Monday, November 21, 2011

Analog vs. Digital

Honestly, there's no beating an analog audio device versus a digital one.  I recently acquired a 1983 Boss Chorus pedal CE-1 from Nippon the other day and got around to plugging her in.  Now, Digitech's 2112 Stereo Chorus is quite nice and tries really hard in getting that juicy chorus sound but the basic, mono, ceramic resistors on the Boss CE-1 just has that extra.. "je ne sais quoi".  More.. rounder, perhaps.  Less frequency cut-off, maybe.  Where Digitech's emulation at 24-bit is still "stepped" at close-up range, the analog one is invariably smooth and natural (well, it's analog versus digital after all).

Imagine a circle, first rendered by a pencil, then rendered by an Atari 2600.  Now I wouldn't go and say the Digitech 2112 (ver. 2.11) is as unrefined as that, but it's an example of digital rendering versus analog.  Now consider a circle rendered by a PlayStation 3.  Well, it probably looks pretty close to the pencil version, but if you get right up-close to it, even with the best monitors, you'll still eventually see those "steps", those pixels of steps that render the circle.

At 32-bit audio, such as in Blu-Ray audio, things are getting pretty good.  It's a heck of a lot more difficult to see those "steps", those pixels.  There are several new devices coming out that have 32-bit processing both for recording and playback.  I've heard these and they're fabulous.  I have a very hard time discerning a live recording from these.  One example is, say, if a guitarist is using some digital guitar pedals or effects or processing, it's converted to 32-bit (at best) digital anyway so when they get it to their amplifiers and converted invariably back to analog there IS no difference.  In that case, you are getting an exact copy.  Drums are rarely digitized, however (except in pop music) so the resonance is left in-tact.  Analog still wins, almost.

Eventually, 64-bit audio will be the norm, maybe in 10 years or so.  Maybe 5.  I would say by then, even the most critical ear will not be able to tell the difference, those "steps" being too finite for even the most avid audiophile, that "fizzle", that "pixelation" being undetectable.  Maybe one in a billion could discern it.

In my Future World vision, 64-GIGABIT audio will be present, not a few dozen "bits" quality.  At that point, the resolution of audio will EXCEED that of REAL LIFE!  Air molecules will be BIGGER than the actual resolution, as the air molecules pushed are what makes the analog sound.  Improvements might be in different air mediums aside from our 80/20 nitrogen/oxygen mix on Earth.  One might listen to music in a chamber consisting of an argon/oxygen environment for better bass or treble than current reality as only then can real instruments' digital counterparts be realized!

Until then, however, we got 24 or 32 bit at-best, and it sounds pixelated a tad, so ancient, analog guitar pedals are the shizit...for now, anyway.

Oh, if you listen to MP3s then you're not going to understand any of this as you're listening to 8-bit audio, and you're a 'tard who admires convenience far-more than quality.. and you probably own an iPhone because you think it's "pretty handy" and a "pretty neet idea".  These are the same folks that thought digital watches were super-cool back in the 80's with their lossy 1-second/day retrograde clock-drift... oh.. wait.. that was me!  Then again, I was 8.


Writer's note:  I had 3 dangling modifiers in this post and had to go back and fix those.  Yeah, I'm that critical.  Maybe that validates my point, or maybe I'm just awesome.  You decide.  You can choose between I'm awesome or I'm awesomelier.  (cheeeeesey smile)

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