These days, there is a tendency for everything vintage to be popular again, which pours the light on a lot of music producers who are in favor of using analog recording over digital. It’s safe to say that analog recording is still used and can be implemented by many music producers who want to acquire a unique, pleasant, and warm sound.
Analog Recording – Is It Still Used Or Obsolete
It is safe to say that we got to the point where analog recording is nowhere to be obsolete and left in the past for good. On the contrary, lots of sound engineers and music producers still favor and use analog equipment to make the sound more unique and harmonically pleasant. Also, many music producers and sound engineers are displeased with the sterile sound that digital recordings tend to have. Some say that it is impossible to add emotion and vibe to the song using only digital recording.
Moreover, those who record digitally have to spend their days in front of the computer, while those who favor analog recording can enjoy a lot of manual routines and close their eyes to really feel the music.
It may seem that with the fast development of technologies, analog recording may be left far in the past. But it’s not at all true because many sound engineers and music producers keep a lot of analog machines close to heart. While surely they may record the main part of the track digitally, some tend to send it later to tape or vinyl in order to make that warm and cozy sound. Also, analog recording is still favored by many because, in contrast with digital recording, it captures vocals and instruments way more precisely. In a few paragraphs below, we will freshen up your memory about the types of analog recording that are still used.
It was 1877 when Thomas Edison showed the world his freshly-baked phonograph that was capable of recording sound and playing it back. It is more than clear that modern-day phonographs are nothing like the first one. Still, they continue to be trustworthy companions. For almost a century, they utilized a vinyl disk instead of shellac, recorded audio signals, played it back, and saved precious recordings for many more years to come.
A magnetic tape that is used in tape machines came into existence in 1935 and was actively used during WW2. A few years after the war finished, tape machines began to be utilized for musical purposes. The tape machine catches the sound and records it with the help of the tape that moves and polarizes the magnetic areas of the tape accordingly to the magnitude and level of an audio signal. All tape machines usually have the same size, while tape recorders may vary from really small units that can be operated by hand up to really big standalone units.
In 1963, Philips invented and popularized the compact audio cassette that made analog tape recording even more popular and convenient. Cassettes became extremely popular because they were much smaller in size than magnetic tapes, and they somewhat made tape hiss a bit quieter. 8-track tapes were used quite widely in the 60-80s for sound recording and playing it back.
Now, we will imagine that you want to construct your one-and-only all-analog recording studio. Let’s see what you need and whether it is really worth it.
The centerpiece of every all-analog recording studio is the console. While there is no precise recommendation of how big it should be, there is a parameter that can coordinate your choice between the options. We talk about the exact number of channels that you would like to be recording simultaneously. Then, you can look through options paying attention to some additional things that consoles embed, such as EQs, compressors, AUX, etc. Also, you should mind the sound that consoles offer you to obtain.
After you pick one, we can go further and check out some monitors. While browsing monitors, you would want them to give you precise and clear sound, nice low-end, midrange, and high-end.
Then, you may pay attention to some more cool EQs, compressors, preamps, master buss processors, delays, and reverbs. Before making a choice here, you should think hard about whether you would put them in the standardized rack or you will be more than happy with 500 chassis. Also, you may focus on the sound and character of the units, adding ones that fit your ideas.
The next thing that you need to really think through is mics. Having one or more tube mics would add even more warmth to your all-analog studio. You may check out famous manufacturers such as Shure, Neve, Rode, and Neumann and choose a few according to your needs.
Finally, a tape machine would be a perfect addition to your all-analog studio with a stock of tape.
Downsides of analog recording
When we were describing the setup in the previous part, you may have already got a perspective that to record all-analog, you have to be some sort of wealthy. You definitely should have some money to spare before acquiring the whole set. Well, getting to the point, we can say that the reason why a lot of music producers tend to favor digital recording more than analog is that it is much cheaper.
It’s not all black and white. You can still rent a nice vintage studio with all that fancy gear and record everything analog. It’s true that it will be a bit pricier than renting digital gear, but you would save a bigger part of your budget.
Some may argue that there is plenty of analog equipment on the market that can be acquired without costing an arm and a leg. That’s true, but there is a big downside to such equipment, specifically the quality of it, which is not great. If you want to get that precious warm vibe and sound, as we mentioned already, you have to pay extra. Analog equipment that is more-or-so budget-friendly in the majority of cases suffers from giving you a lot of unpleasant distortion, mud, hisses, and distinctive tape noise. While some expensive gear tends to have the same issues, distortion, for instance, it has it in a much lesser amount.
Nothing makes your day worse than your favorite piece of analog equipment that feels under the weather or has deteriorated to the point that you cannot use it anymore. It is just another issue that you encounter when you want to record an all-analog. It may be perceived that digital recording is much more stable because it relies on digital plugins that won’t deteriorate that quickly, which is a very nice bonus to durability.
If you were looking for vintage gear one or a few times, you know that it is quite hard to find in good health, so to speak. Every vintage piece of equipment, taking a tape machine, as an example, needs special care from a music producer to be a helper for many more years to come. Also, you need to spend extra time to find the right tape to go with the machine, which is a very time-consuming thing.
Nowadays, a lot of music producers tend to operate from home-based studios that are known to be compact, with almost no spare space to give. As you already know, vintage gear is far from being compact. Moreover, it is often described as being bulky. So, if you compose in such a small space but still want to record everything all-analog, your best choice would be to rent a vintage studio.
While raising a question about analog recording, some may want to know whether analog mastering is obsolete too. Well, we will be brief about it. It’s true that analog mastering, as well as analog recording, is a bit more expensive than digital one. But there is a benefit of analog mastering, such as a solid increase in sonic quality. While the quality of mastering mostly depends on the mastery of the sound engineer, still, using all-analog in the case of mastering gives truly unique and appealing sonic characteristics that digital mastering is not capable of giving you.
Analog mastering might be a bit more time-consuming than digital one because sound engineers have to do everything manually. Also, it might be just a bit more expensive than a digital one because of the gear that needs to be acquired. But the sound engineers who have always been working with analog equipment tend to be much more experienced than those who work only with digital, which results in a better quality of mastering.
But if you really want to have a unique and sonically pleasant sound, you might consider choosing analog mastering over a digital one.