I started my career using the old analog stuff, since that was the only option. I incorporated digital software plugins as soon as they became available, but it took many years before computers were fast enough to run them in realtime. And also before they started making very high quality plugins.
Now, I use mostly digital software plugins, but I do have analog hardware if a client specifically requests all analog.
WHICH IS BETTER?
First off, technically EVERYTHING is digital! An mp3 and a CD is digital information that's decoded when played by a player. A rock album recorded in the 70s is all analog. When this album is converted to a CD, you're hearing a digital copy of the analog sound. I guess these days when someone says analog, they're referring to that warmer old school sound (not necessarily the gear), because you can achieve that same warmer sound using all digital software plugins that emulates quality analog gear.
I've read a lot of opinions on this. Older sound engineers in their 60's plus have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of analog equipment they bought in the 70's and 80's. That being said, that's all they've ever worked with and they're not selling their gear for peanuts and switching over. Many also refuse to learn the new digital software. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and their biased opinion is that analog is by far better than digital software plugins, though many have never really used them.
SO, WHAT'S THE UNBIASED TRUTH?
Some of the expensive analog hardware from Manley, SSL, UA does have a unique sound you can't explain. Also, analog gear can give vocals that lush soft sound that a cheap digital preamp can't. But now they make software replicas of all the older and newer analog gear, and it sounds great!
IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO THE END RESULT!
The fact is, if you used only quality digital hardware and software plugins to mix and master an entire CD project, and knew how to use them very well, the average person would NEVER be able to tell that you didn't use $100,000 worth of analog gear. Your masters would sound AMAZING and that's all that matters.
Now, maybe an 80's old school audio engineer would notice the difference, but he's not buying your mp3s, so who cares? And the only thing he'll notice is the songs weren't mastered using all analog gear, but that doesn't mean they don't sound as good (or even better). This is like saying you know the difference between Classic Coke and Pepsi. That doesn't make one better than the other. Also, so much of the music on the radio is digital software recorded with digital effects that consumers are used to it and prefer that sound.
This all being said, save yourself $100,000 and go digital and software. No one but the old-timers will know the difference and the new generation prefers it!
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