Elliot Mazer on Analog vs. Digital

Tape Op Issue 72Tape Op is one of the best music magazines out there. Even if you’re not a recording engineer, the interviews and articles give you a different perspective on the music you love. Best of all: it’s free. There’s a great interview with Elliot Mazer in the Jul/Aug issue, where he talks about being “Neil Young‘s producer” among lots of other things. It’s interesting that the guy who recorded the ultimate analog album (Harvest, recorded mostly live in Mazer’s leaky home studio and then back in Neil’s barn), has such strong feelings about digital recording:

I’m happy that I will never, ever have to record onto another analog multitrack tape again. They are not neutral and have a flavor and change their character. Magnetic tape deteriorates with time and use and the top end goes away. [This is debatable. -ed.] There are all kinds of problems. The speed by which you can record, mix and process is much slower with analog. It’s the same with film vs. digital photography. You take some pictures. You take the roll out of the camera, mark what the roll is, send it to the lab, have a lab send it back, look at the negatives and make prints. There’s a built-in delay due to the technology of the process itself. It’s much more immediate with something like ProTools or Logic. It’s possible in our world, as it is in the world of photography, to make bigger files, which will look and sound better – and to make bigger files using a better analog/digital converter or a better lens or whatever. I see great similarities between both those worlds. I think convenience trumps quality, which is why the iPod is such a huge success. iTunes software is very helpful to me. It’s helpful if I’m doing files at 24/96 or AAC files. The software doesn’t care. The organization tools are really nice and Apple does a nice job suppoerting that software and those devices. I love big files and high sample rates and all that, but I have a lot of iPods for various projects that I am working on.

If guys like this have given up on analog, is there any hope for its future? And does that even matter anymore?

Neil Young: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki.

7 thoughts on “Elliot Mazer on Analog vs. Digital”

  1. There have always been people who will give up quality for convenience and there will always be people who won’t.

    Lucky for us that Neil was RIGHT about digital mastering way back when and waited to release some of his more revered (by mega fans, anyways) albums until the technology caught up with the art.

  2. Speaking of which, related question: one of the local radio stations (97.1 I think) does an “Album Thursdays” block where they play one continuous side off the vinyl for whatever classic album they choose. They make a big deal about it being the actual vinyl played off their actual sweet record player (and there’s no commercials, which Is sweet), but doesn’t the fact that it’s being compressed and broadcast to radio standards somewhat defeat the purpose? I’m not positive, but they were playing Floyd and it sounded less dynamic than I thought it should. I feel as though this has something to do with the original subject posted above, but I’m no longer sure about that. What? Huzzat? Where am I? Good day to you Sirs. I said Good Day!

  3. It’s not just quality for convenience, Derek: there are also monetary concerns.

    Of course, Neil Young doesn’t have the latter problem; and if money were no object I would record every future album I ever made on tape. BUT recording analog is more expensive, not only due to the price of tape but also due to the higher rates of the dwindling number of recording studios that cater to the format and have to maintain the analog tape machines.

  4. I was quoting Mazer himself who said that we “give up quality for convenience.” I am actually not an analog snob and recorded all four Riviera releases on all digital formats.

  5. I’m gonna guess that the analogue purists in the house have never had to perform an alignment on a multi-track tape machine.

  6. I think the real discussion here is weather or not technology is making us lazy as a species. Sure, computers have made our lives

    ‘easier’. Any shmuck with an AI and a microphone(like me)

    can sit down now and make a decent recording(content notwithstanding), but this does little to improve my problem-solving skills, and as a result this degrades my capacity to learn. I face the same situation at my job, where younger workers look for technology to ease their lives and have a tendency to ask for answers to simple problems they could work out on their own, rather than invest a little time and effort of their own. Do we really need remote controls for every thing so that we (god forbid) don’t have to walk our lazy asses across the room? Or power everything on our cars(which add to vehicle weight, degrade mpg and contribute to global warming, not to mention misallocating scarce resources)? Let’s not forget the effect this has in relation to the obesity epidemic and health care costs.

    Well, enough ranting-I’m going to go finish the automated conveyor system I’m building from the fridge to the TV room….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *