Analog vs. analog vs. analog vs. analog

What’s analog and why should we be offended by digital per se, if, at the end, our ears are always the purest of analog devices, so able to convert any digital or digitalized signal back to analog, something to be absorbed and enjoyed by our brain and soul?

In the last days of dense listening and dubbing sessions of first generation reel to reel, analog master tapes, this kind of food for thoughts questions came to my mind: industry isn’t after fooling people.

Sure the engineers are only trying to get things easier in the studio and IMO, only marginally and as a by-product lowering the stick thinking to the average listening skills and gears around.

Many labels and studios still VERY much proudly craft their disks and vinyl discs to sound at their very best.

What I cannot understand is when people isn’t told the plain truth – i.e. why selling FLAC or hi-rez 192 khz files on costly reel to reel tapes or vinyl without quoting this feature… plainly, honestly, as is?

There is nothing wrong doing so, folks!

Nobody dares blaming about the pro-photographers using their film-fed Hasselblads’ in studio, then scanning the 6 x 6 slide-film and heavily Photoshopping it in post-production job… so things go!

Only, things should be made crystal clear, honestly – i.e.  shouldn’t be analog vs. analog vs. analog or analog vs. digital… but quality vs. non-quality/average (recordings, music, whatever), only.

Word of mouth – fortunately – works quite well and gossip and so-so practices of (ugly) people not saying the source and dubbing/mastering methods (even, in worst cases, declaring as 100% analog tapes their FLAC-sourced music onto reel to reel tape) widely circulates among the die-hard music and audio lovers.


Others try to highlight their job as further improving original recordings.

Abbey Road Studios spent a lot of ink explaining their approach in their vinyl discs reissues series – my mentor Baron Tim de Paravicini cleverly and wittingly confutated their practice where, in few words, the original spliced ¼” master-tape is simply unseen in the remastering studio, as only a cleverly made hi-rez file is then taped on an Ampex ATR machine and used to get the lacquer from the Neumann lathe.

Right or wrong as a process, that’s it.

Only a few, an handful bunch around like Chad Kassem’s Acoustic Sounds in the USA and Electric Recordings in UK (at a cost!), uses a 100% analog-process from tape to disc, so this can be still made possible!

I find quite annoying so-called technical essays are written with a great expense of ink and energies to convince the above sounds even better than original pressings from the early ‘70s!

I bought some months ago, just out of curiosity, an Abbey Road’s John Martyn’s Solid Air on 180 grams vinyl-slab.

I placed it on my Garrardzilla and listened to it a couple of times… then took it from  a shelf my first pressing Island’s Palm Pink rim pristine copy and played  again.

Then played a disk of Solid Air…  sure everything sounds and music is so unique and pleasant, yet the sonic differences are well audible and the overall sound winner clear: disk and AR’s reissues sounds quite similar, highs are exagerated and slightly shimmering, like John Martyn’s “zzzzzz” and “ssssss”.

On Island first pressing decay are smooth and natural and various, depending on song… on the disk and reissue, sound is quite homogenized and unchanging, unsurprising, uninvolving.

I bet a youngster coming out of blue straight to Abbey’s Solid Air will GREATLY enjoy it… but only on my Island first pressing I fully appreciate the John Wood/Sound Techniques studio job.

What am I trying to say?

We audio lovers demand for respect and care from industry: a reel to reel tape should be clearly stated if coming from an analog master or a digital file, same for a vinyl disc: everything should also be stated clearly – i.e. about recording and mastering details.

We deserve it!

Stefano Bertoncello