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My Perspective: Digital Vs. Analog Audio Recording

By January 19, 2013March 16th, 2016Audio, Blog

Photo of Ghosts of the Robot Logo

I’ve been recording records in a studio setting with friends since I was 15. Before then it was a four track, and before then a Talkboy or My First Sony with a mic in the middle of a room. On our first studio album it helped that we had one of the greatest engineers out there: Joe Johnston. We did an all tape mix on 1” then mastered it off 1/2”. From there it was eventually burned onto a cd. It sounds great. Guitars are big but tapes are expensive, no recall or time for edits and digital is inevitable. This was way back in 1999! Then emerged Pro-Tools, technology changed from pedals to plug-ins, tubes to solid-state, a lot of people now look at me funny when I asked them if they have a mic preamp. Pro-tools was cool because you could save your session and pick back-up when you could afford it. Bands simply aren’t good enough to be Queen or the Beatles now so we all just fake it because we can’t afford to do it like the masters. This is fine because, for the most part, no one cares or can tell the difference… but I can and so can a lot of people when using real instruments. First, you have to ask yourself what kind of record am I making? If it’s a beat generator with some synth to upload to an ipod for a Minnie Mice to “spin” at the hip new place to dance your shame away, then sure, go all digital.

If you want some blaring guitars, if you’re looking for emotion in the instruments then consider this. I might be wrong but I’m happy with this set-up.

On the last record I did back in 2010, we mic’d and recorded all live instruments/amps through pre-amps directly to Pro-Tools. For bass we just went direct. For guitars, we changed for each song but for the most part, it was three microphones (it’s all about the microphones) in a room with a twin-reverb and a Marshall jcm2000 half stack, both pretty well cranked. We made all of our edits along with solos, vocals and any other overdubs. Once we were happy with the mix, we split up each session into 24 tracks and ran it all to 2” tape. It added this cohesive element of natural tape compression that just took all the harshness away. Mixed the 2” and mastered it at a lower volume so you really have to turn up your stereo and let the amp power, the speakers, not the digital signal.

It could all just be in my imagination, I don’t think that it’s a versus issue, these two concepts have been working together for a long time. It really just comes down to what works for you. Whatever it takes to finish something and move on to the next thing. Recording in a comfortable environment is key, with people who you get along with and share the same goal. Before you go into any studio, know what it is that you are recording! Know how to play to a click track!!! Change your strings and drum heads!

The thing is, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 5k amp and a 10k guitar…you don’t hear price tags. You’re recording the sound the instrument makes. Not the instrument. The performance you give through that instrument is what you hear. If the sound is supposed to be an old acoustic missing two strings with a huge hole in it or a pan from your kitchen, then that’s the sound you’re going for. The rest is just placing the mic so you can hear it and don’t let it clip. (Leave that to the engineer). If you can’t hear the instrument then delete that section and fade out and in or the sound waves are just interfering with what you can hear. If there’s two mics on the kick make sure they don’t phase cancel. Or just record however you choose and it will be just as it is.

Blog compliments of musician, Charlie De Mars of Ghosts of the Robot

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