Since the late 1800s, musicians all around the globe have found ways to immortalize their music by recording it. From wax cylinders and magnetic tape all the way to laptops with a single channel interface, there are many ways musicians have accomplished this task.

While the majority of modern engineers have switched to the digital realm of recording, there are quite a number of producers who have stayed true to the analog world of multitrack tape machines.

Let’s talk about how analog and digital actually differ.

The Sound

We’re going to start with sound because it’s arguably the most important aspect of recording, right?

Analog elitists like to boast about how digital could never recreate the “tape sound.” This is something that has always bugged me because there is not really a “tape sound.” Depending on what sort of tape deck you are using, the tape itself, as well as the engineer using it tape can have many different qualities, just as digital can. Not to say that digital can recreate all of the sounds that tape can produce and vice versa, but each does, in fact, bring their own sound qualities to the table.

While tape has no one sound, there is no denying that it brings extra sonic characteristics to the table. Even a digital connoisseur can listen to the output of a console vs the return signal after going through the tape and hear quite a difference. There are an inherent hiss and saturation (distortion) that is associated with tape recordings, that you wouldn’t get on a digital recording. The terms ‘hiss’ and ‘distortion’ sound like bad things, and they certainly can be bad things when overdone, but in this case, many find that a light touch of these can bring life to a recording.

On the contrary, the digital palette gives you the freedom and ability to produce the most crystal clear recordings that tape cannot accomplish, not to mention the ability to produce sound on a budget.


To point out the obvious, one of the biggest differences between analog and digital is the method you go about actually acquiring your desired sound.

A lot of the analog guys resent the mindset of the digital producer who stares at a computer screen like a zombie and uses his eyes more than his ears. The analog world requires you to focus more on the recording process and real-world sound that you hear to perfect the performance and the music. The digital world brings you the ability to use high-resolution EQs and plugins, which allow someone with a terrible ear to use surgical editing to kill off bad frequencies.

While I do agree that we should rely on our ears and not our eyes, I think the addition of high-resolution EQs and sound manipulation available to us is an amazing tool. Even if it is ‘cheating’ a bit.

Be sure to check out our guide on EQing Digital Guitars to see some surgical EQ in action!


I respect any engineer who has the patience to pull out a razor blade and manually cut tape, to edit songs, because good lord would I be too frustrated for that.

Luckily, in the digital world, we have tools in our DAWs that allow us to edit with essentially limitless options.

Want to reverse a track? Done.

Want to cut off some noise at the end of a vocal performance? Easy.

You only have to re-track the pre-chorus? Simple enough!

The power of editing in the digital realm is a special tool that goes under appreciated by analog enthusiasts due to it’s easy and effortless methodology.


Let’s face it, digital recording is easier…and much cheaper. It does not have all of the sonic characteristics and mojo of analog, but it is seemingly limitless. On the contrary, Analog brings a special, personal aspect of recording to the table. Being able to work with physical tape and craft a song the ‘old fashioned way’ is something that not everyone can do or even have the opportunity to experience.

There’s no ‘better’ or ‘correct’ way to record music. Just stop arguing over which way is better and have fun with it!

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This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana

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