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The differences between analogue and digital

May 15, 2012

I’ve recently been working on an assignment for my final university project where I was comparing the sounds of analogue equipment and their digital plugin replicas. The constant debate over which sound is “better” is very much subjective. Plugin manufacturers such as Waves and UAD are recreating the sought after analogue processing units such as compressors, EQs and limiters, but in the convenience of a plugin which takes up no room and is cheaper.

For my project, I created two mixes of a band that I had recorded some time ago in both analogue and digital domains (albeit the analogue mix would eventually be put onto a CD rather than tape). I recorded the band using characteristically clean preamps from Audient (the ASP008). I wanted to find out the characteristics between the two domains and whether digital plugins can really get close to the “warm” and “fat” sounds which are commonly associated with analogue.

These mixes are highly unscientific, I tried to replicate the settings that I had used on the hardware Universal Audio 1176s and LA-2A in the digital mix as accurately as possible from the pictures that I had taken as well as the EQ settings that I had used when mixing through the Audient ASP8024 provided at the university. I was also limited by the amount of compressors I could use and their digital replicas and so I had to bus certain tracks so that I could use the Universal Audio compressors on multiple tracks at once. This mixing session layout was then replicated exactly in Pro Tools. I also have not mastered these tracks, as I would have been mastering using digital plugins which I thought would not provide a fair comparison between the two; in other words, you’re going to have to turn up the mixes.

Download the WAV and AIFF files below and listen to both mixes, I’ve labelled them “Mix A” and “Mix B” so that you don’t impose your preconceptions on the mixes from the get-go. So you’ll have to use your ears to decide which one you prefer rather than your brain. Let me know which one you thought was which, and which one your preferred.


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  1. Skip permalink

    Not crazy about the song, but I prefer Mix B a little. Seems a little more open, vocal (esp. halfway through) a bit warmer and more appealing. Without one to compare it to, I’d take either one, though.

    • I was waiting to see if more people would comment on this, but you actually chose the analogue mix. I agree, the mix is definitely warmer than the digitally mixed one, but I still think digital does a great job.

  2. Skip permalink

    Funny, I’m not an analogue zealot (I’m completely ITB actually) but I did prefer it.

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