The Politics of Digitizing Analogueness #iaspm2017

Pat O’Grady
: Macquarie University

The Politics of Digitizing Analogueness

Plug-in hardware emulation – are looks as important as sound to the user?

ABSTRACT: In the field of pop music production, audio companies such as Waves and Universal Audio claim to reproduce the sound of ‘vintage’ analogue signal processing recording technologies. They use software to emulate the form and sound of technologies that, in their hardware form, became highly valued parts of recording studios from the 1960s and 1970s. These digital technologies are marketed towards the increasingly capable and more affordable personal computer market, often used in home studios. The companies claim to provide the user with the comparable results to analogue. Since the 1980s, similar changes to the recording technology landscape have been understood as ‘democratization,’ as music production trended towards a digital economy. However, these emulations also exist alongside a reemergence of the use of analogue technologies in music production, particularly in large studios. In this paper, I explore how the popularity of digital emulations can be partly attributed to shifting attitudes towards analogue vintage technologies. I draw from an analysis of industrial discourses within music production in order to show that rather than democratize the field of music production, they reinforce the social order of the field of recording. In doing so, they continue to promote within a discursive space the importance of large studio music production.

Pat begins by leading us quickly through the development of the technologies that led us here, through the rise of digital recording in the 80s, the rise of the workstation in the 90s and the plugin in the 2000s and beyond. We are now, he suggests, in the ‘Analogue Comeback’ era, and he cites both analogue hardware and UAD emulation plugins in some Australian professional studios’ advertising. He notes that due to the four-decade establishment of digital recording, there now exist professional studio practitioners who did not grow up with analogue equipment.

Designing Professional Analogue Audio Recording Equipment in the 21st Century #arp13

The PuigTec EQP-1A – but does it sound like Jack Joseph Puig’s original hand-crafted unit?

GASKELL, ROBERT-ERIC (McGill University)

Designing Professional Analogue Audio Recording Equipment in the 21st Century

[abstract] This paper looks at the decisions faced by contemporary analogue audio equipment designers when trying to balance sound quality, commercial demand, intuitive user interface, and financial viability in the current professional audio marketplace. Audio signal processor design straddles the line between electrical/computer engineering and music. It is a fundamentally interdisciplinary combination of art and science. While the goal of professional audio equipment design has always been to provide intuitive, innovative, and useful products that solve common problems in music production, designs often suffer from a lack of communication or understanding between the two disciplines.

Sound recordists and music producers have been forced to learn to think in the terms of the electrical and computer engineers who design the equipment used in recording studios. The names of parameters and the user interface of equipment have been classically defined by electrical engineers not musicians. The paradigms of the past, however, have been persevered and today designs of new equipment maintain many of the controls and even aesthetics that were defined sixty or seventy years ago.