Initially, analog technology was the only method of recording, playing and producing music until digital technology in music came along. Analog refers to the use of electricity when producing or recording sound while digital technology uses computer algorithms and audio converters to generate its signal.
Analog instruments include electric guitars, synthesizers, bass guitars, turntables, microphones.
Digital instruments include VST’s, plug-ins, CDs, iPods, laptops.
Unless pressing vinyl is a hobby of yours, any music that is produced will ultimately end up in some type of digital format whether its .wav, .aif, .flac, .mp3, etc..
Digital signal processing is faster, easier and much lighter to transport than that of analog recording. The digital era in music has brought many new changes to the industry and has continued to revolutionize the world of sound.
Professional studios use a combination of both analog and digital technology when recording and producing music. As electricity is a continuous signal, it provides a distinct quality to a sound often described as warmth. This is also partly the reason why people have a favourite synth, mixing console, preamp, amplifier or pedal due to the colour that the circuitry gives the signal.
Due to the nature of digital signal processing, it’s sound is often described as brittle. Digital instruments generate their signal using a binary language consisting of a unique combination of 1’s and 0’s. A digital signal is not continuous like an analog signal, rather it is discreet, meaning many points along a waveform (unique combinations of 1’s and 0’s) make up the signal creating the sound generated by our monitors.
An audio interface is also known as an audio converter as it converts digital signals from the computer into electricity for the monitors to use. When recording guitars or any outboard gear, an analog signal reaches the audio interface and is converted into a digital signal that the computer recognizes. This digital signal is then processed and sent back to the audio interface where it is then converted into an analog signal and sent to the monitors.
Audio conversions are happening all the time when listening to any digital format such as computers, CD’s, Plug-ins and other similar devices. Depending on the quality or capacity of an audio converter or sound card, the signal produced by the monitors will vary. Low quality audio converters will offer less points of a digital signal to be recognized and will begin to create more and more audible artefacts the lesser the conversion quality. A particular, minimum quality resolution must be obtained in the audio conversion to avoid the introduction of these audible artefacts created by poor resolution.
As an example, think about a TV screen…
A TV screen is made up of very tiny boxes of various solid colours and this is what makes up the grand picture on the screen. The more boxes of colours available on a screen, the higher the quality or definition of the picture becomes. This is what is referred to as resolution…720p, 1080p, 4k, 8k.
In conclusion, digital audio works in a very similar way in that small pieces of audio make up the grand spectrum of a waveform and the higher the sample rate, the higher the resolution quality.