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Digital Is Not A Mindset

August 7, 2006

Some people just seem to love putting the world into neat little boxes: File-sharing kills music or file-sharing promotes music. Red states or blue states. Deal . . . or no deal. But while computers seem to thrive in a world where everything is either an unambiguous one or zero, I don’t think that applies to our primarily analog reality. For example, if an election is “too close to call,” shouldn’t we really be talking about a “purple” state? And file-sharing might go both ways: kill some CD sales, but boost sales of other CDs.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems some of our music and recording world reflects this push to simplify everything down to a minimal set of options. Take overcompressed masters, which have basically two levels of dynamic range — extremely loud, and off. Or the premise that you have to use either hardware processors or software plug-ins, or commit to Mac or Windows. That if you love tubes, then modeling is by nature a pale imitation of the “real thing,” and if you’re into modeling, then tubes are obsolete. And don’t get me started on analog vs. digital. . . .

So it’s great when people break out of those molds, and send signals out from their software host into hardware processors, then back in again. Or use a tube guitar preamp to go through a modeled cabinet, or send a modeled preamp through a physical cabinet . . . or feed a Minimoog into a Marshall stack. And although I’m not convinced that analog summing boxes sound “better” than digital summing, I have no problem accepting that they sound different because they mix some analog in with digital technology.

This world is a complex one, and few real-world problems yield to simple, jingoistic solutions; similarly, music stubbornly resists attempts to fit in little boxes. So when you record music, don’t believe the hype that one size fits all: Do everything you can to create a rich, nuanced, analog-style experience — even if every piece of gear you use is all about ones and zeroes.

Craig's Sig

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