Should My Home Studio Be Analog Or Digital?

analog or digital home studio

Should you have an analog or digital home studio set up?  There are benefits to both.  I have worked in both extremes coming from the purely analog days of tape all the way to mixing songs on airplanes with plugins.

Making The Switch To Digital

When I was getting ready to move to Thailand I was really freaked out.  Not just the fear of moving 10,000 miles away, but I was concerned with my mixes, my gear, and my recording business.  I was used to working in big studios and had a really nice home studio that I rebuilt.  Ironically, it was the exact same home studio that Rodney Jerkins, better known as Darkchild, owned in Vineland, NJ.  He sold the house to my landlord and fortunately for me, he left some of that studio vibe behind.

After a year of being there, I wanted to travel all of Asia and take my work with me.  I can still remember the overwhelming fear of mixing a record without my monitors.  A knock at the front door and there it was… Amazon delivery for Sennheiser HD650’s.

I was intimidated.  I looked at all of my analog gear racked up – my summing boxes, my master compressor, eqs, and other outboard gear.  I grabbed my headphones, my laptop, and my iLok and I went to Starbucks.  This was the ultimate test.  If I could mix this project without the big studio gear then I was in the clear.  I could justify making the big move and setting out on the adventure of a lifetime. 

I was nervous as hell!  I mixed the song and fired it over to the client.  This client was extremely particular and picky.  The type of client that could hear if the smallest detail was out of place.  The e-mail I got back was “Love the mix.  You nailed it.” 

*Sigh* what a relief.  I purposely didn’t tell him that the environment that I was mixing in changed. 

Now more than ever we have plugins that emulate our outboard gear.  We have plugins that simulate console coloration and depth.  We even have microphones that simulate the classics!  The truth is that you can now choose between an analog or digital home studio without compromising quality!

Analog Or Digital Home Studio

Full Transcription Below:

There will always be a debate about Analog versus Digital.   But will you benefit your studio by outfitting it with all analog compressors and EQs? 

I’m Tom Camp founder of Digital Recording School where artists, producers, and engineers go to learn how to make radio-ready recordings.  In today’s episode, we’re going to squash the debate! 

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the number of opinions about plugins versus “the real thing”.  Especially when many of the professionals involved in the debate were brought using analog equipment. 

One of the aspects of plugins that gear-heads miss is the sensation of reaching out and turning a knob and having a kinesthetic connection with the music. 

Some companies try to recreate this feel with control surfaces but if you’ve actually used an analog compressor or EQ, you get it. 

It truly is the difference between driving a real racecar versus playing a game.  The only difference is, in the plugin world you can win the race, the same race you are in if you have analog gear.  In the end, we are making music. 

Why are we so pressed on recreating the classics anyways?  Is it a signature sound?  Is there magic that happens with specific gear?  True, certain pieces of analog gear have been a staple in specific styles of music with specific instruments.  But can we only get those sounds from that equipment? Or even the plugins that emulate that equipment?  It really comes down to you.  Your ears, your experience, and the work you put in to make it amazing. 

There have been chart-topping records done with ONLY the stock eqs/compressors/reverbs that were in Protools 5!!  Back then some would say that those particular plugins were IMPOSSIBLE to make sound good but trust me it’s NOT the plugins making the magic happen it’s the engineer and the ears. 

What analog equipment DOES give us is aesthetic.  Aesthetic goes a long way if you are dealing with clients that come to your studio.   

In recording, analog gear is nice to run your mics through during the recording process without creating latency like you would experience with some of their plugin counterparts.  This makes zero latency setups nice. 

I can assure you that sonically there is no question anymore as to whether we have emulated the greats or not.  We have.   

So the real answer to the debate… who cares.  Make music!  Tools are tools and we live in a time where we have access to the most powerful tools that have ever been created.  Just make music! 

Drop a comment about your experiences with analog equipment or if you are using any plugin emulations of the gear.   Should you set up an analog or digital home studio?

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