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Recording of music.

Analog vs. Digital


4:30 pm

Today, most people listen to digital music files stored or streamed on their electronic devices rather than listening on a vinyl disc or attending a concert. It has been many years since the giant reels of magnetic tape began to be put into storage in favour of hard drives capable of recording music much faster and cheaper. But decades after the digital revolution, the debate around whether analog or digital recording is better still goes on. 


Analog audio is named so because the pattern of an electrical or magnetic pressure audio signal is analogous to, or looks like, the original pattern of changing air pressure that we perceive. They are continuously changing representations of a continuously variable quantity. Most common mediums of analog audio are vinyl discs and magnetic tapes.


On the other hand, digital audio is a mathematical description of the pattern of pressure. It is transmitted as a pulse wave, stored as a series of on/off switches (transistors), magnetic pulses, or optical pits and lands etc, and looks nothing like the original pattern of changing air pressure. If you consider the numbers 1 and 2 on a number line, there are actually an infinite number of points between 1 and 2. This is what analog represents—the infinite number of possibilities between 1 and 2. Digital, on the other hand, only looks at a certain number of fixed points along the line between 1 and 2 (for example, 1 ¼, 1 ½, 1 ¾, and 2).


The irony of the debate about digital vs. analog recording is that nowadays a lot of music is a combination of the two. Recording engineers utilizes both analog and digital gears to optimize sound quality, cost and workflow. Take a simple example, an engineer might record a song onto analog tapes, but mix and master it on a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), and then release it on the Internet as an WAV. The quality ultimately boils down to the superiority of the recording and sound system.


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