If you love creating music, you’ve probably heard about the age-old debate between analog and digital recordings. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you know what makes them different, or why some people are so passionately for one and against the other.
Many indie rock musicians, for example, are partial to the sound their analog instruments make when recorded through a classic Tascam 4-track recorder. Many digital music enthusiasts, however, are partial to the way their programmed music, using beats and samples from providers like Cymatics, sound bumping through club speakers.
Here are the differences between analog and digital music, and which one produces the superior sound.
Waves Versus Numbers
When you break it down, it’s all about waves and numbers. Analog music records waves, while digital records numbers.
It makes sense that analog would record sound waves, but how do digital recordings that utilize numbers translate to music?
Digital recordings take those waveforms and translate them into a set of numbers. Those numbers are then converted into a stream that recreates the original wave. The wave is recreated extremely accurately because in a CD-quality recording, an average of 44,000 numbers are stored every second.
Which Produces the Superior Sound?
The question then is which one creates the superior sound? Based on the fact that digital records numbers, and not musical waves, you might be inclined to guess that analog is better. The answer is much more complicated than that.
The fact is, both have their benefits. Analog recordings:
- Have a theoretically better audio bandwidth
- Have editing limitations that discourage tinkering
- Provide a great format for artwork
Digital music has plenty of benefits as well:
- Cheaper equipment can be used to achieve high-quality sound
- Total recall of each and every session
- Access to any part of the recording in an instant
Each one has plenty of drawbacks as well. For example, analog recordings deteriorate as they’re copied. Digital recordings can be copied over and over again, but they can be complicated because there are so many programs and formats that can be used.
So, which one produces the superior sound? It’s mostly up to personal preference, but there are at least two reasons why digital music is preferred among music makers – convenience and creativity.
Convenience and Creativity
At the end of the day, digital recording capabilities have made it possible for anyone to create high-quality music. With technology today, all you need is a quality program and a computer and you can start creating music.
The digital format also allows for greater creativity. You aren’t limited to the sounds that can be produced in a studio. You can sample sections of music from other artists, record and input musical instruments, and more.
Digital music is extremely portable as well. Not only can you create tunes in your own home, mobile apps mean you can access, edit, and create music from a mobile device. When you’re all done, you can play back the song quickly and easily without the need for a record player.
Although analog and digital recordings are different, they both offer benefits and drawbacks, ensuring there will be plenty of people who prefer and use both for many years to come.