Friday, 15 February 2013



A number of respondents included their names in the survey the remainder chose to remain anonymous

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of recording?

The physicality of the experience

Unpredictability. Innovation and experimentation.

Dirt, grit, filth and the gas driven, diamond sharded crackle of the elements. I clearly remember the day I recall hearing my first CD. I was impressed by how clean and crisp it sounded but also saddened and disappointed that it lacked the bollocks of my mixtapes.

Complete waves. Warmth. fidelity. fuller representation of "the thing itself". But fidelity is not the only thing lost - the way we use digital media affects our attitudes towards the content we create with it. There is a loss of patience in regard to working digitally. So much is already done for you - the software designer is tremendously responsible for the final product in imperceptible but extremely important ways.

Most digital instruments are copies of flawed yet exciting hardware which may or may not have been used as intended. TB303 would not have been born in the digital age nor would any second hand ones have found their way into the hands of the boys in Detroit and elsewhere to turn what was essentially a 'band in a box' instrument into the cultural phenomenon that it became.

Warmth. There's a definite lack of warmth in the digital format. DAT tape was the last bastion of warmth.

Maybe the timing and randomness of analogue gear compared to tight digital clocks and static virtual emulations of circuitry.

Warmth and dynamic range.

A kind of spontaneity on the moves on the instrument (as a sound - not the apparatus). In other words, a mouse and lap top screen helps to keep a lazy loop sound.


Sound in the real world is analogue, even with the best forms of compression, your bound to loose elements of the original sound

The Avant Garde in music, non-conformist structures/timing, the unexpected.

Analogue had a certain romance to me, but that's cos I grew up with it I s'pose. Loading up a 24trk Studer, doing the alignment, editing with razor & sticky tape...actually it was a pain, but it seems romantic looking back.


Track 24 to SMPTE.

The feel that time has been spent working long and hard to get the best from very little

The satisfaction of being able to hold what your money has purchased. to know it's yours and not some form of legal licence to listen to only on some devices dictated by lawyers and politicians.

Accidental additions to the process. drop-outs, signals bleeding through tape, hiss. warmth.

Happy accidents

Nothing lost - it's still there if you want to make your life more difficult!


Analogue warmth

What do you feel has been gained?

A total free experience on turning the just play action into an artistic platform on mutating and re-arranging the sounds together. In general, I feel the difference it is more on the music, than the sound.

Flexibility and endless possibilities.

The means of production falling into the hands if the workers. The 'potential' for some incredible jamming sessions.  Almost immediate turnaround of product. It may not be cool but deadmaus' The Veldt had an exciting birth

The lack of hiss.

Instant recall of unique sounds and instruments and effect set-ups. The low noise of digital is beneficial for quiet or atmospheric sounds compared to hissy older gear

Convenience (in a good way) and possibilities

Democratization of media, faster and wider trade of information, access, creative tools in the hands of the most creative rather than the most privileged.


Convenience & flexibility

Mass-market availability.

Time mostly. Things are quicker to do.

Access to more music. More people talking up DJIng.

Ease of use smaller equipment

A much wider range of sounds

Access to a library of music from around the world (if you have internet access as well).

Ease of use, portability.

The ability to be able to work on multiple amounts of music at the same time

Sound quality, endless amounts of effects, tracks, instruments etc etc

The ability to realise ideas more efficiently and effectively

Digital editing

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of playing back / listening to sound?

The specialness and distinctiveness of the experience

A certain and sometimes undefinable 'warmth". There is an easiness to listening to analogue. Digital, mostly compressed MP3, becomes harsh and physically tiring after listening for some time. In terms of a product - the packaging - the experience of music has been lost. The feeling of ownership and individuality that comes from a vinyl LP. The cover, the artwork, liner notes, the tactile aspects.

Respect. Back in the day one was able to see vinyl (and can still see though not predominately) and appreciate it as a physical object that sang to you. Now the download, despite it's remarkable and almost ghost like qualities to be accessible globally in an instant, has somehow devalued music. It's just a file some say. I still hope ultimately that the sound itself and the fact that it has been generated by a human being, will still hopefully win back that respect. I notice occasionally warmth and depth can be lacking while playing back digitally (depending on the equipment) However, I feel that the artist to a point can circumvent this deadness with an audio engineer who is not just a good buddy but also has the outboard equipment to attain and regain those lost elements. Mind you, I have some cassette tapes that still sound beautiful after years of playback.
We lose more and more the deeper experience with the whole album, image, art cover, tracklist order... the spectrum and linearity that the artist put on this piece. Now, of singles and EPs I don’t see much difference.

Record sleeves for the most part. I remember handling them and reading them as though they were religious artefacts. Music feels somehow more throwaway now.

Again, warmth. Digital is a very clean sound, but like a good neighbourhood, you gotta have some dirt.

The lack of it becoming a prized possession. The artwork taking a lesser importance. Track names becoming less memorable or harder to remember in digital form than reading from a physical unit. Less general information regarding the song or album in digital form.

Aside from crackle, you mean? Nothing, really, other than...well, there's no love in an MP3, is there? You can't savour the moment of sliding an MP3 out of it's packaging. You can't engage in the ritual of opening the case, putting the disc on/in your player. There's no artwork that accompanies an MP3 (other than a frigging JPG.)

A listening 'experience'.

The ritual of music has been diminished. the depth to which we experience music has been lessened to accommodate the volume of new experiences.

RIitual Mystery Enthusiasm

There is something very personal with buying media as a hard copy, holding it reading through sleeve notes. Digital, for me, is a very impersonal experience. Lacking warmth.


Audio fidelity, I've got lots of mates who are contented to listen to bad mp3 rips. But then they were happy to listen to bad cassette recording too, so maybe nothing changed there

The physical presence of records/CDs within a home collection.

Again the warmth

A sense of occasion, the joy of being on a bus home waiting to hear your new purchases

Quality and pride of sound with unlimited access to unlimited music, the value of each song is decreased to near zero.

A focus on the quality of the music being created. A sense of ownership and rarity also (particularly DJing) has been lost and that used to mean a lot if you were playing a rare record to people. The thrill of the chase getting hold of things also.

Degradation. There was something about tape hiss, over-saturation.

I think it is more about the realms of listening... playback on miniature speakers...phones, etc...




The way analogue equipment reacts with shortwave radios. Digital never did that. Also tapping the aerial of a shortwave radio made great rhythms. You don't get that with DAB

What do you feel has been gained?



If digital hadn't happened we wouldn't be having this conversation. Convergence brings loss and gain.

Lots and lots of music comes easy. Music that probably we wouldnt heard if we need to get every each physical vinyl, k7 or cd...

Portability, accessibility, availability.

The directness of sound.

Longer album formats without restrictions of medium Easier playback in different formats and on different devices.

Access to a greater number of artists and a broader platform for artists whose work might otherwise never reach an audience.

Mobility access

Its the same as earlier, really convenient & easily accessible.

Mass-market endless choice

Flexibility, mobility.

Distribution is easier and an artist can now release their own material with out a record deal

Speed and ease of getting hold of what would once have been rare records

The ability to have access to a world of music at your fingertips and stored within the palm of your hand.

Distribution is easier. Convenience of course. Shipping, transporting, storage.

Instant sharing.

Not a lot

Sound quality, ease of use, portability

The removal of financial impediments in the means of production


What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of performance / playing live/ DJ’ing?

It doesn't matter who DJs ...

Much the same as Q2. Perhaps live performance have become homogenised as well. Sometimes the performance is less visceral or emotional.

I DJ on an irregular basis. However, the onus to up your game as a performance artist and supply at least visually, a more satisfying and engaging show is increasing.

Everything sounds the same (in voice of grumpy old man). A tangerine dream gig must have been amazing for audience AND band 30 years ago. Probably exceptionally dull today sadly.

The risk of technical failure. Living on the edge of the sequencer.

The chaos that is involved with analogue equipment and unpredictability of the gear eg happy accidents. DJ sets have become very similar and often lack human error or feel as tracks are smoother with software assistance. A lack of raw energy as the medium makes it safe and easier to DJ ie SYNC

Soul, artistry, chance, technique.

The frequency of extraordinary musicianship - the reliance on tools such as editing and digital compression to stand in for skilled musicianship or engineering. can's 'future days' album allegedly employs more than 1000 tape edits. can anyone edit tape with that degree of skill now? I'm willing to bet even Holger Czukay can't reproduce that feat after years of working with computers.


We've lost that big performance experience, where you need many musicians / instruments to create all the individual elements. All this can now be done in a single box by a single musician. As a DJ, years ago it was great to be surrounded by boxes of records, turntables, lighting controllers etc. Now it can all be done from a laptop.

Record bags. Secret battle weapons.  Moments of improvisation.


Need to emphasize warmth again nothing sounds better then a analog record

Spectacle, seeing somebody hunched over a laptop is never very interesting

We've lost respect for the art of performances and the fact that it used to take talent to go on stage and perform, now it's lip-synced, choreographed and media hype. You can't be "Wow'd" at a performance anymore if everyone from a wide range of talents is able to perform the exact same as everyone else.

Happy accidents. Less room for spontaneity, things going out of tune.

Grey area...there are elements of new hardware that are moving things forward, but they are also making people lazy...

Less 'spectacle' ie not that interesting watching someone looking at a laptop screen!

The art of selecting (the tyranny of choice)

Skill / talent

What do you feel has been gained?

The standard of DJ-ing has evened out (not improved)

Very little. Sometimes there is more of a technical aspect apparent - being overawed by the 'cleverness" of the technology.

Digital has made playing live not just easier but also has introduced again a flexibility that was previously unthinkable.

Everything, each step we go ahead

Potential is there for people to create some incredible sound and vision experiences. Even in bedrooms and youth clubs

A backup plan.

It works. Digital performance has been around for many years, this is nothing new. Throbbing Gristle, Skinny Puppy, and I think to some extent yourself knows all this.

Graphics that sync really well with the backing track.

Cross-pollinating contexts (creative, intellectual, and social)


Sorry to repeat the previous answers, but it has to be convenience & accessibility. More-so as a DJ, instant access via the web to music.

Ease of use, bigger music libraries.

Flexibility, it is now possible to be a one-man act with a laptop & fill a venue. You don't need a band.

In dj'ing the bulk of vinyl is gone also and a artist can jump on a jet plane with a laptop and that's all he needs

Small local venues can put on much more interesting events at relatively low cost

We're able to recreate the ability to perform the exact same way, every time, on cue.

Interesting new developments in manipulating pitch and sound and also how music is transported and played

Time-stretching, warping,

Visuals, higher quality sound

Greater flexibility

Parameters to be fucked with

Are there any particular experiences that you've had that illustrate the analogue-digital debate?

Plenty. There is the vinyl vs CD debate. CDs are actually quite good when played on good equipment. MP3s are horrid. I have converted all my music library to Apple Lossless and bought as many CDs as possible to fill missing gaps in my collection. I am a musician too. I started out owning a Korg MS20/SQ10 and a Watkins Copycat in 1980 - and it was great. Successive generations of music equipment have not always resulted in more interesting or arresting sounds. You only have to hear a real Minimoog to realise that. Some of the best gigs I have been to did not reply heavily on technology. CV ;), Devo and more recently Alva Noto/Sakamoto. If the idea and sincerity of the performance is good, technology needs only support instead of dominate.

I used to be in a space rock squat band called The Martians. We recorded our rehearsals using a slightly knackered, cheap boom box with two condenser mikes each end. These recordings in my humble opinion exhibit more heart and soul than a major label's best shot (while throwing the resources of a small country). Sometimes, not always, but sometimes it's possible to achieve remarkable results with next to nothing and stone cold intension.

I don’t know, maybe not on analogue-digital, but on that current perspective for that clean and ultra polited way to present the sound, as this was a good art today. With so many plug-ins available, I just feel that people are worried to present good tracks (or loops, and as fast as possible to hit the net), instead a good interesting, or at least provocative piece of work. Nothing against the loops. There are great loops that finishes as a great simple fresh track. But they are rare, and in general a product of lots of previous (failed) work to get on that one. And the problem is the relation of the artist with all these pieces. The time to digest and manipulate all the work to get that supreme 1%. There’s no time to formulate the artist, because some people wants to believe that you gets that 1% in the beginning, not in the end. In fact, most of "trackers" don’t want really to be an artist (work with all of this). Just want to make a mess, be famous or something. Because what the artist really enjoy is exactly to deal with this, the work. If not you are just a shooter.

Go and watch Thomas Dolby live now. It's cool how he does stuff but the sound is an approximation of how he used to sound live. I dig him and he's one of the more interesting live experiences but where's the struggle :).

Well "Blue Monday" definitely sounds better live. I'll give digital that.

When I played live with a 100% analogue set-up I had to make the songs specifically for those instruments as I couldn't take my whole studio with me. With digital performance via laptop I can playback full un-edited tracks.

I have noticed when using multiple formats that even drunken punters respond better to the tracks off vinyl, due to superior sound quality, but in today's fragmented / interrupted world it is necessary to have 1000s of tracks as opposed to the required dozens of years ago. Digital obviously enables one to carry more tracks.

Seeing Robert Rich perform on a giant modular system - the experience was astonishing. Even with very sophisticated synthesizer software, I am unable to capture the bandwidth of an analog device.

DJ's that do their mix at home then go tour with it #looknohands

If somebody came & spilt beer over one of your decks, it’s not the end of the world. If he same happened to your laptop, its good night Vienna!

Well I always chuckle when I hear 'analogue purists' talk about how they won't use softsynths/computers. As if no analogue synth has ever had a chip in it. Also, I bet most of them wouldn't hear a difference in a blind test between a good softsynth and its original.

Lack of respect of digital DJj's

Not really but I will never forget the first time I heard music on an old tube radio...warmth

As somebody who is more interested in the sound output rather that the way it is played back to me or recorded, I find the ease with which creative minds can record and release from home has been a revelation, a continuation of the punk DIY attitude

Until the business angle is taken out of art, it'll continue to be watered down, repackaged and reproduced to the lowest common denominator so they can squeeze the last dollar away from it. digital allows everyone to do the same as everyone else. art has lost respect because we were not respectful and had the audacity to think talent can be condensed into pushing a button that everyone is allowed to push.

Not being able to change the sound quick enough on an ms20 during a gig which resulted in discovering a great wall of bass.

Have you got 5 hours?

Vinyl fetishists!

I've always thought knowing too much is a draw back when it comes to the creative process. In a studio sense, ignorance is bliss, albeit occasionally unbearably frustrating bliss. I find software much easier to utilize than hardware, but I miss just fiddling about with unruly machinery & accidental magic too.

Nah not really

Are there any other comments you'd like to make?

As an amateur, self trained music producer, the likes of Logic, Reason and softsynths has made music making an affordable reality to me. Next time you are in town you can buy me that pint ;)

I run a NetLabel. Primarily a conduit for my own work, I release music on a regular basis. Digital has revolutionised and enabled me to share and distribute my music globally. Incredible. I still pinch myself on a daily basis, knowing that only just 30 or so years ago I was crouched over my hi-fi listening in awe to a vinyl record called The Crackdown. Now I'm giving input to one of the creators of that said disc via a digital interface. Completely staggering.

There needs to be a melding of both analogue and digital to get the best of both.

I don't think that we should be afraid of digital music, whether it be recording or playback. As I said above, this is nothing new; technology has just gotten more advanced. I think that performing with instruments is just fine, but recording digitally is nothing to be scared of. It's a tool; use it as such.

You might find this interesting:

Thought long and hard still not sure- where this is going. Since the days of illegal parties performers artists were not important just the music, which opened the door for grand production's without fear of having to re-produce live ,DJ's today take the credit for other material that’s been button pressed to death.

As we move along in our digital world, music recorded as digital sound fine as digital media. But, music that is analogue in source, always sounds better when played back in an analogue enviroment. There are bound to be elements that are lost during the compression process.

Just because everybody can do something, doesn't mean they should, Mass availabilities doesn't lead to higher quality.

This is a debate is between the people who make and master music.. the average joe on the street does not care can not tell the difference between a analog synthesis and a crap vsti its the structure of music at the end of the day that counts

Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Mixcloud have become everyday tools for finding new sounds now in the same way that 3 or 4 expensive mags and a couple of late night radio shows used to be 10-15 years ago

Most experts know the differences between the analogue vs digital. It's measurable (with equipment). But the general public doesn't care about what the sampling resolution is of the song their listening to, just as long as it sounds good to them. If it really mattered FLAC and SACDs would more popular today than MP3s and CDs.

Don't see a problem of either/or - I just use ANYTHING available that works for me! Seems a ridiculous to be one camp or the other

The best work is often done on the most basic set up / equipment, be it analogue or digital

Named Respondents

Joe Morgan, Dave Fleet, frenchbloke, Luke Solomon, DIL23, Chris Duckenfield, Tasha, Larry Poulton, Sheer Zed, Tim W, Darren Chorley, Hypno Sound System, Pirimaipolymer, Skin Mechanic, Phil Ransom, Alan Wood, Darren Norton, Ben Rymer, ShogunSpy, 

All other respondents wished to remain anonymous

Many thanks to everyone who contributed

Direct Responses and Interviews

Chris Watson – Sound-Recordist

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of recording?

During my period of location recording using analogue equipment I was using various marques of Nagra tape recorders. These are Swiss made machines which were developed over many years of operational feedback from professional users on locations around the world. The consequent evolution of Nagra tape recorders produced truly excellent machines perfectly adapted for use in varying and hostile environments. Nagra recorders were built to a very high standard and not a price. My recorders were completely reliable in use within highly variable conditions across six continents. I could trust them. They were mechanically a delight to operate and built like a Rolex watch. The pre-amplifiers and filters appeared to have been be designed by someone with a musical ear and sounded sublime. The recorder could be operated confidently under any field conditions simply by feel and whilst wearing gloves if necessary.

Much of the above has been lost during my transition to mainly digital recording.

What do you feel has been gained?

Digital location recording offers state of the art in terms of audio quality and fidelity. The equipment is also less bulky and requires a smaller power supply.
As a location recordist specialising in the sounds of wildlife and the natural world I can often be surprised by spontaneous events such as a bird taking flight or an animals alarm call. Digital recording offers the potential for buffering the inputs which the means the device is continually recording, say, the first ten seconds. This means I never now miss the start of any sequence as I can hear the sound, then press record, and providing the sound is within the time limit of the buffer it is recorded. Location digital recording also allows me to record multiple channels more than stereo i.e. simultaneous four channels for Soundfield B format recording.

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of playing back / listening to sound?

Playing back and listening to my analogue recordings is a real time experience through a linear process. Working with my old analogue recordings I tend to listen through tracks without the interruption of stopping to rewind or fast forward as this is an imprecise operation where time is often wasted and the flow, pace and feel of a recording may be broken. I feel I sometimes lose this careful listening and consideration time with a move to digital.

What do you feel has been gained?

I have almost instant access to any of my digital recordings and can sequence them quickly in any order.

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of performance / playing live/ DJ’ing?

Performing with analogue equipment was a very tactile experience manipulating the control surfaces of electronic instruments. Digital instrumentation tends to be screen and software based which can distance the performer from the controls. Out of choice much of my live work involves mixing and diffusing a variety of sound sources through a conventional analogue mixing desk with long throw faders and this greatly assists my actions of spatialising sounds and responding to the acoustics of the performance environment.

What do you feel has been gained?

The joy of working with digital files in a performance environment is the ability to have many channels and sound sources to work with in a multi-channel system. Also the processing power of the computer technology employed and fidelity of the results are very seductive and continually improving gains over analogue.

Steve Cobby – Producer-Musician

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of recording?

Old studios with amazing mic selections and reams of analog gear.

What do you feel has been gained?

Access to the tools of production by the masses

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of playing back / listening to sound?

We listened to shitty Decca record players, Tandy cassette players and medium wave radio in my analog youth. Now we listen on laptops iPods and phones, So no change really.

What do you feel has been gained?

Music has never been so portable

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of performance / playing live/ DJ’ing?

My career. Download culture has decimated music as a profession...and I’m bored of DJ culture, digital or otherwise. Fuck the messengers, lets get back to the message.

What do you feel has been gained?

The seeds of a meritocracy.

Ben Edwards - Producer

To me the most significant aspect of the shift from analog to digital has been the change in working practices. When I started out in the studio in the early 1990s digital audio was already well established. At the time I didn't fully embrace it, partly because not only was it much more expensive to buy into (in contrast to picking up what seemed like 'discarded' analogue gear), but the 16-bit digital format also struck me as being sonically inferior
Today’s higher sample rates and faster processors have made a big difference sonically, but as I have continued to work in the studio I have found another disadvantage working purely in the digital realm; with the ability to constantly recall music projects and songs I have found a tendency to put off committing to a final mix. 

Also, due to the ease with which you can keep updating and perfecting your material it is tempting to remove those imperfections and subtleties that breathe life into music and keep it interesting.

It is a very refreshing and exhilarating thing to have a whole mix going on an analogue console, with its various associated external effect units and processors, knowing that the settings cannot be recalled later on. It makes you commit to a mix as if it were a live performance, and this is something that I have begun to value above the convenience of digital perfection

Phil Winter – Musician

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of recording?

The "craft" of engineering I feel has been diminished, the almost mad professor approach to problem solving that used to go on, such as 50 foot tape loops and very odd microphones. On a personal level I also feel there has been a slide downwards in sound recording, partly dictated by what we listen to music on - phones, iPods through poor quality headphones or small "built-in" speakers 

What do you feel has been gained?

Access to the recording process has been massively opened up, allowing more people the opportunity to explore music making. The portability of recording equipment has also been of great benefit I think, the ability to choose your recording space and location has also opened up great possibilities for the musician. 

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of playing back / listening to sound?

It's hard not to look at this as a generational situation - I truly feel we have lost a certain warmth to sound. I just don't feel modern hi-fi equipment cuts it when compared to equipment made in the 1970s - unless of course you are willing to spend very large sums of money. The aesthetic roll of your hi-fi has changed in my mind from being an important part of the room, to being as "discrete" as possible, even hidden away in a cupboard, this particularly applies to speakers, which I feel have suffered greatly in recent times.

What do you feel has been gained?

Convenience, portability and access to vast musical databases such as Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes, etc 

What do you feel has been lost as we have moved to predominantly digital forms of performance / playing live/ DJ’ing?

I'm not sure much has been lost in this respect, but again on a personal level I prefer DJs who base there sets around vinyl as if the sound system is at least half decent the quality shines through. And they seem to be having more fun, than the poor guy/girl struggling with a crashed Traktor!

What do you feel has been gained?

With regard to playing live, the laptop seems to have set up home on most stages (whether you can see it or not) this has of course had a massive impact on the possibilities of live sound, which has been great. As digital technology moves forward I'm sure the interaction between musician and computer will expand into amazing places, controllers have moved on so much recently, providing a more hands on approach and the mouse was never going to be the sexiest instrument to play 
I would also like to highlight the massive (positive) impact digital technology has had on the visuals used by musicians to add to the live experience (but maybe that's for another book!!)

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