Digital vs. Analog Studio: A Quick Comparison

Digital Vs. Analog Studio: A Quick Comparison

One of the most debated questions in the music world remains whether to go for digital or analog music studio.

While many people believe that digital is better, other orthodox music professionals are of the view that analog studios are better.

Yet there are some people who believe that there is no noticeable difference between the two.

To find an answer, it is important to understand the difference between analog audio and digital audio.

Once you know the basic difference, you will be able to fully comprehend the pros and cons of each type of music studio.

Only then, you can decide which one to choose when given a choice between digital vs. analog studio.

As you proceed, you will also learn about audio recording formats and find out which one is the best for first recording.

So let’s start by differentiating between digital vs. analog studios.

Compare Digital and Old School Analog Music Studios

Digital vs Analog Studios

The basic terminology “analogy” refers to a constantly changing illustration of a continuous, variable quantity.

On the other hand, “digital” refers to a numerical representation of the variable quantities.

Let’s use an example to elaborate on these definition. If you look at the numbers 0 and 1, on a number line, there are endless possibilities of number points between them.

So the representation of endless possibilities between 0 and 1 is analog.

On the other hand, digitally, there are only a certain fixed numbers at a specified interval.

So between 0 and 1, you can have 0.25, 0.5, 0.75 and 1. Hopefully, now you understand the difference.

So as analog takes the complete picture into account, digital only captures certain aspects.

Now let’s bring this mathematical example to the music studio. Naturally, sound occurs as analog.

The sound waves travel continuously and on the wave, there are infinite possibilities.

So in a studio, where you capture sound in a way that all possible frequencies are represented, you are recording in analog.

But when you use technology to convert the sound into numbers that estimate what we hear, this type of audio recording is digital.

If you think of an example, a sound recorded on tape which is mixed, mastered, and pressed using manual equipment is analog recording.

Whereas music which is recorded on a computer program and is digitally produced is a digital record.

So which one on is better?

You cannot answer the question unless you fully understand the pros and cons of each type of music studio. This brings us to our next section.

Pros and Cons of Digital and Analog Music Studios

Let’s investigate the pros and cons of each type of music studio.

Analog Studios

Analog Audio Studio

Analog studios have been there with music professional since quite a long time.

So while it gives a more professional feel, analog studios can be expensive. Below are the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Working in an analog studio requires you to work with physical hardware for mixing and mastering audio. This makes it easier to record audio especially because technology is not always right. Also, working with physical equipment can give you a more professional feel.
  • Recording analog audio is more accurate. This is because the changes in sound due to constantly changing air pressure is also recorded and gives a more warmer feeling to the sound.
  • If you are in an analog studio, you can easily work with large audio files without being slowed down.
  • In an analog, you rely more on the human instinct instead of looking at the sound waves on the screen.

Cons

So while analog studios come with numerous advantages, they have a few disadvantages as well.

  • Analog recordings are more time consuming when it comes to editing. So while you can quickly edit the digital audio record, the process is not as easy when dealing with analog records.
  • It is difficult to get rid of unwanted sounds which are recorded.
  • Analog audio records are large and require a lot of space. Also, the tape is expensive so working with an analog studio requires huge investment and has a higher maintenance cost compared to a digital studio.

Digital Studios

Digital Recording Studio

As technology has taken over every aspect of our lives, audio recording is not an exception.

So while digital studios is the new norm but it doesn’t come without disadvantages.

Pros

  • The equipment is a digital studio is much cheaper when compared to equipment in an analog studio. Also, running a digital studio is far more cost effective compared to analog studio.
  • It is much easier to edit audio records. Also, if you want to reverse a change, you can always go for the undo button on your computer.
  • A digital studio is space efficient. It takes up much lesser space when compared to analog studio. So while analog recording requires a whole studio with the right equipment, digital recording can take place literally anywhere. You can record a complete album in your bedroom using digital technology. 

Cons

  • In a digital studio, the music producers focus more on what the eyes can see instead of what the ears listen. So the audio recordings in a digital studio have a missing element and appear too perfect.
  • Technology stull has its limitations. So with large sessions, it is common for the machine to slow down. Also, one of the biggest drawback is that the system can crash. This can be extremely costly.

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of both digital vs. analog studios, it can be concluded that there are no clear cut winners and most studios are a combination of both types of audio recording.

This is the best way to enjoy the benefits of both analog and digital music studios.

At the same time, using a combination serves as an opportunity to minimize the risks associated with each type of music studio. 

What are Lossless Audio Formats?

Digital audio is stored in a number of file formats.

The two major categories of audio formats include uncompressed audio formats and compressed audio formats.

Uncompressed Audio Formats

MP3 Logo

These are large audio formats which can take up a lot of space on your hard disk.

Despite this advantage, one of the biggest advantages is that the quality of the sound remains unedited.

So no matter how many times you edit it, the sound quality remains unchanged.

Compressed Audio Formats

Certain file formats are compressed to reduce the size of the file. This free up space on your hard disk.

This audio format can be further divided into two categories.

Lossy Compression

One way to reduce the file size is by using a lossy compression audio format.

This discards all the sounds which are perceived as inaudible to the human ear and the decision to discard sound is made by the machine.

So while this process significantly reduces the need for storage, it is associated with a major problem.

While listening to the music, many people can identify the bits of discarded audio.

This gives them a feeling that they are listening to low-quality music. The idea brings you closer to understanding the concept of ‘bit rate’.

When the bit rate is lower, it indicates that more data is discarded and so the music quality is lower.

Lossless Audio Format

To overcome the problem associated with lossy compression, audio producers rely on what we know as lossless audio format.

It is a type of audio format, using which every bit of detail is retained.

At the same time, it still allows you to keep the file size minimum.

Some of the most commonly used lossless audio formats include:

  • FLAC
  • Monkey’s Audio
  • WavPack
  • ALAC

What Audio Format Should You Choose For Your First Recordings?

WAV Format

To answer this question, you need to refer back to understanding the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio formats.

To begin with, it is always recommended that you go for uncompressed audio formats such as WAV and AIFF.

WAV

This uncompressed audio format allow the storage of music files on computers using Windows.

Since it is uncompressed audio format, it retains every single bit of data.

Also, you will retain the sound quality and can edit the track using different software

AIFF

Another uncompressed audio format is Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF). This was developed to store audio files on Apple systems.

These formats are considered most appropriate for first recordings because no matter how many times you edit the file, the sound quality will remain unchanged.

Conclusion

If you were someone who is confused about whether to go for digital vs. analog studio, the answer should be clear by now.

Both types of studios come with their own sets of pros and cons so if you are a music professional planning to set up a music studio, we recommend using a combination of both analog and digital recording.

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