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With all the “analog vs. digital” and the “digital this vs. digital that” threads of late…I had ANOTHER…analog/digital thought.

This might have already been done…but I'm not aware of it specifically.

1. Take a single audio source (one mic or instrument) and split the output signal into two.

2. Simultaneously…record to one track of a PT|HD rig (at whatever rate makes your ass tingle)…AND…also record to one track of a nice analog 24 track 2” (with or without Dolby SR…also whatever makes you ass tingle).

3. Take your recorded PT track and send it back out (at the same rate it went in) and record that to a second track of the 2”.

4. Take the original (first) track from the 2” and record that to a second track of the PT rig (same rate as the first).

Now you can ignore/discard both of the “first” tracks on the PT rig and the 2”…only interested in the second tracks of both.

You now have on the PT rig a track that came from:
Original source--> 2" analog--> A/D conversion to PT.

AND

On the 2" analog deck you have a track that came from:
Original source--> A/D conversion to PT--> 2" analog.

They both went through the same process just in a different order
Compare the two (any way you want/need).

Which sounds better?

I would try this myself, but I don't have PT|HD and a high-end 24 track 2” machine in my studio.

Why all this “stuff”…AGAIN…???

Well, I keep reading these articles in the trades (EQ, MIX, EM, SS…etc.) where top, big-name producers/engineers/artists all talk about first tracking to analog…or bouncing back out to analog to “warm” things up…and with my “test” above, I'm trying to see if it really makes a difference, that is, can digital (PT) kill the sound or will analog kill sound...depending on which comes first in the chain.

They all say how much they like and use PT (and other digital rigs too)…but they often end up comparing it to the quality of 2” analog…and guess what…the 2” analog “sound” seems to always win out…though everyone still maintains that they DO use PT (and other digital rigs) because it is the current norm and because it is expected in pro circles. You almost have to use the stuff because it is part of the process these days…almost everywhere.

So…going back…oh, about 20 years…was digital REALLY invented because high-end analog just couldn't “deliver the goods” anymore…or was it because the big boys (Sony, Phillips,…etc.) came to the conclusion that much more money could be made over the next 20-30+ years if they…CHANGED THE FORMAT…which “they” are trying to now do again.

About the ONLY thing that I see as a TRUE improvement made by digital technology is the ability to…EDIT…man it sure is easy!!!
In the “pro” world, this is not a small thing…time is money and being able to do it faster/easier will save/make money.
But really…it was never about the lack of sound quality in analog technology. Analog was at its peak when along came the CD…and here we are today.
I believe that if no one ever came up with any digital equipment we would all be very happily making superior sounding music with that analog technology.

Here is a funny little thing I stumbled upon last night.
If you look in the May 2002 issue of MIX on page 174, there is an ad by a Mike Angelo as Platinum Mixer. Now I don't know this person, and it's really not him personally that I want to point out, but rather the wording in the ad…it states:
“…I specialize in making Pro Tools warmer.”

Now this is the kind of stuff I am referring to when I say that MANY pros use PT (and other digital rigs)…but then always measure it up to…analog or try to emulate the sound of analog!

I'm not saying digital is not useful…but maybe “we”…“they”…killed off analog too soon. Maybe it should be and ALL ANALOG front/back end…and just use digital in the middle to…EDIT…?

OK…I have to go wipe my ass now… \:D


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Quote:
Originally posted by miroslav:
This might have already been done…but I'm not aware of it specifically....[process snipped]

They both went through the same process just in a different order
Compare the two (any way you want/need).

Which sounds better?
Yes, I have done this. First off, to verify that I really did like the sound from 2" more than Pro Tools when comparing them from the same source. I did. Next, sending a track from digital back to analog as you suggest. I nearly always prefer to track to analog first and transfer to digital. It does sound better at least for what I do. I think the reason is that the tape soaks up a lot of superfluous transients that even a fast compressor can't, and smooths them out nicely. I think that accounts for why people feel analog recordings sound "fatter" and more "present" than digital.

I also think that's why ribbon microphones are becoming really popular in digital recordings - the ribbon does some of the same thing that tape does.


They all say how much they like and use PT (and other digital rigs too)…but they often end up comparing it to the quality of 2” analog…and guess what…the 2” analog “sound” seems to always win out…though everyone still maintains that they DO use PT (and other digital rigs) because it is the current norm and because it is expected in pro circles. You almost have to use the stuff because it is part of the process these days…almost everywhere.


Yep.


So…going back…oh, about 20 years…was digital REALLY invented because high-end analog just couldn't “deliver the goods” anymore…or was it because the big boys (Sony, Phillips,…etc.) came to the conclusion that much more money could be made over the next 20-30+ years if they…CHANGED THE FORMAT…which “they” are trying to now do again.


Well... I think you're maybe confusing two different things - consumer format and recording format. Obviously one can have a CD that was originally recorded to analog tape or a vinyl LP whose source material was recorded digitally. And with CD's, consumers did perceive benefits, namely that they weren't as fragile as vinyl or cassette, and there's no hiss and no pops or scratches that happen over time with vinyl. Fair enough. Early CD's didn't sound good at all, but the quality has improved greatly.

STUDIO formats are a whole other story:


About the ONLY thing that I see as a TRUE improvement made by digital technology is the ability to…EDIT…man it sure is easy!!!
In the “pro” world, this is not a small thing…time is money and being able to do it faster/easier will save/make money.


I WOULD agree with you except that in reality this isn't what has happened. What's happened is that studios hire a whole other person (or more) just to be the "Pro Tools Guru" and whatever money was allegedly saved on the front end now goes to the mouse jockey instead of the musicians. I've CERTAINLY seen more time spent by mouse jockeys "fixing" a mediocre performance, not to mention ruining many good ones, than it would have taken to re-track a performance and just commit to a damn arrangement and get it right to begin with - which analog more or less forced you to do.

So it hasn't really worked out that digital editing saves time and money...LOL... it's just that people spend the time staring at waveforms and trying to line them up perfectly (GAK!) instead of being out in the room with instruments and microphones. Not good IMO.


But really…it was never about the lack of sound quality in analog technology. Analog was at its peak when along came the CD…and here we are today.


Right!

Of course we can't discount the people who've made an entire art form out of digital editing, either (loops, samples and such). It's not my bag, but it's out there and people are doing very creative stuff with it. That's cool, at least to some.

We also can't discount the fact that digital rigs put "pro grade" recording into the hands of the "average Joe" cheaply. I sure would love to have a 2" machine and a big console in my basement, but financially and maintenance-wise it just ain't gonna happen. So I have a digital rig... but no, I do not kid myself that it sounds as good as analog. That's OK for my situation, but geez, if I were paying a slew of money for studio time I sure as HELL would record to 2"!


I believe that if no one ever came up with any digital equipment we would all be very happily making superior sounding music with that analog technology.


Yeah, and I often wonder how that would be, considering advancements that have been made in analog gear - mics, compressors and the like. Frank Black's records (all done live to 2 track analog) are a titillating example of "what if" people still recorded in big studios entirely to analog, using all the best analog technology available today? Yum...


“…I specialize in making Pro Tools warmer.”

Now this is the kind of stuff I am referring to when I say that MANY pros use PT (and other digital rigs)…but then always measure it up to…analog or try to emulate the sound of analog!


Uh huh... definitely happens a lot.


I'm not saying digital is not useful…but maybe “we”…“they”…killed off analog too soon. Maybe it should be and ALL ANALOG front/back end…and just use digital in the middle to…EDIT…?


Well... then you run into the issue of "how good are your converters" cuz if you're running everything A/D and then D/A and then probably back to D again for CD mastering... you could lose the benefits of analog and just end up with mush. There's also the question of whether A-->D; transfers from 2" to Pro Tools are really accurate. In my admittedly limited experience, they weren't entirely, and others have reported the same thing.

I think it may boil down to two things:

1) Audio pros continuing to bitch about the quality issues and not accepting them, so that advances continue in digital recording. It SEEMS like people are finally starting to realize that this bitching is not just a "myth", that the sonic issues we have with digital recording (especially Pro Tools) are not imaginary and have been reported by enough people independently, that they need to be looked at. This is a good thing and I have hope now that digital recorders and converters in five years will be in a MUCH, much better place.

2)As digital technology becomes more stable, audio pros become more intimate with it and learn more about how to utilize it - including when to use analog equipment. Depending on the material it may be better to use one or the other or a mixture of both. For example I often find that I like drums, bass and electric guitars better when recorded to tape, but pianos, acoustic guitars, and often vocals better digital. So why not do that if you have the option? Assuming you can do accurate transfers.

Well I guess I'll let somebody else babble now. \:D

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Well, I did mix one jazzy rock project that was tracked to DA-38s then dumped to 2" for mixdown. I didn't come into the process until the dump had already been made. It worked nicely, I'd say putting on the analog tape gave it some 'glue' and may have made it easier to mix and perhaps warmed it up a bit.

As far as why digital? Well first and foremost, signal to noise ratio. It's always been a fight to get the signal out of the mud and lose the hiss. Years of refining deck electronics, adding bias, tape formulations and various noise reduction schemes.

With better SNR also comes increased dynamic range. Though it's rarely used in most popular releases you will hear the difference if you compare classical performances.

Simplicity. The analog recording chain is somewhat of a kludge. Tape pre EQ, bias, post EQ, noise reduction and complicated transports all requiring regular alignment and maintenence.

So the digital format is about 25 years old and undergoing constant refinement. It has changed the recording landscape incredibly because of it's price-performance ratio. When the ADAT hit the scene it all changed. Now you can do an entire mutitrack project on a single computer, from tracking to mixing to mastering. All on something that will fit on a small desk. Recording engineers are artists. We all like different tools for different reasons and often get passionate about it. That's great because it pushes the development of better and better products.

Analog or Digital?
Ford or Chevy?
PC or Mac?
Mustard or Ketchup?
Coffee or Tea?
Republican or Democrat?

Whatever floats your boat or does the job.

Sorry if I prattled on......

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Quote:
Originally posted by Lee Flier:
Well... I think you're maybe confusing two different things - consumer format and recording format.
Naaaa...I think the consumer format ultimately always "drives" the pro format.

Yeah, the early CDs came from analog sources...because the big players wanted to get everything transferred over to the new format...so they could sell the same shit twice.

Once that cat was out of the bag...how could the pros continue with "just analog"...when the consumers were told "digital was better".
So...here we are today! \:D

I agree having an all analog front/back end, with digital wedged in the middle for editing purposes would present more problems...but I guess that would be the trade-off for those that like/need to spend countless hours lining up wavefroms... :p

Anyway..."if I had a million dollars"...

...I would go all high-end analog...with maybe just one system that could convert to digital at the end of the chain...to whatever digital flavor-of the-week there was...so that those consumers could spend their money on some new format-of-the-month!

Shit...I think I could stay in that all analog world for the remainder of my life...just buy enough spare parts for those "moving" components...otherwise the basic electronics would still be repairable 30 years from now..."if I had a million dollars"... \:D


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Quote:
Originally posted by Yuri T.:
tracked to DA-38s then dumped to 2" for mixdown. I didn't come into the process until the dump had already been made. It worked nicely, I'd say putting on the analog tape gave it some 'glue' and may have made it easier to mix and perhaps warmed it up a bit...
This is where I was originally going with my thread...it just kinda' got more invloved.

Now Lee has tracked to analog and then dumpped to digital and liked the sound.

Yuri talks about tracking to digital and then dumping to analog and also getting "that sound".

So back to my "test".

Do you get the same results regardless of order...source-->digital--->analog...or...source-->analog-->digital...?

I guess if digital "kills"...wouldn't it kill at either point?

If analog introduces S/N problems...wouldn't it do so at either point?

OK...what the fuck is my point?

"...if I had a million dollars..."

Hey...the NY lotto for tonight is 12 MILLION DOLLARS!!!

That would buy a whole lot of high-end analog!!! \:D

GML, NEVE, MANLEY...mmmmmmmmm!!!


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Quote:
Originally posted by miroslav:

(snips away)

Naaaa...I think the consumer format ultimately always "drives" the pro format.

Yeah, the early CDs came from analog sources...because the big players wanted to get everything transferred over to the new format...so they could sell the same shit twice.

Once that cat was out of the bag...how could the pros continue with "just analog"...when the consumers were told "digital was better".
So...here we are today! \:D

..so that those consumers could spend their money on some new format-of-the-month!

\:D [/QB]
I suppose we could go back to wax cylinders and get all the electronics out of the way. :rolleyes:

I like CDs, I have since they came out. It was tiring to clean, destatic and protect all those LPs and hear the scratches and pops and wow and flutter and warping and wearing and replacing needles and cartriges and rumble and low frequency feedback at high SPL and they just wore out so you would replace your favorites after a couple few years. I am not nostalgic for those days at all. Forget cassettes.

I still prefer 2" 16 track right now for rock. I prefer digital for some other music. Personally it would be fantastic to have digital ease with the analog quality and it's getting there. I've even heard a few serious die hards (you know who you are ;\) ) say some good things about the latest generation of digital gear. Who wants to lug around thousands of pounds of machine when you can put a rack mount unit in the trunk and go to the next session?

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Quote:
Originally posted by miroslav:
[QUOTE]
This is where I was originally going with my thread...it just kinda' got more invloved.

Now Lee has tracked to analog and then dumpped to digital and liked the sound.

Yuri talks about tracking to digital and then dumping to analog and also getting "that sound".

I should have put in the caveat that I hadn't had a chance to mix the project from the DA-38s so it's not a very valid test. Just an observation that it 'seemed' to add something. I find it interesting that the analog format is sort of turning into a signal processor. The simple fact the analog 'does something to the sound' is one of the main arguments of analog tape detractors.

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Quote:
Originally posted by Yuri T.:
...Who wants to lug around thousands of pounds of machine when you can put a rack mount unit in the trunk and go to the next session?...
I hear you...there are pros to digital.

But here's that question...

"...if you had a million dollars...", and there was NO concern about carrying anything anywhere...and you really weren't looking to be compatible or competitive in the pro studio market...instead, you just wanted to build a SUPER sounding studio with the best gear out there...just for your use primarily...what would be the "core"?

I'm sure there would be some digital devices (good reverb/FX boxes for one thing)...but I think the core would be a nice Neve board and a high-end analog deck...and lots of analog outboard gear!
Plus,what the hell...you've got a million dollars…so you can afford the maintenance and even pay someone to move the stuff in need be! \:D

I just think a lot of digital has been forced on us…”got to stay competitive”…“need to edit and edit and edit”…“need something that I can transfer quickly and easily form studio to studio”…

All legit reasons…but…

“…if I had a million dollars…” \:\)


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Quote:
Originally posted by Yuri T.:
...The simple fact the analog 'does something to the sound' is one of the main arguments of analog tape detractors...
Yeah, but it's..."that voodoo, that you do, that has me in a spell" (or something like that). \:D

I'm waiting for that point in time to hear if any people will ever be saying...
"Now, if we can just get this new format to sound as great as things did back in the good 'ol digital days..." HA!!!

Yeah...there might actually be boxes that will let you add that "digital sound" to the new format...so you won't actually have to use digital throughout, but just apply it as processing.... :p

5 bucks says it never happens!!!

Even if something comes along to take us "beyond digital"...it will still be measured against that "analog sound"...


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I did a DAD project once -- seemed like the worst of both worlds to me. mind you, it was also encoded with Dolby SR which seemed to have a different flavor of the same sort of ambience suck that digital has to me.

To my mind, neither format is perfect and mixing the two for me has always led to indecision and mild paranoia.

As for the cd driving the migration to digital in our realm -- the marketing engineers certainly grabbed the wheel at some point, but there was a lot of grass-roots and academic R&D going on long before cd came out, as well as agitation from engineers for better tools and more control.

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Quote:
Originally posted by waterboy:
...the marketing engineers certainly grabbed the wheel at some point, but there was a lot of grass-roots and academic R&D going on long before cd came out, as well as agitation from engineers for better tools and more control.
Kinda' reminds me of that scene in Apollo 13 where the engineers want to have full control of everything...but the astronauts said, "we want a window"... \:D

Yup..trade offs...control and editing vs. that "sound"...

The storm rages on...


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Quote:
Originally posted by miroslav:


Now Lee has tracked to analog and then dumpped to digital and liked the sound.

Yuri talks about tracking to digital and then dumping to analog and also getting "that sound".

So back to my "test".

Do you get the same results regardless of order...source-->digital--->analog...or...source-->analog-->digital...?
No, you don't. That's what I was trying to say in my first post. I've done your test and they do sound different.

To be more precise, given the same source multed to 2" and Pro Tools,

- the best sound IMO was straight off the 2" deck
- the second best was transferred from 2" to Pro Tools

- 3rd best was a tie: Pro Tools --> 2" ---> back into PT, and straight PT no analog. There were some things like drums that sounded better having gone out to tape. Other things like vocals and acoustic guitars, sounded better straight from disk. I found that the D-A-D thing just introduced a lot of crap to quieter sources that didn't need to be there.


I guess if digital "kills"...wouldn't it kill at either point?


Yes, to a degree. But again if you re-read my first post... the fact that tape soaks up a lot of transients from the get-go, means that what gets transferred into the digital system is already fundamentally different than what goes into the digital rig alone. Yeah you can put a compressor on the front which helps, but with a compressor, the circuitry is trying to "beat" the source in a race, to see whether the compressor can kick in before the transient does. Inevitably the compressor is going to lose in some cases.

Whereas if the source is in a race with magnetic particles e.g. a piece of tape, the source will "win" because the particles simply can't move fast enough to pick up the transients in the first place. A ribbon mic is similar... the diaphragm just won't move fast enough to pick up certain things and so they just won't be there.

So the point is... you can record a lot hotter to analog and it will deal with it, which means that you will feed a hotter signal into the digital transfer... which is going to change the way it hits the converters... etc.

Theoretically you can crank the digital signal going out to tape and it "should" sound the same... but it doesn't. I don't know whether this is due to D/A converter design or what. I just know what I've heard, on more than one occasion now.


If analog introduces S/N problems...wouldn't it do so at either point?


Yeah, but again... if you record very hot to analog you can pretty much obliterate S/N problems. And if you're going to transfer to digital, you can deal with it even more once it gets there, if necessary.

But I agree, if I had a million dollars and could pay somebody to maintain the shit, you can bet I'd go with a high end analog system. And maybe a digital rig too for what little editing I do, just in case, and for recording those instruments which I felt would sound better on digital. But it would probably not be Pro Tools. \:D

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I love the idea, Miroslav. Maybe someone with the gear can post their results of this test, but NOT tell us which one files "a", "b", and "c" (one of the first two again) came from, in this topic.

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Just a quick note in reponse to the comments of how some people have transfered things back & forth, and Lee Flier mentioned he likes drums transfered from PT to tape but some things like acoustic guitar & vox sound better just off hard disc - my setup my provide a solution. I run a Tascam MS16 one inch 16track, which sync's to Timecode genertaed by my DAW. I Track drums bass & guitars to the one inch, then sync the deck to PT and track overdubs digital - usually solo's, acoustic guitar and vocals. On mixdown the board sees analogue drums bass & guitars, and digital vocals - best of both worlds.

Also, you guys talk about wondering what it would be like if we kept going down the analogue path - I am thinking there is one advantage to us old analogue dogs to all this digital biz... are analogue 24 track 2 inch machines cheaper than they were when the 1st generation of digital multitracks started to come out? How much was it to buy an MCI 2 inch in 1990 opposed to now? I have no idea, would be interesting to see if the increased digital demand has led to cheaper analogue...?


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Quote:
Originally posted by Yuri T.:
I find it interesting that the analog format is sort of turning into a signal processor. The simple fact the analog 'does something to the sound' is one of the main arguments of analog tape detractors.
Well... my main argument to THAT is: AS IF digital doesn't do anything to the sound! It does! What it does is just "different" from what analog does and you may prefer one over the other but don't pretend like digital is "transparent" and analog is "colored". Cuz it ain't so.

Apparently lots of people prefer the "color" of analog and/or often find the "color" of digital irritating by comparison, so we do things to make the difference less obvious, including using tape as a "signal processor" to digital.

--Lee

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Quote:
Originally posted by Smokin & Jokin:
Lee Flier mentioned he...
He is a she...and I don't mean in the Bowie/Rebel Rebel sense... \:D

(I did the same thing first time I saw the name Lee...)

Look at her title..."High Priestess..."


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Quote:
Originally posted by Smokin & Jokin:
...I run a Tascam MS16 one inch 16track, which sync's to Timecode generated by my DAW. I Track drums bass & guitars to the one inch, then sync the deck to PT and track overdubs digital - usually solo's, acoustic guitar and vocals...
I was/am doing a similar thing...but this weekend I recorded a few tracks straight to my analog 16 track...and then I just stopped and asked myself why the fuck would I want to waste my time transferring the shit to the DAW?
When I'm ready to mix down…OK…it's going to go to digital for the CD…but no need to transfer to the DAW…I can mix right off the analog multitrack…actually push some faders and turn some knobs…WOW…such a “tangible” concept!!! ;\)

I'm actually now looking at getting another 16 track and just locking the two 16s via SMPTE (like in the old days)...and do everything to analog.
The DAW will still be there if I really need (???) to slice & dice anything up...but you know, for my own use, I will just re-record the track if I don't like it!!!
It seems like most of the time you are upgrading something...and there is NO end in sight!!!
The big players are getting ready to change the format again...they just can't make up their minds what it's going to be, and until they do...you'll keep upgrading and trying to ride that envelope.

OK...I really was not trying to turn this into another analog vs. digital debate. I spend a lot of time in the digital domain for a lot of other reasons and uses, so I see its benefits, but I don't think I need to say good-bye to analog just yet.

I don't mind waiting for the tape to rewind...it gives me a chance to take a sip from my coffee and contemplate what I just did a moment ago...or go take a leak!!! ;\)


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Quote:
Originally posted by miroslav:
I was/am doing a similar thing...but this weekend I recorded a few tracks straight to my analog 16 track...and then I just stopped and asked myself why the fuck would I want to waste my time transferring the shit to the DAW?

It's just not the way I want to record. Now, for clients that need the slicing and dicing and auto-tuning and 64-vocal-tracks-to-make-one-good-take...YUP, you need the DAW...boy do you need it!
(etc)
You won't get any argument from me there. I have always preferred old school recording. The fewer punches the better too! I've never done the PT cut and paste the individual tracks, reuse the same snare hit over and over etc.

I track bass, drums and guitar live and often keep those tracks since they feel right together. After all if you can't play it live you've got some learnin' to do.

I play guitar and when I track solos I really try to do one take through from beginning to end. I really hate the old build the solo with a ton of punches it really kills the vibe. So I'll just play take after take till I like one. It ends up taking less time than punching and layering.

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Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 23
blah blah blah

Joined: May 2000
Posts: 14,215
Cosmic Cowboy
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Cosmic Cowboy
10k Club
Joined: May 2000
Posts: 14,215
Quote:
Originally posted by rovin' cowboy:
blah blah blah
Ahhh...finally a cerebral contribution that will most certainly take this thread in a more meaningful direction! :p

Hey...I'm just airing out some laundry...my day to do the wash…

...though there are a few real-world issues in-between-the-lines that obviously the "digital-is-a-godsend-I-hate-analog" crowd always conveniently dodges.

After awhile, all those big numbers and all that computer processing power CAN become almost hypnotic and addictive, and so you just go-with-the-flow...you go with the crowd.

Besides...it's all getting crushed down into MP3s...so what's "good sound" got to do with anything, anyway, anymore....

Also, seems like everytime there is a "digital" thread it takes on several pages of debate and discussion and in the end...NO answers...just blah, blah, blah...

I notice that in the "After 24 tracks Pro Tools truncates to 20 bits" thread...they still can't decide...I would have expected THAT to be a single question with a single answer...HA!

I'm in good company here!!!

...blah, blah, blah...


miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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