback. (one generation of analog, one generation of digital)

- or, to a DAW and to 2" 24 trk, then mix the 24 trk to 1/2" stereo analog through a console and mix the DAW tracks through the same console to two track digital (two generations of analog, two generations of digital with conversion between generations).

But this has been done before many times. I hope I'm not contributing to the start of yet another A vs D thread.

DP
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
What is the point anyway? Economics dictate that few studios will bother with analog tape anymore. The differences are well known and discussed to death. Those who can afford tape will buy tape. Those who can't won't, but they will try anything possible to make it sound like tape.
Old 11th May 2006 | Show parent
  #13
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert
There are other factors involved. The drummer, for example. While the drum set and mic positions may not have changed, the drummer lived five days and came back and there's no way he played exactly the same.

Let's also not forget atmospheric conditions, humidity, and other weather factors.
Yup. And drum sounds can & WILL change even from hour to hour while the drummer is playing...wearing down the heads & tuning that slips farther south with every backbeat...

Anyway!

Here's two versions of the same song, one analog, one digital.

All tracks were cut to 2" 24-track...an MCI JH-24 running GP9 at 15ips...most likely with an operating level of +6/185. Mixes were done on the Trident (unmodded at the time) with the standard slew of outboard plus some nifty rental stuff like API and Lang EQ's since it was on the labels dime!

One version is the mix printed to a Studer A80MkII RC running 499 at 15ips with an operating level of +5/185.

The other version was printed to a Mytek ADC at 44.1.

Both versions were sent to Brad Blackwood & mastered through the same chain...no changes what-so-ever. The record was mastered & released from one version of the mixes & hit MTV rotation for about 30 seconds; Hero Pattern's MTV video linkage

Brad called us up the day of and expressed his thoughts on the variations of what he was hearing in his room with the $15K monitor rig. After MUCH discussion & a few hours of phone calls we told him to use whatever he thought was best & blast the record, but humor us...do one song off both versions & send that along just in case we wanted it redone off the other format...because lets face it...we ALL have preconcieved notions which may or may not be correct.

So here it is...two versions...both taken from the final 16/44.1 master and posted as 25 second wav files.

Take your best guess as to what's what & I'll give up the answer in 24 or 48 hours after ya'll have taken a shot.

The difference is WAY more subtle then you might think...
Attached Files

Hero Pattern_You Again_clipA.wav (4.20 MB, 723 views)

Hero Pattern_You Again_clipB.wav (4.20 MB, 804 views)

Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #14
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🎧 15 years
A - Mytek
B - Studer
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #15
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Eide's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Hasn't a lot changed i the digital world since 2001 when the CD was released?

I'll guess you still can get something out of it...
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #16
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Sounds Great's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kahrs

So here it is...two versions...both taken from the final 16/44.1 master and posted as 25 second wav files.

I wish I could have an analog copy of the (analog) master.

Most of the difference is lost listening through the computer, I suspect. At first I thought I couldn't tell, but later, the difference became more apparent. B is easier on the ears.
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Head
 
🎧 15 years
I agree I think B sounds the best (Tape). The highs seem less harsh.
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
EDIT, I had to delete it all, I was just ending up confused about my thoughts... I have to take a short break and then try to listen again.

Treble:
I took a new fresh listen to the songs by turning the treble to the max and the bass to the min. The version A has definitely more treble, it IS sharper in the attack. Is it harsh, that's the question. I'm not sure.

Bass:
This is where it gets confusing for me. I would have expected to find version B having a softer bass attack. Then 1 + 1 would have been 2. But version A has a MUCH softer bass attack!

Mid:
Can't really hear a remarkable difference in the mids on my speaker system.

Natural:
The upper range of the velocity pitch is fuller in version B, I can hear that on some snare beats. I have sometimes felt that the decay in version B is more natural on the vocals as well.

The bass section is softer in version A and when you turn up the volume this softness turns into fullness. On the other hand, I agree that the treble in version A is rather sharp and thick and that version B is somehow easier on the ears (the treble is slightly thinner). The version B has more low mids and that's typically where the tape saturation is dominant, plus it seems to have smoothed out the treble a little making it a little more pleasant. But I admit, this is really hard! I don't like that thick treble in version A, that is one spontaneous reaction. That's something I noticed almost immediately. If I would have more experience with analog sound it would be easier to know this.

Last edited by RainbowStorm; 12th May 2006 at 11:14 AM..
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Rainbow:

I had to listen to the source material at least 4-5 times before I was able to discern the difference in sound. For me, it was more difficult to assess because you had already had the music tracked out on 2" to begin with. So I was essentially listening for further tape saturation attributes, and/or sharp more detailed attributes that i'd associate with a digital conversion. Ultimately, i'd be happy with ether. If I had to pick one mix over the other though, i'd pick B. I second your initial reaction, after a couple listens my ears were more fatigued by mix A. The highs were much more strident then mix B. I would say mix B had a mushier low end, in a good way, though mix A was no slouch ether. Appreciate the links man, always interesting.
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #20
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by GL Respect Due
I had to listen to the source material at least 4-5 times before I was able to discern the difference in sound.
That seems about right, the differences aren't immediatly obvious.

I'm surprised though...50 views of the files & only a handful of responses so far...

Are ya'll afraid to guess & be wrong or something?!?



I'd LOVE to reveal the answers but I want to see more guesses & feedback like Rainbow & GL threw out before I do that...
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kahrs
The difference is WAY more subtle then you might think...
I like A more although it is a bit on the bright side but the low end is deeper and there is no lowmid mud like in B. So what is what? I guess B is from the tape master because it turns into a dull muddy sound when switched to mono, maybe there was a lil phase issue with the heads? A stays more consitent also in mono.

Andreas
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #22
Rep
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Rep's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Nice Music Vibe ...

A =
Vocals are cleaner and defined , the vox sits dead in the center,
... I will say that is Digital, or that is a really clean Tape..
I liked this better for the clarity and defined cut thru...

B =
Harmonic is pleasing and thick sounding ,
... more rounded in the Mids,
the vocals have energy going off to the Left / slight Pan,
... wire or summing issue thing, So ill guess is tape,
some sheen from the high end off / due to an extra conversion step ?
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #23
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kahrs
Somewhere around here I have a mix that was printed to both analog & digital & mastered by Brad Blackwood...

The analog side was a Studer A80MkII RC 1/4" running I think 456 or 499 at 15ips...I'd have to check the level to know what I printed at but I think it was either +5 or +6 over 185nWm.

The digital was to a Mytek AD at 44.1

The differences are NOT huge.

I'm cleaning up the mix room today so I'll dig that disc out & see if I can get 15 or 30 second wav files up here in the next few hours...
Size and significance are very different.

There are qualities that you hear off of a multi-track analog playback that you don't hear and can't get from digital. It's subjective as to wheter or not that matters, but I'm sure there are people who prefer and 58 over a 57 or an original 1073 over a good clone. Those differences aren't necessarily huge, but it's a choice we evaluate seriously.
Old 12th May 2006 | Show parent
  #24
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RKrizman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I like A better. To me, more convincing and more musical. B seems bigger at first, I thought maybe louder. Harsher too. However, as was noted, when you listen in mono the high end goes away, indicating some phasiness. That's probably what accounts for my impression of B being somehow bigger when listening in stereo.

I would have guessed A was tape, but can't account for why B had mono problems. Had the azimuth been aligned? Did a 1 sample delay on one track sneak in somewhere? I think you have to account for the mono discrepancy before you try to draw any conclusions at all from this.

BTW, I love the music and the production.

-R
Old 13th May 2006 | Show parent
  #25
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andreas G
I guess B is from the tape master because it turns into a dull muddy sound when switched to mono, maybe there was a lil phase issue with the heads?
Phase issue with the heads?!

You mean the azimuth was off or something???

Maybe between my machine & Blackwoods?!?!?

Chances of that are slim to none.

We spent a GOOD 30 minutes or so going over stuff like were the tones were lining up in relation to each other & we both talked to the band member who was appointed "producer" before making any kind of call on what to master the record from.

On my Studer...if 1kHz, 10Khz & 100Hz are printed at 0VU...then usually I'm up .5dB at 50Hz & 1dB at 15Khz.

50Hz & 15kHz are put down to check the direction of the headbump & azimuth respectively...IIRC there was almost no detectable difference between what I saw on my deck & what BB reported seeing on his...

All the mixes were layed down simultanouesly to analog & digtal & levels were cal'd & double checked to show ZERO difference at 1kHz & 10kHz...really dudes...that record is as REAL as it ever gets & is SOP around these parts.

Just to further bend 'yer minds...

The Mytek was running at 44.1...it's a 20-bit converter that was running the "hi-bit" thing & printing 16 bits to the DAW.

So we've got REALLY good 16/44.1 against tape. But not just any tape! Tape off a Studer A80MkII with those big 'ol input trannys...

'Tis interesting right?!?

Hey, YOU asked for it!

Old 13th May 2006 | Show parent
  #26
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chrisrulesmore's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I am writing to express what I see as a misconception of the analog vs. digital argument.

Why compare two songs that have both been tracked through an analog machine but mixed down to either a Mytek or a 1/4" tape machine and call that a digital vs. analog test? For our purposes here, presumably the analog mix had to be converted to wave for it to be posted, so what is the point? Please tell me if I'm missing part of the test...

But it sounds like we are comparing two analog tracks, one of which was converted with the Mytek, and one of which was mixed down to a Studer and then converted...

Honestly, I think digital is a great format for accurately representing a master...records that are tracked to tape and then eventually converted to digital still seem WAY different than digitally tracked and mixed music.
Old 13th May 2006 | Show parent
  #27
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisrulesmore
I am writing to express what I see as a misconception of the analog vs. digital argument.

Why compare two songs that have both been tracked through an analog machine but mixed down to either a Mytek or a 1/4" tape machine and call that a digital vs. analog test? For our purposes here, presumably the analog mix had to be converted to wave for it to be posted, so what is the point? Please tell me if I'm missing part of the test...

But it sounds like we are comparing two analog tracks, one of which was converted with the Mytek, and one of which was mixed down to a Studer and then converted...

Honestly, I think digital is a great format for accurately representing a master...records that are tracked to tape and then eventually converted to digital still seem WAY different than digitally tracked and mixed music.
exactly. the whole thing with analog seems to be that if the original tracking is done to tape is simply sounds different (better) to most for non classical music.

what studio would have the $ to track to a 2" and then have to choose between analog or digital mixdown formats? it really is not the crucial juncture. tracking is the crucial juncture. and then there is the whole separate otb vs itb mixing thing (forgetting the final format) after that either finished mix format (good analog and good digital) should have the potential for nice sounding results considering that the final listening back format will be digital 99% of the time....

i'd like to hear sessions where disc one of a double album were tracked to analog and disc two were tracked to hi end digital (lavry/radar etc). never gonna happen (and it's not like double albums are sequenced like that anyway) but it sure would be interesting. same band, pre amps, mics, engineers etc...just different recording medium.

just speculating, not saying i know what i'm talking about.
Old 13th May 2006 | Show parent
  #28
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisrulesmore
I am writing to express what I see as a misconception of the analog vs. digital argument.

Why compare two songs that have both been tracked through an analog machine but mixed down to either a Mytek or a 1/4" tape machine and call that a digital vs. analog test? For our purposes here, presumably the analog mix had to be converted to wave for it to be posted, so what is the point? Please tell me if I'm missing part of the test...
Because that IS a digital vs. analog test! The mixes were printed to both formats simultaneously & levels were matched to within .1dB at my shop before it all got shipped down to Euphonic & I'd assume that Blackwoods shop has similar tolerances...

But I've said that before yes?!

I was hired by a group of people to record a record, a REAL honest charting record & deal with all the stuff that process entails which means splitting hairs over stuff like this.

Maybe I'm missing something here...but don't the analog mixes HAVE to be converted to digital at some point so the CD can be sold to the masses???

If you want to arrange some other kinda' analog vs. digital test like a multi-track thing then find your own bands & do it on your own time. I'm too busy with paying work to indulge in that kind of 'fun.'

Best,
Old 13th May 2006 | Show parent
  #29
One with big hooves
 
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by eligit
what studio would have the $ to track to a 2" and then have to choose between analog or digital mixdown formats?
One who wants to make their clients happy & make a great record as opposed to a crappy one.

But are we talking about a studio or a producer/engineer?

I don't know many people who hire "studios" to record their music.

People make records, not gear.

Most people hire the ears...not the gear unless they care MORE about things like brand names then what the thing sounds like when it's all said & done.

If someone's hiring based on solely or mostly on gear then that's probably not someone I want to work with.

I'd advise calling a rental company instead.

Quote:
just speculating, not saying i know what i'm talking about.
...

Old 13th May 2006 | Show parent
  #30
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chrisrulesmore's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Kahrs
Because that IS a digital vs. analog test! The mixes were printed to both formats simultaneously & levels were matched to within .1dB at my shop before it all got shipped down to Euphonic & I'd assume that Blackwoods shop has similar tolerances...

But I've said that before yes?!

I was hired by a group of people to record a record, a REAL honest charting record & deal with all the stuff that process entails which means splitting hairs over stuff like this.

Maybe I'm missing something here...but don't the analog mixes HAVE to be converted to digital at some point so the CD can be sold to the masses???

If you want to arrange some other kinda' analog vs. digital test like a multi-track thing then find your own bands & do it on your own time. I'm too busy with paying work to indulge in that kind of 'fun.'

Best,
Jay, I'm not knocking you for putting forth the energy to post your results, I just disagree that this is anywhere close to an analog vs. digital comparison. We are listening to two samples of source material tracked analog, both of which ultimately were converted to digital...not much of a comparison between formats.

Dark Side of the Moon still sounds incredible on CD, but are we going so far as to assert that this is a 'digital' recording, just because it was converted through a high-end converter and released on CD?
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