Why analog?

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
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Re: Why analog?

Post by CS_TBL » Mon May 16, 2011 9:53 pm

With the risk of a never ending debate.. I need to defend modern things a bit.
knolan wrote: There are some real reasons why analogue - indeed older discrete transistor analogue - is important and valuable:

1. Phase. When several oscillators are in phase it can lead to a static sound. Hence why digital and new analogue sounds thinner than old analogue. The inability to manage phase through the signal path in old analogue give them a real warmth of sounds, for the same musical reasons that a Stradivarius sounds better than other violins.
Phase: matter of synth design. You can design a digital synth to have its oscs not in phase. In fact, FM operators can be switched to sync to key-on or to run free.. which is what FM (both HW and SW) gives an edge! Simply put, irregular-phase is not exclusive to analogue synths. That not every digital synth has irregular-phase oscillators is the fault of short sighted synth designers.

Strad: I think Hilary Hahn outrocks me on my 100 euro violin, and I think I'll suck big time on her Stradivarious. This analogy is actually where the sound designer comes in (which I have mentioned at the first page I think). A good sound designer rocks on a Sound Canvas, a bad one is lost on a CS80.
2. Literally - better sounding. I have been into analogue for a long time but only very lately have I truly understand why old analogue, and in particular old Moog, is better. The answer is - they literally sound better. Stronger, more flexible, more robust. Listen to Donna Summer's I Feel Love and the backing track is virtually all Moog. To realise the strength of that sound, created in the mid 70's, is a very clear demonstration of the absolute strength of old analogue. It would be very difficult to achieve that sound strenght with any moden synth - they are not good enough! In a nut shell, old analogue synthesizers literally have a superior sound, again in similar ways to a Bosendorfer sounding superior to a cheap modern upright.
Problem with 'better sounding' is that one's candy is another's puke. What *is* better? I've been into FM for about 20 years I think now, and that's *programming* FM, not hopping through presets. I'll claim something else than you do, namely that FM is the most flexible synth model around, also the most efficient, as FM-chips are cheap to produce and FM plugins are cheap on the CPU. So, who is right?

Naming hits from yesteryear says exactly one thing: back in those days, that's simply what synths were. If they had a modern PC with a streaming sampler, that's what they would've used instead. Besides, don't forget the production/mixing of those old hits. Whenever a producer uses chorus, echo, reverb, phaser, ensemble, EQ, dynamics etc. then you shouldn't give those credits to synths. For the same reason one shouldn't purely link a CS80 to Vangelis, as half his work is usually coming out of a Lexicon with some massive hall preset.. :P
3. Design limitations. If you look at the Minimoog and the CS80, with no digital memories - your only option is to play them and experiment. The minute the Prophet 5 came along, it affected, interrupted, that creative potential and immediacy. Hence, many cherish old analogue because it enables pure playing, composition and experimentation in a way that preset synths do not.
It may be valid in some way, but otherwise there's no point in it. People weren't just experimenting with synths, they were also just using them. It'd be a bit c**p if some producer is breathing hot steam in your neck while holding his watch, waiting on you "oh, hold on, have to rebuild this brass sound, takes me 10 minutes at most". I rather think that the DX synths and other few-buttons-small-display-synths killed programming, not sound storage.
4. Legacy. Most of the great albums of the past 40 years were done on only vintage synthesizers (including digital ones like the Fairlight). As much our cultural legacy of music include the Fender Rhodes and Fender Strat, it now also includes the ARP 2600, Minimoog, Prophet 5, CS80, Fairlight, DX7, Emulator 2 and perhaps another handful or two vintage synthesizers. So these sounds are coveted for very correct reasons - they were successful in music which means that millions of people voted for them in purchasing hit records using them. They are familiar and great - two very good reasons to align yourself with them (we all still love the piano and don't question why it's still around).
You shouldn't compare a real/acoustic instrument to a synth, and label them as vintage for the exact same reasons. Real/acoustic instruments are full o' physics and have hundreds o' years of tweaks behind them. Synths (as in: chips 'n things) don't have physics but merely small algorithms that are infinitely more simple than the real physics that come with real instruments. I could stretch a rubber band and pluck it, I get a tone. It costs me a parameter o' 10 to create the same sound with a synth. Would you say this rubber band outrocks a synth?
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Re: Why analog?

Post by pinky_blue » Mon May 16, 2011 10:47 pm

RD9 wrote:
Automatic Gainsay wrote: There is variance, there is difference, and there is a lack of precision.
=D> Based on my experience with an MS-20 and SH-2 vs. Virus C and Radias (among other synths), it's quite hard to explain all the different nuances of why it's easier for me to achieve a sound that like with the older analogs, but if I had to make a visual analogy it would look like this:
Image
The top image is more like the Virus and Radias and the bottom image is more like the MS-20 and SH-2. For some reason, I just like the imprecise phattness of the bottom image. :D Better saturation, more density/thickness, warmer, maybe more subtle harmonic distortion or imperfections, maybe even less accuracy, I don't know exactly, but those images reflect what I hear. I can easily see why people would be content with the top image, but for me personally, I like the bottom one better even if it's less sharp.
I'm sorry but I really had to quote this, what a great analogy. I laugh, but I also agree. Hats off to you sir.

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Re: Why analog?

Post by knolan » Mon May 16, 2011 11:07 pm

CS_TBL -

I believe there a reality and validity in the points I made, worth taking on board.

Regards,
Kevin.
Last edited by knolan on Tue May 17, 2011 12:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why analog?

Post by Rangoon » Mon May 16, 2011 11:16 pm

negativ wrote:.....
I just can't understand why so many synthesists insist on having Model D's and OB-Xa's when there are products like the Virus and the Prophet '08 out there....
It's because the Model D's and OBXa's go up in value across time, whereas the Virus and Prophet 08 go down in value. It's as simple as that.

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Re: Why analog?

Post by el pr0n » Mon May 16, 2011 11:24 pm

knolan wrote: I believe there a reality and validity in the points I made, worth taking on board.

Regards,
Kevin.
I don't get how you can say 'analogue is literally better-sounding' than anything... Even saying "X is just better than Y" with respect to anything is a hard enough argument to make a point of, but something as subjective as how satisfying something sounds? What if we like digital synths?
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Re: Why analog?

Post by GuyaGuy » Mon May 16, 2011 11:38 pm

el pr0n wrote:
knolan wrote: I believe there a reality and validity in the points I made, worth taking on board.

Regards,
Kevin.
I don't get how you can say 'analogue is literally better-sounding' than anything... Even saying "X is just better than Y" with respect to anything is a hard enough argument to make a point of, but something as subjective as how satisfying something sounds? What if we like digital synths?
Well then you're wrong cuz like Donna Summer.
And therefore you don't really like it. You just THINK you do.
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Re: Why analog?

Post by knolan » Tue May 17, 2011 1:10 am

el pr0n wrote:
knolan wrote: I believe there a reality and validity in the points I made, worth taking on board.

Regards,
Kevin.
I don't get how you can say 'analogue is literally better-sounding' than anything... Even saying "X is just better than Y" with respect to anything is a hard enough argument to make a point of, but something as subjective as how satisfying something sounds? What if we like digital synths?
I felt I explained in my original post but I'll indicate it again. Everyone in the World agrees that the Bosendorfer Imperial 290 is better than a Yamaha U1 upright piano. There's no opinion in this (everything isn't about opinion). Similarly, there's universal agreement that a Minimoog is superior, to, say a Casio VL1 (please don't go down the road of suggesting I'm comparing apples with oranges). In this way, we can - indeed the World has done it by voting with their pockets - identify superiour synthesizers over inferior ones. You may like an inferiour one, but it's still inferior. For example, I love the CS70M, and the CS80 (and own mint condition versions of both) but the CS70M is significantly inferior in many vital musical ways. But I still love the CS70M largely for sentimental reasons.

The other points in my post can be argued equally robustly (my example of 'phase' was just one example but was also incorrectly interpreted too literally by CS_TBL - there are many other aspects of transistor and analogue circuits that yield a warmer sound and that haven’t been surpassed digitally).

So I'll stand by all the points I made. Analogue synthesizers of the 60s and 70s represent a pinnacle of musical technology that has not been surpassed and indeed where we are in many vital musical ways at a sonically/musically weaker, more superficial, point right now. As just one exampe - nothing - absolutely nothing that has been released in the past few decades - including the Virus TI - offers the musical character and capabilities of early Moogs.

Kevin

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Re: Why analog?

Post by balma » Tue May 17, 2011 1:29 am

Knolan please forvive but I must say your whole speech is wrong since the beginning. You can keep giving arguments why analog sounds better for pages and pages of this thread, when "sound better" is just a criteria, a matter of taste.
So trying to sustent as a fact something that is just a point of view.

Better, as an adjetive applied to the word sound, is just a consideration based in your concept and definition of sound.

Sounds, are just that. Sounds. In the hands of a musician, they become music. I just do not understand the whole stuff analog vs digital, since I had a different education, or perceive the things from a very different point of view.

You, in front of a synthesizer, is who makes it sound good. I prefer to give a value to a synth based in how much it allows me to express myself through composing and performing music, than the technology used.

better to concern and give importance on perfecting your on them
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Re: Why analog?

Post by Zamise » Tue May 17, 2011 1:32 am

Automatic Gainsay wrote:
Zamise wrote:Not really, if so desired that kind of variation in freq can be easily recreated with an all digital synth. As mentioned, it has something to do with having an LFO.

All his synths are analog, even the digital ones... stay thirsty my friends.

1. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be making music than spending the amount of time and effort requisite to effectively approximate a vaguely analog sound I don't care enough about to actually possess.

2. If you think what I'm talking about is equivalent to a periodic waveform applied to an oscillator, you do not know what I'm talking about.
Vaguely analog sound? Is this some grey area, meaning it isn't impossible to do? And I think once done, with digital you wouldn't then have spend the time to do it again, you could reproduce it over and over and over again with no straying or drifting.

A periodic waveform can not be the same as minuscule changes in frequency? Are you talking dynamic vrs static? Predicability vrs chaos? Is there an invisible entity living inside your 2600?
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Re: Why analog?

Post by asohn » Tue May 17, 2011 1:51 am

I think it really comes down to scarcity and aesthetic. Why spend lots of money on vintage analog synths, despite issues with serviceability/replaceability, etc? Because they achieve the sound you want associated with your music or they sound good to your years, and because all of these instruments sound different (I'm talking digital too). And because vintage analog synths have a legacy that has ingrained a certain aesthetic into the acoustic psyche's of millions, lots of people prefer the sound of analog, whether it's conscious or subconscious. And because these instruments are old now, the supply just can't possibly meet the demand. They aren't going to make a new MonoPoly, but they're going to take orders for microKorgs until no one wants one.

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Re: Why analog?

Post by el pr0n » Tue May 17, 2011 1:58 am

knolan wrote: I felt I explained in my original post but I'll indicate it again. Everyone in the World agrees that the Bosendorfer Imperial 290 is better than a Yamaha U1 upright piano. There's no opinion in this (everything isn't about opinion). Similarly, there's universal agreement that a Minimoog is superior, to, say a Casio VL1 (please don't go down the road of suggesting I'm comparing apples with oranges). In this way, we can - indeed the World has done it by voting with their pockets - identify superiour synthesizers over inferior ones. You may like an inferiour one, but it's still inferior. For example, I love the CS70M, and the CS80 (and own mint condition versions of both) but the CS70M is significantly inferior in many vital musical ways. But I still love the CS70M largely for sentimental reasons.

The other points in my post can be argued equally robustly (my example of 'phase' was just one example but was also incorrectly interpreted too literally by CS_TBL - there are many other aspects of transistor and analogue circuits that yield a warmer sound and that haven’t been surpassed digitally).

So I'll stand by all the points I made. Analogue synthesizers of the 60s and 70s represent a pinnacle of musical technology that has not been surpassed and indeed where we are in many vital musical ways at a sonically/musically weaker, more superficial, point right now. As just one exampe - nothing - absolutely nothing that has been released in the past few decades - including the Virus TI - offers the musical character and capabilities of early Moogs.

Kevin
Yeah, Minimoogs are great. But what if I want an FM sound, or more than one note?

As for the 'pinnacle of musical technology that has not been surpassed'... Synthesisers are electronic circuits that realise simple physical concepts. Are you saying that a generative computer music program (I dunno, off an Autechre record or something) or a convolution reverb program is, on a technical level, inferior to a CV monosynth?

You've got a clever clause in your argument, though;
knolan wrote:You make like an inferior one, but it's still inferior
so no matter what argument we bring up against analogue subtractive synthesis (and while I agree a lot of things aren't subjective, the amount of pleasure that a timbre carries IS subjective), you can just tell us that a Minimoog is still the best, and no matter how much I love a big DX7 pad, I'm wrong.
knolan wrote:In this way, we can - indeed the World has done it by voting with their pockets - identify superiour synthesizers over inferior ones.
Materialism and gear fetishism define superior musical instruments, of course. Do you rate bands on how many records they sell? Or, more to the point, is a band better because its records are sought after by record collectors?
knolan wrote:we are in many vital musical ways at a sonically/musically weaker, more superficial, point right now
How can you say that? We've got all the options you love from the 60s and 70s, all the lessons we've learned from those days, and everything else ever since. How can that be weaker?
knolan wrote:nothing - absolutely nothing that has been released in the past few decades - including the Virus TI - offers the musical character and capabilities of early Moogs.
I really had a little laugh at this bit. Nothing from the 'past few decades' has more capabilities than an early Moog? Right.
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Re: Why analog?

Post by balma » Tue May 17, 2011 2:14 am

I think flutes have a better sound than pianos. Because you can use your breath to modulate the amount of air passing through the holes , instead hitting keys like a madman. They are superior. Indeed. I have my point
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Re: Why analog?

Post by Dr. Phibes » Tue May 17, 2011 2:19 am

knolan wrote:
Everyone in the World agrees that the Bosendorfer Imperial 290 is better than a Yamaha U1 upright piano. There's no opinion in this (everything isn't about opinion).
but you can still have a s**t load of fun on the yamaha!

..thus ends my erudite contribution

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Re: Why analog?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Tue May 17, 2011 4:05 am

Now everything has gone sad. :cry:
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Re: Why analog?

Post by Stab Frenzy » Tue May 17, 2011 4:21 am

knolan wrote:Analogue is better because it really is better, and if you disagree with me in any way I'm not going to attempt to back up my arguments at all, because it's obvious to anyone that you're wrong.
You need to learn the fine art of being subjective, it'll make life more interesting for you and you won't come off looking like a fascist so much.

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