Analogue vs Digital, How to ‘Hear’ when Mixing with Andrew Scheps


In this video, AudioTechnology spoke with legendary Grammy-winning mix engineer Andy Scheps , to talk about all things audio. Andrew shares his wisdom and unique insight on topics ranging from audio education to the age-old analogue vs digital debate.


0:00:00.4 –>
everybody who wanted to be in the big studio um were like trying to learn on like a little alesis compressor and um a terrible microphone and now they virtually got that la2i or that yeah everybody’s got a studio which is amazing but i mean when i was at university nobody had their own setups a couple of people had four track sets that they could do stuff on but you waited for the studio to be available to work in the studio there was one 24 track analog studio one eight track analog studio and that was it and when you weren’t in one of those studios it’s not like now where it’s like i’ll go mix it home for three hours i mean that’s it’s incredible how easy it is to gain access to the tools which also then can be dangerous because also instead of learning a few tools really well you just start collecting like every plugin you can possibly find and then

0:01:01. –>
when you go to your plugin menu you don’t even know where to start so it can all any approach can have its own pitfalls but the other resources available now are just incredible there are a lot of people who are very nostalgic for the old model where you could just be in a room and learn from an engineer because there were a thousand studios in every city and you could be an assistant and work under different engineers and producers and learn and that is an amazing way to learn but at the same time now there are millions of videos online and a lot of them good and some of them are very specifically how to listen to compression and you get to hear a single source different attack and release times different topologies of compressors and you say great i love effect compressors on snares now and i know why i would want a slow attack to get the transient through as opposed to just like oh i’ve seen someone use this compressor on snare

0:02:01.1 –>
and then if you get to the point where it doesn’t work on a particular song you kind of don’t know what to do so it’s really easy to get a thorough education but it’s also interesting because i’ve seen this lately where someone will have watched some videos online and whether the videos are right or not doesn’t even matter but they get some rules about things about if you like best practices we don’t even call them rules because rules is ridiculous in something creative but best practices in terms of level or gain structure whatever but they don’t have the complete set of rules they have a few rules and so to adhere to those rules they do crazy things in other parts of their mix and that’s where i think the problem is is trying to get a complete education and it’s why i actually advocate for going to school for a bit because at least there’s a curriculum where someone has

0:03:01.7 –>
thought like here’s all the stuff you should probably know instead of you just cherry-picking or not understanding some of the videos you watched earlier on but you never go back to them so educating yourself is really really hard because there’s no right answer but i still think it’s really important to sort of chase the basics there’s a little bit of a myth about all analog things being better than all digital things and that well that’s not a little myth that’s a gigantic myth and it is completely a myth what i think people are chasing is that the only reason digital audio exists is because people saw digital technology and thought oh this is a way we can finally overcome all the problems with analog audio technology getting rid of a lot of the noise having perfect copies of things instead of having to always be going down a generation as you bounce tape uh the fact that tape itself

0:04:01.7 –>
completely changes what you put on it because that’s the only way you get it to stick to the tape itself so there are a lot of reasons why digital technology happened but then when you take all of that out you start to realize that well okay but some of that is personality so harmonic distortion is actually really good and you don’t want to completely get rid of harmonic distortion because harmonic distortion is fun and it’s eq for free and it’s compression for free and things like that so now there’s this push to put it back into the digital processing which i love because i love things dirty but i don’t want random out of control dirty again i now love that i’ve got control over how much dirt so if i want a cleaning cue i’ve got a cleaning cue that does exactly what i tell it if i want a dirty eq there it is so to have both sets of tools is great

0:05:01.6 –>
but don’t mythologize the analog era of things there have been a few projects where not anymore but when i was transitioning where people wanted me to mix on the console like we’re gonna mix it on the console right i said well no because that’s not what i’m doing now and i was never um hardcore evangelist about it either i’m not gonna say at the moment i would hate to have to mix a record analog it just it’s not as flexible as i like to be i don’t like working on one song at a time there are a lot of things about the process that i would not want to deal with again but i’m not going to say i’ll never do it again because who knows i used to and then i change so i could change again um so i’m not going to pretend to know anything in particular i just know how i like to work right now and if somebody is going to be bummed

0:06:01.1 –>
out that i’m mixing on an imac with a pair of speakers and that’s it well i don’t the the reason that i don’t care about that is because and this is like it’s not my catchphrase and other people say the same thing and the concept simple but the only thing that matters is what comes out of the speakers and nobody who buys that record is going to know or care what it was mixed on it absolutely doesn’t matter they will care if the song is great and they feel excited and the mix will be part of their excitement when they listen to the song and connecting to it emotionally but there is nothing more emotional about a neve then not an eve they’re just two totally different ways to do things and there are plenty of people who mix who hate old neves not hate nobody hates an old neef they’re awesome but they would prefer to be on an api or

0:07:01.1 –>
they’d prefer to be on a modern ssl or they’d prefer to be on a modern neve or whatever and it doesn’t matter it’s just whatever gives you the tools to make what you want to hear come out of the speakers and that for me at the moment all the tools i need are in my computer i think it’s really important to get the makeup gain especially on a bus compressor to where it is actually the same level when you take it out because otherwise there’s no way to judge it if it’s half a db louder either way that’s the one you’re gonna pick so it’s that you also you have to just learn to hear compression just like you have to learn to hear when there’s too much reverb or when there’s something that’s boomy or it’s it’s all just training your ears to hear things and every audio process does something and a lot of them also have

0:08:00.3 –>
artifacts that come along with doing the thing and the more you use something the more you immediately recognize the artifacts so at the beginning when you’re learning how to mix you might not realize that the reason something’s happening is because of let’s say compression but 10 years in you absolutely know so you don’t you don’t even really think about it you’re just automatically bringing levels down to hit things the way you want to hit them or upping the threshold or you know whatever the option is that the mastering loudness wars are over and you won them yes is there kind of what happened to the loudness wars why are they over um i don’t think i i hear stories about like labels wanting things louder to compete on radio i never have it’s never come up i’ve never

0:09:01.2 –>
tried to make something loud because of the level ever so i mean i say that as a joke because of the metallica record because that won but we weren’t going after a particular level at all that was just that was the record we were making and it’s always just been the record room making so yeah it’s a joke but as far as i’m concerned i was never part of the loudness war i just i mix loud that’s what i do and the mixes are getting quieter now but that’s just because taste changes my taste other bands taste but um yeah anyway that’s it i i think part of it is we can be geeky the way loudness is measured keeps changing so you want to talk about your peak level your rms level and now they talk about long term levels with loves and things and it doesn’t really measure

0:10:01.5 –>
anything that’s particularly relevant because i know records i’ve mixed even recently are above whatever the standard is at the moment with the digital streaming services and they all have different reference levels and they all change them whenever they feel like it so it’s not like you can work towards a standard because there isn’t a standard and they will change it and most likely they will change it because they’re quieter than the other services and people complain so then they will become louder so to try and adhere to that is ridiculous but also even though knowing that if you measure some of the records i’ve done recently against those standards that my records are louder so therefore they’re being turned down i’ve never had a band say hey our record sounds quiet on spotify and if they did i would be upset about that like that’s no good it needs to compete in that when you hear it it’s exciting

0:11:00.7 –>
and it won’t be exciting if it sounds much quieter than everything else and obviously this stuff is being turned down but nobody’s ever said that so the units they’re using to measure it aren’t how you perceive things anyway right so i basically ignore all of that i don’t pay any attention

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