Analog recording and Digital Recording analysis

When you listen to a tape, do you know how the sound got there? When you purchase a CD or a record, do you know which will sound better and last longer?   Do you know the components of Digital and Analog recording? In this essay I will define, explain and compare the similarities of Digital and Analog recording. Analog recording means, “the waveform of the recorded signal resembles the waveform of the original.” (Alten)records were of the few amongst the beginning of Analog recording, however, compared to Digital recording, Analog has “a low-frequency control due to the fact that the amplitude of the electrical signal produced was proportional to the side to side velocity of the stylus.” (Walsh)

Something in which people listen to frequently is Audiotape. Audiotape in Analog recording is defined as “the conversion of electrical signals into magnetic signals in the recording stage and then it is encoded onto tape. When the tape is played back, magnetic signals are then reconverted back into electrical signals.” (Alten)

The composure of Audiotape recording is a “stripe of plastic which has been coated with material that is easily magnetized. It has three heads, which are the Erasehead, Recordhead and the Playhead, which is also known as the E.R.P.” (Alten)The signals that are applied to the Recordheads are “equalized according to the speed and the tape type.” (Digital Domain)

The functions of the three different types of Heads are as follows. The Erasehead; “neutralizes the polarities of the magnetic particles to remove sound from the tape.” (Alten) This is why most people are careful of hitting that record button by accident, while playing valuable information. The Recordhead is the one we use when dubbing a song or our voices to tape. “It carries two signals, the record bias current, and the audio current. This signal is fed to the recorder from the original sound.” (Alten) The Playhead “transduces the magnetic field from the tape back into electricity energy.” (Alten) Analog recording is popular, however this technical trend may be endangered due to its rivalry, “Digital recording. To many engineers, Digital recording is considered to be most convenient.” (Walsh)

Digital recording “uses a numerical representation of the Audio signals actual frequency and amplitude.” (Alten) When recording in Digital, there is a process of taking Analog and digitizing it. These steps consist of “ the inputting of Analog signals to the anti aliasing (Low pass filter), then to simple and hold, to Analog to Digital conversion, then to data encoding, error correction, record modulation and then data recording (tape, disk etc).” (Alten) It’s a long process, but you have more access to fixing, changing and adding on things to your sound.

When being compared to Analog, Digital wins because it as more options. For instance, when an Analog reel to reel recorder is compared with a 16-bit Digital recorder “total harmonic distortion on an Analog recorder is 0.2% and on Digital it’s 0.005%. Wow, and Flutter is 0.03% on Analog and unmeasurable on Digital. Loss of S/N during copying for analog is 3db and on Digital none. The one that is looked at the most is deterioration over time. Which for Analog there is and for Digital there is no deterioration at all as long as it is within the limits of correctability of the system.” (Mieszkowski. Ph.D.) Therefore Digital recording is looked at with favoritism due to its outstanding qualities. With all that said there are some bad qualities in Digital recording.

“Bad Digital equipment has distortion and harshness.” (Digital Domain) There are numerous causes that can add to a bad Digital connection, therefore like with all technological equipment, “good maintenance is vital towards production.” (Mieszkowski. Ph.D.) Hence, we should maintain and clean our equipment.

In closing, “Digital is somewhat much easier for people to use and it allows them to do unnatural things in order to produce whatever their product is. Analog is viable and it’s probably the most important way to record music and sounds. (Walsh)

Neither one will go extinct since they are both used widely and worldly.


Alten. R. Stanely.  “Audio in Media: The Recording Studio.” Wadsworth Publishing Company. USA. 1996.

Mieszkowski, Ph.D. Marek, Roland. “Introduction to Digital Recording Techniques.” Canadian Acoustical Association Journal. 1989.

Walsh, Christopher. Analog’s Popularity Holding. ProSound News. NYC April 19, 1999.

“Back to Analog Why Retro is Better and Cheaper.” Digital Domain. (Revision from ProSound News, January 1997.


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