Old analog recording vs new digital recording
Oct 12, 2013 at 11:03 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 26


100+ Head-Fier
Feb 11, 2009
Hi there
I always had this question that bothers me, I found recent digital recording sound noticeably clearer and more defined than analog recording in the 70s. Admittedly, I only heard analog recorded music converted to digital format like Karajan's Bruckner symphonies, I found the sound to be thin and shrill, not rich and meaty. Take a even more extreme case, comparing Beatles' recordings to Lady Gaga's recording, the sound is much worse. I am sure the difference has to do with other aspects of recording being improved over time.
This bothers me when I choose classical CDs, lots of good recording are made in Karajan's generation (70s or even early) but I really can't enjoy the shrill sound of these recordings. Even though they are digitally mastered, the tone just sound totally off. Can someone please clarify on this please?
Oct 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM Post #2 of 26
Maybe you're listening to pre-emphasized CDs without de-emphasis?

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Oct 13, 2013 at 8:24 PM Post #4 of 26
Karajan's recordings in the late 70s were pretty uniformly awful sounding. Try a Mercury Living Presence or Living Stereo CD. They are from the 50s/60s but they sound as good or better than most current classical recordings. The only difference is the ever so tiny bed of tape hiss.
It could also be that the bass on modern pop recordings is so exaggerated, you've dialed it down. Meaning that older recordings with a flat balanced frequency response now sound too thin.
Oct 14, 2013 at 5:37 AM Post #5 of 26
Maybe you're listening to pre-emphasized CDs without de-emphasis?


Thanks for that, I will read it when I got time.
  Are these beatles recordings the 2012 remasters?

I was only thinking about the general sound around the 50s and 60s period like this one


You can tell this is an old recording. The sound is very flat, instruments don't have much body and placement, lacks micro detail and realism of modem recording. The same thing goes for old movie and TV shows, the sound is totally different from a modern movie. I want to know if this difference has much to do with analog vs digital recording, and what is the main technological improvement that result in this difference.
Oct 14, 2013 at 1:42 PM Post #6 of 26
It was the limits to overdubbing back in the analogue days. Recordings captured live, like most classical music, sounds great even as far back as 1954. But a lot of pop music in the early 70s was heavily overdubbed and turned into sound soup.
Oct 16, 2013 at 1:31 PM Post #8 of 26
The best microphones come from the 50s.
Oct 17, 2013 at 12:14 PM Post #9 of 26
  The best microphones come from the 50s.

Since this is the Sound-Science forum :
Care to provide some science backing that claim ?
1 : The term 'best microphone' is non-sensical at best
2 : If you look at frequency-curves etc etc for various mics you will find that
ALL the microphones widely used to record music measure more or less horrible .
ie : They ALL colour the sound in some way .
3 : Ruler-flat mics do exist, they are just not normally used for recording music, but for .. measurements !
Probably because they tend to sound rather flat and boring ..
Yes, I agree with the OP -
Many of the digitally remastered classical recordings from the 1970's sound horrible -
Maybe because they where remastered in a hurry, so the record-companies could sell the same music twice, to the same people ..
Oct 17, 2013 at 1:03 PM Post #10 of 26
Check out Neumann mikes. You'll learn something you didn't know.
Oct 22, 2013 at 4:40 AM Post #11 of 26
I don't know much about microphones, but the same principle works in other areas too.
-- Older generations didn't have as precise technology as today.
-- Even their best may at best be mediocre by today's standards.
-- A bad effort is a bad one, be it now or 50 years ago.
-- A good tool does not make a good craftsman. A bad tool can ruin a good craftsman.
So, basically, a good sound engineer will choose good equipment (whatever era its from) and get the best out of it.
Oct 22, 2013 at 9:41 AM Post #12 of 26
  Check out Neumann mikes. You'll learn something you didn't know.

How do you know what I know or don't know ?
I asked for some science backing your claim that
The best microphones come from the 50s

Yes, Neumann make excellent microphones, they are legendary .
The instant people 'in the know' see one of them, they go : 'This will sound good ' ..
See where I'm going with this ?
If you check out the frequency-curve for the U87Ai :
It's pretty obvious that also this microphone has a 'sound-signatur', as do nearly all transducers .
One of the things that make Neumann-mics legendary is the tight manufacturing-tolerances, meaning that you could buy a pair and
be fairly certain they measured and sounded almost identical, quite unusual (and expensive) back in the 1950's,
where 1% or even 5% tolerances where considered sufficient by many .
But with modern production-methods this isn't such a big deal any more and even seasoned recording-engineers would have a hard time in a DBT
between mics with the same characteristics ..
 Just because something was designed using a slide rule it isn't necessarily 'better' than what can be produced today .
Oct 22, 2013 at 12:53 PM Post #13 of 26
Uh... that response curve was stone flat through the core frequencies, and +/- 3dB at the edges. That is flat in my book. I doubt anyone would hear a sound signature in that!
Oct 27, 2013 at 10:15 PM Post #14 of 26
  Each line represents 2dB -
Please look at the graph again and tell me how that is 'stone-flat' ?
We are well into the audible range here !
At the mod : '
You can ban me all you want, it will just encourage me even more to come back and oppose some of the
audiophile idiocy this site is full off .
But I understand why you don't appreciate me pointing this out, makes your overpriced sponsor-made vacuum-tube gear look like the coloured low-fi
snake-oil it really is ..

Are you hurt?
Seems like you're venting out some repressed emotions.
Nov 1, 2013 at 1:12 PM Post #15 of 26
Maybe I'm looking at a different graph here, but I see a response that is 4dB higher at 7-10kHz than it is throughout most of the band, as well as being 4dB down at 20Hz. The super high frequency rolloff (6dB at 20kHz) would also be theoretically audible, though probably not as dramatically. Probably the most noticeable would be the 4dB gain at 7-10kHz though - that's not just theoretically audible, that's easily audible to pretty much anyone without hearing damage, and there are several instruments that have harmonics important to their sound signature up in that frequency band. Does that mean it's a bad mic? Not at all, but it certainly isn't audibly flat through the entire frequency range.

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