Future Tense: Digital Versus Analog



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When Mr. Gerrold wrote his last piece about vinyl, I lashed out at the nostalgic look back as a "poorly designed engineering kludge". My last sentence was " It's all about the music". LOL. My apologies.

 There is one other point to be made about a recording versus hearing the music live at a show. It's called the "volume knob". I lite many a show during college (I spotted Carly Simon way back in the day). These shows were LOUD, harsh, harmonics bouncing all over, and the crowd noises was a constant din in the background. So much for "being there". Yes, the crowd can add to the excitment but it can also overwealm the performance. Give me a quiet room and a good recording any day.

 I no longer go to the movie theater as the crowd is just too annoying these days. People actually used to WATCH the movie years ago! I know, I know, it's hard to believe but it's true! Now they have plates of nachos, vast mounds of popcorn, gallons of soda, smart phones, camcorders, lively discussions about their friends, and sometimes pay attention to the actual movie. Again, give me a quiet room, a 42 inch 1080P TV and a DVD bumped to 1080P with Dolby any day of the week. The last time I remember a crowd actually ENHANCING a movie was the original Ghostbusters. No one was expecting such a good movie that we applauded at the end. Well, Avatar was a good crowd too, but with IMAX, the crowd has less of an impact (as long as the soundtrack is LOUD).



As a former mastering engineer with a major music company I know all too well the pros and cons of both analog and digital recording. But one hard lesson we learned after much discussion, debate and testing was that even the finest sounding master could be sabotaged by sloppy glass mastering or replication processes at the cd  manufacturing plant. Pits and lands with transitions that were rounded rather than square could cause distortion making sound reproduction too bright. The thickness of the aluminum coating on the cd's could also affect sound quality. A laser on the LBR that was focused on the edge of the allowable limits could also become a factor in the final product.

In short, as much as I enjoy having a cd collection as a backup to my enormous mp3 library, the demise of cd's is probably the best thing that happened to the music industry. At least one large set of variables have been taken out of the sound quality equation.

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