An Argument for Analog …
Technology has been screaming along in the audio world … Taking full advantage of materials and manufacturing techniques undreamed of when I first started turning knobs … Producing amazing microphones and lighter and lighter loudspeaker systems … And heading in directions I could not have imagined.
The amount of control available these days is mind boggling! I have tried a few of the digital mixing boards and been impressed with the sound quality and some (but not all) of the bells and whistles available to the modern sound engineer … The clarity is amazing … Leaving me sometimes wondering what is missing!
Neat stuff … But I have decided to not make that Great Leap Forward …. I will continue to do what I have been doing all these years … Listening … And then turning knobs …
Sometimes lots of knobs!
The amount of brain power I seem to use in listening seems to take full advantage of what the old brain is capable of these days … I am beginning to suspect it does a lot more than I had been aware of. The variables involved in the physics of a musical performance can be approaching the infinite … With different types of sounds coming from different places at different times … And then bouncing around the room to complicate things even more … Talk about mind boggling!
I am currently working on the Boston production of the Urban Nutcracker with a rather straight ahead control system.
The mixing board is a small format analog desk where I am using fifteen input channels to run the show.
The mixer is “driving” a monaural speaker system and two monitor zones. To do that I have access to 482 knobs and switches on the mixer … And perhaps another 300 or so on the outboard processing rack.
In today’s world it is a bit of a luxury having direct access to all of their functions any time I would like to change something and I find not having to spend time looking for / getting to a particular function invaluable.
There seems to be a perfect time and place for a digital mixing console … I do not get to work on those types of events.
My world seems full of the less than perfect … A lot of unknowns with the occasional surprise being thrown at me during a performance … Analog rules in those situations.
The time spent getting to a particular control page on a digital mixing console to react to the changes happening on stage can be excruciating … And there can be a lot of changes happening on stage!
Being able to efficiently change different things with each hand quickly and fluidly would be a futuristic luxury in the digital world … I have had the tools to do just that for the last 35 years or so … And I am having a hard time finding reasons to give them up.
That said … I do love being able to take an I-Pad out on stage during sound check to fine tune monitor mixes … But sound checks are not always possible … And time … Well … In my world there is never enough!
Someday there may be a hybrid technology … But until then … If I am going to need to do something quickly …