The opportunity to revive the age-old debate of analog versus digital in terms of fidelity is hard to resist, but really, it’s not the issue here. The issue is, in a word, affordability. Technology offered digital audio to the consumer in a way that analog can’t compete with in terms of old-fashioned bang-for-the-buck. In order to have an analog recorder, you bought one. If you wanted a compressor, you bought one (for each place you want one!) The same goes for an EQ and all of the other hardware you might want to use. In the realm of digital, the same piece of hardware becomes any or all of these things (at least a decent facsimile thereof), further, each piece of software can be used in multiple positions, for example, if you spring for the Bomb Factory Compressor package (recreations of great UREI 1176 and LA2A compressors) you can have as many of each as you have the power to run. Individual channels, bus compression, chain compression, whatever you need. For the price of a good computer and a few pieces of dedicated software you can get the use of what would have required a multi-track tape machine (don’t forget a couple of hundred dollars of tape), a console, some effects and the cables (which probably cost as much as a good computer) to patch it all together. This isn’t to say that it’s time to give up on the giant SSL consoles in favour of the new G5 when it’s time to make your major label masterwork, but for the average musician the new G5 (or PC if you really insist!) is around a quarter of a million dollars more likely to fit the bill for your equally brilliant personal masterwork.
Mike Turner is a Toronto-based producer best known for his work as guitarist in Our Lady Peace.