Music started with analog technology systems and then slowly transferred to digital. Today’s music industry has a combination of both. Nowadays, producers record music using analog gear and then render it to a digital format for mixing, mastering and delivery. In this article, we will discuss what these terms actually mean and how they differ from each other.
What is analog?
Analog is a time varying quantity for which the time varying variable is a representation of some other time varying quantity. In other words, Analog signals are time varying quantities that represent some information. In electronics, the quantity which is time varying is ‘Voltage’. They are nothing but continuous changing representations of a continuously variable quantity.
These signals are passed between devices to receive or give some kind of information. It can be video, audio or any other kind of encoded data.
The important thing to consider here is that these signals are continuous. An example of a number line can easily explain this concept. If we take two numbers on a number line say 3 and 4, there are infinite numbers of possibilities between these two numbers. This is what analog represents.
What is digital?
It is an electrical signal comprising of discrete set of waveforms of a physical quantity so as to represent a sequence of discrete values. Digitals signals are discrete (not continuous). No matter how small the intervals between these values, it is never ‘0. This is the reason why even the highest sample rate can be put into a number figure. These signals can also receive or transmit different kinds of information that can include audio, video etc.
A simple example of a number line can explain the non-continuity of these signals. Consider two numbers on a number line say 3 and 4. Theoretically there are infinite numbers of possibilities between these two numbers. Due to the very nature of a digital signal only finite numbers can be represented. Hence no matter how high quality the digital signal is, we will always get a discrete set of values.
Analog VS Digital
The difference between the two is like seeing a video on a camera screen real life. When we see things move on a camera, it is an illusion because the video in reality is not continuous. It seems continuous because of the large number of frames per second that tricks our brain to think that is a video. On the other hand, when we see the same thing in reality, everything is actually continuous.
Basically the real thing is like an Analog signal while the illusion created using the camera is comparable to the digital signal.
In the recording world, digital is much cheaper than analog. Analog sound warmer and more natural while digital sounds crispier and cleaner.
With the digital technology became high quality, people started debating about which one is better. There are merits and demerits of both and hence both are being used in today’s world. It is up to you what to use and how to get the best out of what you have.