[Ardour-Users] analog summing

Brent Busby brent at keycorner.org
Sun Dec 17 13:23:22 PST 2017

Will J Godfrey <WillGodfrey at musically.me.uk> writes:

> Analog systems using discrete components in conventional configurations will by
> their nature add a tiny amount of even-order distortion, mostly 2nd harmonic
> and it's this that gives to impression of thickening the sound. They will
> sometimes also add some odd-order distortion but that usually ends up macking
> the sound less pleasant.
> I'm talking really tiny amounts here, barley measurable. Too much and the
> impression breaks down and you recognise the individual harmonics.

Yeah, it's subtle.  You don't notice it until you listen to it direct,
and then you wonder where all the presence went.  It's why I've got a
mixer even though it takes a rediculous amount of room on my desk that
could have been used for something else.

I think what you're talking about is also why, now that in the 2010's
that keyboard companies are starting to make real (not virtual
DSP-based) analog synthesizers again, most of them have been pretty
boring up until very recently.  Most of them have been built with
extremely well manufactured surface mount technology that came out of
the same sort of engineering that gave us big 21 inch CRT monitors that
could display 1600x1200 the analog way.  They were about as analog as
you can get -- a big high voltage electron gun painting lines on
phosphor -- but we became so good at making those circuits that, by the
end of the CRT era, we were driving the raster scans at high frequencies
with very good performance.  We'd basically gotten to where we could
make an analog circuit perform like digital.

Now we're trying to make analog synthesizers again, and we want them to
sound like the ones we had in the 70's and 80's.  We just don't know how
to build circuits with problems like that anymore.  It's a lost art.
It's actually taken a few generations of 2000's equipment for any of
these new synthesizers to have anything near the sort of character we
expect.  The funny thing is, it's not that they aren't real analog --
they are, really.  They're just made too well.  It took the keyboard
manufacturers from about 1997 (roughly when the analog rebirth began) to
about 2007 or so to stop thinking they could just give us DSP algorithms
and we'd be happy, and now it's taken from about then to now to start
making real analogs that sound like real analogs.  We just have to
relearn the old art of making shoddy circuitry.  It takes practice.

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