I see a lot of these analog/digital wars explaining how tape or records sounds better than a DAC. Both sides argue with each other a lot so it is hard to actually know what to use. From my understanding, analog should be worse, because I don't think that 60-90+ year old tape/vinyl record technology would be able to beat computers. People are always saying that records sound better than digitally remastered versions, but I think they are just stuck in their ways.

But are they actually right? On the digital side we see them bashing on analog, and on analog, they are basing on digital. I can't find enough information, just bias. What is actually the superior technology?

  • 1
    This may be off topic! The question may be subjective and opinion-based. You shouldn't use phrases like "Better sounding". You have to be asking from a technical standpoint where answers consist of factual data. Help/Don't Ask
    – Marc W
    Sep 6 '17 at 3:33
  • I don't mean to scare you off! ;) <- see, smiley face! Take the tour for info if you haven't already.
    – Marc W
    Sep 6 '17 at 4:19

From a sound design point of view, digital recordings are a lot easier to edit and this opens up a world of possibilities for us. For example, editing in a DAW can be done pretty much visually but splicing tape is an art that, from what I've heard used to take years to master.

And from a storage point of view, studios used to be clattered with bits of tape hanging from every available surface. There was no search function or tagging and very importantly, no non-destructive editing.

You also get a larger dynamic range (not that you really need it because everything ends up squashed by compressors and limiters these days)and noise becomes much much less of a problem.

This doesn't make analogue recording technology obsolete though. I can't pinpoint what it is but analogue recordings or even digital ones that have gone through some (decent) analogue gear tend to sound less clinical and somehow more pleasing.

Also, this doesn't mean that everything digital will sound better than everything analogue. When we make the comparison, we use PCM as a representation of a digital recording. But music that most listeners listen to in digital form has had a lot of data compression in most cases.

So if we compare the quality of the sound that reaches the listeners' ears, (how many would notice audible artifacts) the quality gap somewhat narrows.

Another thing you can compare is how well they age. If we compare CDs with vinyl, none of them age very well indeed but a big difference is that you can listen to a scratched record much easier than a scratched CD.

There is no right and wrong in music. I personally like tape distortion so I can't see anything wrong with recording something to tape just to get some niceness out of it and then back to DAW for editing digitally to publish online. So my first choice would be to have both. Next choice to have digital only and last, to have analogue only because as much as I'd like to try splicing as a hobby, I wouldn't want to have to work that way.


If you store at high enough sampling rate / bitrate and bit depth, digital storage will be better, because it does not degrade. Every form of analogue storage degrades over time, whether played or not, whereas digital storage will replicate the exact same output every time.

The bitrate is important though, as in order to store sound digitally, you have to chop it into samples. If those are sampled too slowly, you hear artifacts generated by the sampling process - which is why sampling at 96kHz with a 24 or 32bit rate is generally considered "highest" quality... beyond that you cannot tell the difference.

Bit depth needs to also be great enough to accurately store both quiet passages and loud passages.

Like @Schizomorph, though - I like the sound of analogue recordings (valve amps, tape or vinyl storage etc.) because of the way analogue devices distort audio.

Because it is less than perfect.

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