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Thread: Running a song through analog?

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    Running a song through analog?

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    Hi, I am an electronic music producer and I have been hearing a few times other producers talking about running their songs through analog to get a better sound from them. I am guessing this is at the mix/mastering part of the song but do not know what they mean. I use a daw and get sounds some samples, digital synth, my analog modular synth and recordings from my mic. What would it mean to route my songs through analog. And I know analog usually sounds better to my ears but can someone explain why? Thanks

    Lex

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    surprised you do not know what they mean...

    analog adds a certain character, usually through the audio going through transformers, valves and a class A discreet circuits which can transform the sound, it can be very subtle, or quite dramatic, a bit like film on a film camera, the colours are not as realistic but the eye likes them more, it's very difficult to explain why though, we are naturally biased, even academics are biased but they like to think they aren't, human beings are imperfect by nature, the imperfections are present in the analog domains that aren't there in digital, and we reflect with that.

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    Slap a "tape" plugin on your stereo bus, and call it a day....

    ...because in order to run your audio through some analog gear that would be a real benefit, you would need to invest a substantial amount of money into quality analog gear, in order to improve/change the audio, and to appreciate what the analog gear does for you...and that also would be subtle, and mostly appreciated by people who are familiar with quality analog gear and know how it sounds and what it does.

    So just "running through" some/any kind of analog piece of gear will not really do much for you.
    I think it's spread like some kind of "secret mojo" on the internet by people who have only known working with digital audio in a computer...so then "analog" becomes some magical term to them, and they spread myths about how running their audio through a piece of analog gear made such a big difference.

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    Clearly, your perfect, never been more than maximum, with excellent signal to noise and amazing dynamic music can be squashed, noised up and limited by an extra D to A then A to D stage, but without really excellent monitors I doubt you will hear the 'improvements' they claim. You can now buy as a digital plugin, the 'analogue' mastering desk from Abbey Rd studios, which claims to do this kind of stuff to your music. For some people clean is bad. For others, like me, clean is my quest. I don't see a need for my music products. It might even be fashion, or hype.

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    Or if you desire to get some true analog sound from your digital mixes, send your final mixes to someone who only does mastering and has that analog gear. Much cheaper than buying all the gear yourself and guessing.
    PC Win7-64-24G i7-4790k/Cubase 9 Pro 64-bit/2-Steinberg UR824's/ADAM A7x/Event TR8/SS Trigger Plat Deluxe/Melodyne 4 Studio/Other things that don't mean anything if a client shows up not knowing what it wants.

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    I run digital sources through analog gear all day. But I'm with Miroslav. Just "going analog" means nothing unless (1) the gear is up to the task (2) you know what you're looking for (3) you have the gear that will give you what you're looking for.

    Analog gear can certainly be "magical" - But just being analog doesn't mean anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jimmys69 View Post
    Or if you desire to get some true analog sound from your digital mixes, send your final mixes to someone who only does mastering and has that analog gear. Much cheaper than buying all the gear yourself and guessing.
    Right...the mastering guys who use any analog gear, will most likely have all top-shelf analog toys...the stuff that can actually make a difference...
    ...AND...it's in the right hands that know how to use it.

    I drool when I see a well appointed mastering studio with analog gear. It's all stuff I wish I could have!
    Nothing wrong with a digital setup...but meh...it's just software.

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    Thanks for the responses guys, I have only been making music for the past 4 months so sorry if I did not fully understand the concept yet. I guess I understood that taking the song and passing it through analog gear was the point, but what I wanted to know was more exactly what kind of gear and what the process was like, but I understand that might be too complicated so I will try to read some books on it. Thanks again!

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    It really can mean almost anything and frankly you'd be better off asking the "people" making the claim exactly wtf they mean when they say "through some analog".

    Some people like to record things to tape (even cassette) and then back into the computer. Some people have analog compressors and EQs that they think sound better than digital tools they have available. Some people want to break the mix out to a physical analog mixing desk. Some people even think that a box of nothing but jacks connected by resistors (passive analog summing) improves "detail" and "imaging" or something.

    The physical process of course depends on what you think you're trying to do and with what gear, but it generally involves plugging one or more outputs from your interface into the input(s) of something "analog" and then plugging the output(s) of that back into the interface. It's not rocket surgery. Plug it in, turn the knobs til it sounds good.

    In the end what you get is this: All analog gear has several stages of (usually/ideally) very subtle filtering and nonlinearity and also noise. A lot of little things that barely touch the audio spectrum and are just a little curvy when levels are around the nominal operating range and the slightest little bit of extra noise added in three, five, twelve different places in the circuit. It is impossible to completely avoid these things in analog. The best analog gear can get pretty damn close to flat and clean and silent, but most of the most desirable gear is kind of loved for the specific way it fails to reach that theoretical goal.

    In digital those things - filters, nonlinearity, noise - don't usually have to happen in order to do whatever you actually wanted to do. Your compressor doesn't need to have three or six high pass filters in the signal path and it doesn't actually have to distort until it gets like 6 trillion times louder than your converter can go and it probably should add noise just to be safe, but that noise can be about one six-trillionth as loud as anything you can get out of the computer. In fact, if we wanted to write a plugin that included anywhere near the complexity of even a simple analog unit, it needs quite a lot of code. I mean, it's a lot of the same or very similar code, but running a bunch of different times as samples pass through our plugin. People do that, and a lot of those plugins actually do sound pretty good if you can live with the limitations inherent in most of their controls.

    Me I use more flexible clean flat silent digital plugins for about everything. Some of those plugins are filters and nonlinearities that I sprinkle in and around as I see fit. It's better for my way of working, and in a lot of ways it's like building my own gadgets out of modular pieces rather than just taking something off the shelf. All of those filters and nonlinearities - in analog and in modeled/emulated analog - have at least a couple of parameters that make a real difference, but the circuit designer or coder set those for you and in most cases if you can tell at all and don't like it, all you can do is swap for another unit. In analog, if you've got some basic skills, you could get in and change components, but most plugins won't let you rewrite them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LexLacefield View Post
    Thanks for the responses guys, I have only been making music for the past 4 months so sorry if I did not fully understand the concept yet. I guess I understood that taking the song and passing it through analog gear was the point, but what I wanted to know was more exactly what kind of gear and what the process was like, but I understand that might be too complicated so I will try to read some books on it. Thanks again!
    I am almost certainly the least experienced person who responded so far. Nonetheless... I'll add my inexperienced $.02 - most of which is strictly my personal opinion.

    The digital realm of audio recording can and often does lend itself to a kind of sterile, squeaky clean.... maybe even harsh rendering of musical instruments/performances - or whatever is being recorded. This has it's place, it's applications. The rules are: there ain't no rules.

    I happen to prefer a less sterile sound. So like a lot of people out there - I have an interest in so called "analogue warmth". I'm probably a little extreme in this sense - as far as what I'm trying to learn and create.

    So - although I'm capturing and rendering on digital media - and am happy to utilize the wonderful tools that the digital editing realm offers.... the *sound* I'm chasing for my own creations is more of a 70's analogue warmth vibe. So I'm slowly but surely picking up gear that helps with that goal - and at least attempting to understand the processes that make that sound possible.

    I can say for sure that the single piece of gear that has been the best bang for the buck with this goal in mind has been my recent purchase of a rack mount opto compressor (or also called a leveling amplifier). I've been happy to bus an entire mix through it, portions or submixes, and of course just using it to process a performance as it's being captured - particularly vocals and acoustic guitar.

    It's early on for me... but my experience so far with processing through "analogue" and adding a warm sheen to mixes and performances... has been very positive.

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