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Setting the Record Straight: Analog vs. Digital Formatting

analog vs digital formatting audio

Analog sound formatting is quickly becoming a pastiche of the old world in many circles. How long will it be until we experience music solely in the digital frontier? Is it a bad thing that most of our modern music is presented to us in a digital format? Regarding music, what’s the difference if the music we hear is in a digital format versus analog formatting?

You might not even be aware, but there is an ongoing debate regarding the “proper” way to format musical content. While many are advocates for a digital format vs. what’s called analog formatting, we wonder if there is any truth in the sentiments of nostalgic audiophiles whom claim analog has a “warmer/better” sound.

We aren’t trying to fuel the fire between audiophiles around the world, so we won’t conclude anything on that – but rather we’re simply going to explain some basic differences between analog and digital sound formats and let you decide.

  • Analog: traces its etymology back to the Greek, analogos (ana-logos) which can be interpreted to mean proportionate.

Analog recording, when it comes to sound, records a continuous wave directly corresponding to the original sound wave via a specific medium( i.e. vinyl record or magnetized tape). It is from these mediums that the recorded continuous wave is then played back via a system that is able to interpret the wave from whichever medium it was recorded onto and play it back, which results in an analogous sound to the original with minor “imperfections” due to limitations of recording technology. This is different then what is known as digital recording.

  • Digital: which has its roots in the Latin digitus, (Middle English: digit [pertaining to numerals of value 0-9 or less than 10]) which means fingers or toes.

Digital recording, when referring to sound, records a sound wave in what is called a wave form. It does so by various methods, but generally does so in a binary system meaning 0 and 1s. In other terms, a sound wave is deconstructed via a medium and is reconstructed in terms of numeric data, which takes shape as a discontinuous wave form this happens in varying precision depending on the type of file (i.e wav or mp3 to name a few). These discontinuous wave forms are able to be read by digital means, which then replays the information in the form of a sound wave through some form of a speaker/headphone.

While now it is easy to understand the argument for analog being a seamless sound versus a disjointed digital recreation, we must inform readers of what is called lossless digital audio (i.e. FLAC or ALAC files) which are able to digitally recreate a wave form that is very close, if not even more virtually perfect, to the original sound wave.

We’re not picking sides, just trying to inform you of the options available currently. It is our opinion that hi-fidelity will always be a matter of personal opinion. Muse, medium, and then art—and the beauty of art is all in the eye of the beholder.

Which sounds better? Here’s more reading from CNET, and for more information on the differences click here for the scientific approach of digital vs analog.

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