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Jack White: "Analog=pencil never leaves the paper", Jack White "WTF" interview. Apparently digital isn't up to
andy o
post Jun 30 2012, 21:11
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Hmm seems White is another one, after Neil Young. Here is a portion of a recent Jack White interview with comedian Marc Maron's WTF Podcast.

http://youtu.be/zP3ye4AO2_Q

Maron: "It seems you have a respect for the old, crackly stuff."

But you know it's not that! It just sounds so much better!
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skamp
post Jun 30 2012, 21:29
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The liner notes of Elephant read:

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No computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing or mastering of this record


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Carledwards
post Jun 30 2012, 22:11
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Belief systems are very powerful and don't require any proof at all, scientific or otherwise.
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mzil
post Jun 30 2012, 22:52
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QUOTE (skamp @ Jun 30 2012, 16:29) *
The liner notes of Elephant read:

QUOTE
No computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing or mastering of this record



I wonder if the CD version continues, "not that you'll ever know because you bought the CD."
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2814-6890
post Jul 1 2012, 00:08
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I believe that anything more complicated than a wax cylinder just isn't authentic enough. If you want to get that "real" sound of the 1890's, you simply must use wax cylinders, but you must only record on a hand cranked lathe! This is very important. Newfangled electric motors take away all of the humanity in an audio recording. Only a human arm cranking your wax cylinder around will add the depth and feeling your recording requires. I'm glad I could help with this! Sorry, I have to go now and milk a cow and fill all of my lanterns with kerosene.
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soundping
post Jul 1 2012, 00:52
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Everyone has their own, personal preference.
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db1989
post Jul 1 2012, 00:58
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Which is totally irrelevant, given that Hydrogenaudio is about objectively verifiable phenomena, not unsubstantiated and possibly wholly placebo-based “personal preference”.
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greynol
post Jul 1 2012, 01:59
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QUOTE (andy o @ Jun 30 2012, 13:11) *
Hmm seems White is another one, after Neil Young.

Personally, I expect this to be the norm amongst artists, so I'm not surprised. Quite frankly I'm more interested in what Jack Black has to say.


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andy o
post Jul 1 2012, 02:10
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The whole interview is interesting though. If you're a fan of comedy you might have heard about this podcast, it's easily the most popular one about comedy. Maron is a great interviewer when it comes to comedy, but I wasn't expecting him to challenge White on science.
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splice
post Jul 1 2012, 03:40
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QUOTE (2814-6890 @ Jun 30 2012, 16:08) *
... I have to go now and milk a cow and fill all of my lanterns with kerosene.


You have a cow that gives kerosene?


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2814-6890
post Jul 1 2012, 14:17
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QUOTE (splice @ Jun 30 2012, 22:40) *
You have a cow that gives kerosene?


Should've used a comma. Reminds me of the story of the Panda that eats, shoots, and leaves.
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Ethan Winer
post Jul 1 2012, 18:11
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jun 30 2012, 20:59) *
Quite frankly I'm more interested in what Jack Black has to say.


+1


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Bradapalooza
post Jul 1 2012, 20:28
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At the same time though, Jack White IS going for the old-school crackly style recording. You guys have listened to The White Stripes, right? Silly analogy of course - and if he tried - he could get a great sound via digital recording. But Elephant and White Blood Cells get a lot of play time for me because they sound good on everything; with the heavy distortion and analog master and so on - its still enjoyable to listen to on my crappiest pair of speakers - whereas more complex stuff never gets playtime on those because it just sounds like shit. Of course, I do prefer to listen to the White Stripes on my good speakers.

I don't think he really means to say that analog sounds better than digital and that everyone should use it (even though he does), but for his specific style, analog recording is a great thing. If his mixes were overly clean, he'd lose his signature sound, and I imagine his experience with digital recording has just reflected that fact. Although its perfectly possible to get the his sound via digital recording - that's not typically what one would be going for. So he probably just never worked at a digital recording studio where the person in charge of the mix understood the sound he wants - but was able to get it using analog recording - and thus assumes that digital can't do it.
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porky_pig_jr
post Jul 2 2012, 03:41
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QUOTE (2814-6890 @ Jul 1 2012, 00:08) *
Sorry, I have to go now and milk a cow and fill all of my lanterns with kerosene.


Don't have a cow dude.
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bug80
post Jul 2 2012, 08:38
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Obviously, the "pencil never leaves the paper" is a terrible analogy again. This is another guy not understanding how digital audio works. But, I have to agree with Bradapalooza, we also have to be careful here at HA not to jump on every musician saying that analog sounds "better". It might very well sound better to them than a digital recording, they only do not understand the reason why it does sound better. They do not understand that it is the distortion, saturation, flutter, etc. they like about it, rather than "digital has only 0's and 1's so you are missing information"-kind of arguments.
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benski
post Jul 2 2012, 14:18
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I can relate to his thinking, even if I don't agree. Here's the problem. For musicians in the late 80's / early-mid 90's - digital gear for musicians was really poor quality, especially at price points that "struggling" musicians could afford. Manufacturers embraced digital technology a little too early, often as a cost savings measure (or for convenience at the expense of sound quality). Analog subtractive synthesizers start incorporating digital envelopes and LFOs which were very coarse grained with low update rates (and often smoothed by an RC which slowed down times). At the minimum setting, the envelope attack time for a Moog is about 2ms, but an Oberheim Matrix 6 is maybe around 20-30ms (from memory) - slow enough to lose the 'punch'. Early digital delays were similarly terrible, with a cheap ADC and DAC, low sampling rates, and "zipper" artifacts when adjusting settings. Digital "budget" recording in the 90's often used lossy codecs (e.g. ATRAC on sony minidisc equipment) or low bit-depths and sampling rates.
Obviously, these issues are a thing of the past, having been corrected mostly due to CPU/DSP speed increases. However, it caused many musicians to question the sound quality of digital equipment, and has created a pervasive bias against digital equipment in favor of older analog equipment that persists to this day.

This post has been edited by benski: Jul 2 2012, 14:19
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greynol
post Jul 2 2012, 17:08
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I think some of you are unrealistically underestimating the quality of studio-grade analog recording. Specifically to what was actually said in the interview, the analog tracks were digitized in order to practice "moves" on them so not to degrade the tape through repeated playback. White then attributed special qualities to the playback of the analog source over the digital copy of the analog source. As such I don't see any daylight for excusing what is expectation bias.


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Ethan Winer
post Jul 2 2012, 17:44
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QUOTE (benski @ Jul 2 2012, 09:18) *
For musicians in the late 80's / early-mid 90's - digital gear for musicians was really poor quality, especially at price points that "struggling" musicians could afford.

It was still vastly better than the typical "8 tracks on a cassette" or on 1/4-inch tape PortaStudio many people were using.

--Ethan


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greynol
post Jul 2 2012, 18:02
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I still see a lot of Alesis products in use despite how bad they supposedly sound because they were widely affordable. smile.gif


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andy o
post Jul 2 2012, 20:50
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This is probably the book he's referring to. Anyone read it? Reading some of the negative reviews it seems a bit sketchy.
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mzil
post Jul 2 2012, 21:46
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The quote is actually regarding a pen, not a pencil.
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Sanchez Ploplops...
post Jul 2 2012, 23:39
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QUOTE (bug80 @ Jul 2 2012, 08:38) *
It might very well sound better to them than a digital recording, they only do not understand the reason why it does sound better. They do not understand that it is the distortion, saturation, flutter, etc. they like about it, rather than "digital has only 0's and 1's so you are missing information"-kind of arguments.


Another point is that analogue tape imposes an entirely different workflow and way of thinking about and interacting with audio, much like developing pictures in a darkroom is a fundamentally different experience from working in Photoshop, or doing an oil painting on canvas is not the same as trying to simulate one in Illustrator.

I don't think enough thought is given to how a technology can alter the creative process, and thus artistic output itself. It doesn't matter if a technology can in theory be made to mimic an older one; it's still a different beast, and that difference will eventually show in the results.
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greynol
post Jul 2 2012, 23:52
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That sounds reasonable, but no more reasonable than the likelihood that people hear differences when they expect to hear differences, even when such differences don't actually exist.

Again(!) the anecdote given by White in that interview should suspect of being tainted by expectation bias long before it is given any credibility as being real and merely being a matter of personal preference.


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markanini
post Jul 3 2012, 08:35
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Tape saturation effects are still very popular for DAWs so it might just be that White heard something that suited his tastes when listening back to what was bounced to tape. It could likely be distilled down to a function of saturation and subtle EQ.

This post has been edited by markanini: Jul 3 2012, 08:36
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2Bdecided
post Jul 3 2012, 10:57
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QUOTE (greynol @ Jul 2 2012, 23:52) *
That sounds reasonable, but no more reasonable than the likelihood that people hear differences when they expect to hear differences, even when such differences don't actually exist.
That the workflow enabled (or prevented) by the technology effects the "creative process" seems pretty obvious. Heck, I wrote an essay on it when I was 15! Just like certain tunes and chord progressions are more likely than others to "come to you" if you play a guitar vs keyboard vs whatever.

Certain sounds and instrumentations are more likely to end up on your recordings if you have 24 tracks to play with than if you have 4 or 2 or 1. The ability to overdub obviously changes the possibilities.

The quality of overbudding obviously changes the sound of the result (e.g. Les Paul single overdubs, Phil Spector many overdubs but hopelessly muddy, Roy Wood many overdubs but less muddy, modern practice as many perfect tracks+overdubs as you want).

Your actual performance will be different if you're playing to a live audience vs cutting live to wax (full re-takes now possible) vs if you're recording to tape (edits now possible) vs if you're recording to digital (edits now trivial).

The final result is certainly different. There are "wrong notes" on old recordings because it wasn't practical to fix them. There are no "wrong notes" on modern digital multi-track recordings (unless they were intentionally left in, or no one noticed them).


I guess this is all hearsay though. It would be interesting to test. You could record twice (at least) with the same musicians. In one session, use protools, allowing as many takes+edits as they want. In the other, allow them one take. Obvious practical problems with this comparison though e.g. use different music = difficult comparison; use same music = very well practised after 20 takes vs 1!

What would Sgt Pepper have sounded like if they had 100 tracks + powerful DSP available? I can't imagine anyone honestly believes it would be the same album.

Cheers,
David.

This post has been edited by 2Bdecided: Jul 3 2012, 11:00
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