Why Mix Analog?

March 30th, 2010 by Douglas Romanow

For about a decade, I tried to get a warm saxophone sound using a ‘warm’ tube condenser microphone.  But no matter which mic/pre-amp I used, I would end up notching out 3 KHz with an EQ.  Then one day a kind-hearted producer took pity on me and suggested I try a ribbon mic.  Problem solved.  Instantly.  The ribbon mic just didn’t hear the ugly rasp of the reed and let the buttery warmth and tone flow through.

Hold onto that concept and jump with me into the controversy between engineers about analog vs digital mixing:

My opinion:  No matter what the specs of digital workstations purport, the simple truth is that the more high end analog components used to make music, the ‘better’ the music sounds.  By better, I mean more believable, honest tones are created that have a psychological [and perhaps physical?] impact on the listener.  I will go so far as to say that whether you’re a seasoned audio professional or a casual listener, if I put you in the ‘sweet spot,’ right between the speakers, and play  music mixed ‘inside the box’ [processed in a computer] and music mixed on a traditional analog console, EVERY ONE of you will choose the analog option.   Yes, one can do a lot to get good sounds into a computer to begin with [and I love the tools available], but presentation is everything in this business, and the mix is one area we simply can’t make compromises, regardless of the project budget.  Use the right tools and you’ll get to where you need to go. With all the compression, compression and more compression being applied to music files from mp3s to final broadcast, you better have a FAT sound to begin with, because you know by the time it gets to radio, it won’t be what you started with.  And who knows?  In ten years, we may well be listening to 24 bit, 96Kz files on our iPods.  Let’s keep the hope and the standards up.

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