Analog and Digital Sitting In A Tree

This is not a battle. It’s a coexistence. Much like people, analog and digital compete and cooperate in a variety of arenas. For instance, your smartphone is almost entirely digital since even the case is designed and machined by machines. You are analog touching it, but it’s immediately converting your touch to electricity then digital data, and until something hits your speaker or vibration motor, it’s all digital.

Your hand, on the other hand (ba-dum), is completely analog. It has digits but no digital 1s or 0s needed to make it work. Funny thing, your mouth, tongue, eyes, nose, knees, skin, brain, and yes, your ears – none of them are digital. All analog because in this discussion, electricity is analog. Microphones are analog.

 

This shows us that the critical conversion is from analog to digital, and then to a lesser extent, the translation from digital back to analog so your speakers will work.

 

So digital comes along in the late 70’s with some amazing advantages over the analog format of choice, vinyl – no more dust problems during playback, no more heat warping problem, no more vibration problems, no more vertical storage needed, no more replaceable stylus, no more manual cue, no more cat or baby interference. Also indefinite duplication with no loss in quality per copy – that’s a huge advantage for digital.

This conversion from analog to digital and back again is handled by 2 chips – creatively named ADC and DAC, analog to digital converter, digital to analog, following along are you?

 

Also don’t forget that once the digital data has been created, the software nerds can work with it. This is a new breed, this software nerd, sitting in front of a computer all day, spouting opinions on the new internet, doing it to this day. I’m one, haha!

But these people are not audio engineers, nor are most of them professional recording stars or touring acts, or in live sound or professional audio in any way. They don’t really know audio “on the streets”, they know articles, wikipedia, software libraries, their rig, their house, their car … but I bet most have never sat and listened to a good album all the way through, singularly, not while typing or watching something else.

The irony here is that because audio production has gone digital, modern music producers know lots of technical details about digital signal processing, whereas DSP programmers spouting opinions online don’t seem to really care what music producers or musicians think. There’s a snobbery and arrogance on the DSP side, as some of these people are pretty high-end programmers and look down on those in the performance or media industries.

So digital is really cool, I listen to it all the time, most the day sometimes. But let’s admit it’s shortcomings, mainly that it sounds like it’s in a paper box or otherwise not really immersive. This is lack of depth and transients, destroyed timbre, and over-compressed fears of headroom.

 

Sidenote – why is more not better to the average person? Everything else in America seems to follow that rule except audio.  10 years ago it made sense, given the excitement of taking your music with you as mp3’s. But now that we can take full-quality audio with us, internet ignoramuses are here to tell us we don’t need more, can’t hear more, won’t enjoy more. Yet they type this in front of their HD TV’s, HD monitors, typing on “HD” computers, using “HD” bandwidth, taking HD pictures.

 

The perfect modern signal chain is a mix of digital and analog, with care spent on each portion of the chain. The weakest link will be what the entire design is measured by.


SAVE THE AUDIO Contents:

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1- Artifacts of Recent History

2- Hearing Science Has Not Decoded Musical Enjoyment

3- Analog & Digital, Sitting In A Tree

4- History Itself Archived

5- Testimonials and More Information on Digital Audio

6- Team Ear [coming soon]