If you want my advice, with all the available digital technology you still can’t beat the sound of a good analog mixdown. I can answer why in two ways. The first being rather technical is that with analog you get a full sine wave as opposed to the jagged sampled sine wave you get with digital. The effect on your sound can be dramatic. With an analog mixdown, you have a much wider, deeper sound with greater stereo imaging.
Which leads me to my second point: an analog mixdown has a texture that digital cannot produce. And, simply put, to my ears it sounds better … that’s it. No more explanation needed.
Mixing engineers working in the analog domain should not forget the mastering engineers (well, they shouldn’t regardless what they do) so they should put 30 seconds of the following tones: 1 kHz, 10 kHz, 15 kHz (if available) 40 Hz (if available) and 100 Hz. This is so the mastering engineer can align their tape machines to the mix tape. The recommended recording level (recording fluxivity) is 250 nWb/m.
So when planning your mix, call around to see if you can get your hands on an analog mixdown machine. It may take some time, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
George Graves is Chief Mastering Engineer at the Lacquer Channel in Toronto, ON.