Digital audio recording is a complex process that involves various essential components and specific steps. In this article, we will explore the process of digital audio recording in detail, outlining the steps involved and highlighting the key components necessary to complete the process successfully.
In general digital recording involves the process of transferring analog sound to binary numbers using an ADC. A DAW and audio interface are needed for digital recording studios. MIDI, plugins, and microphones are also important, while studio monitors provide accurate sound representation.
The Process of Digital Recording
The process of digital audio recording is pretty simple once you know how certain parts operate and consists of five steps.
Firstly, the analog signal from the instrument or voice is transferred from the microphone to ADC (analog-to-digital converter). If your instrument is already plugged in ADC, then it is transferred way faster. After that, the conversion process begins with the constant measurement of the level of an audio wave on a specific frequency and appointing a binary number with a specific number of bits to each point. This frequency, which is the point where ADC measures the sound wave, is named the sampling rate. In the end, ADC provides a chain of digital audio samples that consists of numerous 0 and 1, which are binary numbers and are stored on the PC’s memory, USB, hard drive, etc.
Nuances of the process
The easiest way to record voice or instruments is to use a phone. To record anything on your phone, you need a decent recording app on your phone, and you are basically good to go. In some cases, you might want to use microphones to capture more nuances of the sound of instruments or a voice. Alternatively, you can use video to capture yourself or other people playing if you need it for specific purposes.
When we talk about a recording process that includes a laptop or a PC and is done in a home-based or professional studio, then the process itself is way more complicated. If you want to get a high-quality recording, you need to know how to operate a DAW. Then, you have to be specific about the audio interface that would suit better for your purposes.
Knowing that the majority of virtual instruments, plugins, and even a DAW are more easily operated with the help of a MIDI keyboard, you should have one. Of course, you can record live instruments too, not only limit yourself to using sampled ones. Having a pair or more, depending on the case, of decent mics will significantly ease up the process of any recording. For an accurate sound representation, you can use either headphones or studio monitors, depending on the case.
ADC converters are an integral part of a home-based studio because they are capable of doing an important job of converting an analog signal to a digital one. When you record an instrument or a voice, this mighty machine gets the immense job of accurately transforming sound waves into a lot of 0 and 1 that the computer understands.
Audio interfaces are connected to the computer with the help of a USB cable and have inputs for connecting microphones and instruments. Before choosing one for your studio, you should carefully and notoriously investigate the specs that you need. Frequency response is one of the most important specs, and ideally, you should pay attention to one that is capable of capturing between 20Hz and 20kHz. You may see that after the frequency range, there is a value that shows ± specific amount of dB, which explains that you get cuts or boosts of volume at specific frequencies.
Luckily, these days, there is an almost endless variety of DAWs from which every music producer or the sound engineer can choose one for their liking. Understandably, every DAW has its own specifics, including the file format for storing projects. For those who are new to the music production sphere, a DAW is a special software that lets a music producer record, edit, mix audio and apply numerous sound effects to make it sound considerably better than it was recorded.
It is worth mentioning that MIDI makes the lives of music engineers or sound producers easier and is, in fact, the basics of modern-day music production. MIDI controller helps you to record virtual notes in a DAW by pressing specific notes using a virtual instrument of your choice. In addition, you can control plugins and certain functions of the DAW by using a MIDI controller.
While plugins aren’t engaged in a recording process, you still need to own a few of them when you are working with the sound further. Way before all things were mostly digital, audio engineers and music producers were heavily dependent on analog gear. Understandably, all effects, EQs, compressors, and such were not exactly cheap and required to have a lot of space to be stored in the room. With the rapid development of technologies, audio companies started to make plugins that emulate those vintage units. While having all effects as digital is more of an advantage, still, some audio engineers prefer to record reverb and delay naturally in a specially designed room.
Ideally, you can have all types of microphones in your home-based studio, as all of them are used for various purposes. Dynamic mics are favored for being good for capturing vocals, and their value is in the successful handling of very high volumes and being rugged. If you are looking for versatility, the best choice would be to have a condenser microphone, as it can be used for recording any instrument and even vocals. Some would say that among their downsides are fragility and extra sensitivity. If you need a lot of detail and you are not easily scared by providing external power and fragility, you should choose ribbon mics.
Studio monitors are an essential part of the recording process because, using them, you actually hear what you recorded. For an accurate sound representation, studio monitors should have a minimum level of distortion. The frequency range of the monitors is important as well because you have to hear all sounds from low-end, mid-range, and high-end. It would be at least strange if your monitors color the sound, which is why neutral sound coloration is an important parameter to check. Finally, having a high volume level and outstanding stereo imaging is expected to be among the important specs.
Alternatively, you can use headphones for listening to freshly-recorded material.
Now that we know which units we need for the recording process, we can briefly enlighten the process itself.
It all starts with an idea and a specific set of instruments and vocals, if needed. You are already aware that room acoustics is very important, so we assume that you already have such a room. You should know in advance all instruments that you want to use in a recording session so that you would position the mics and angle them in such a manner that they would record the sound of the instruments and a few extra mics for capturing room sound if it’s needed. Mind cable management as it also plays an important role in the process.
It’s completely normal to record everything loudly but not to the point of distortion, as it will ruin your track easily. You might end up with a noisy recording if you record everything too quietly. So minding the volume levels is another crucial job. Finally, load your DAW, create lots of tracks for every instrument, and click the record button.
Basically, digital audio is audio information that is stored on the computer or hard drive in digits. When you are recording audio, you capture the samples of the sound, which later are transferred to ADC, where conversion takes place. The conversion process uses a specific sampling rate and bit resolution. The most widely-used sample rate is 44.1 kHz with 16-bit resolution and is typically used for making CD audio.
There are lots of places where digital audio can be stored, such as a player, CD, hard drive, USB, and data storage device. Also, you can stream digital audio with the help of special platforms like Spotify or iTunes so that it would be accessible from everywhere in the world.