In the modern era, anyone can be an audio engineer. Recording equipment and microphones have never been more accessible to the consumer thanks to the rise of computers and digital signal processing. With the introduction of USB-powered audio interfaces, amateur artists can go from unknown to internationally viral overnight from the comfort of their own bedroom. With the introduction of audio plugins that model real analog recording equipment, professional audio engineers can take their work with them wherever they go. The ubiquity of computers has allowed such hardware and software to be priced competitively while retaining the precision required in audio engineering.
Some companies, such as Universal Audio, pride themselves on their plugins, offering zero-latency, real-time processing digital emulations of analog equipment. The plugins sound almost identical to their counterparts, aiming to capture every bit of mojo within their complicated algorithms. The objective of this thesis project is to figure out just how closely these plugins are able to match the equipment that they are modeled after.
This pitting of analog versus digital will be accomplished by recording a band (playing Alabama Shakes’ Sound and Color) through two different recording rigs simultaneously. One rig, the analog rig, will be the Neve VR console in REM Studio A. The other rig, the digital rig, will be comprised of several of Universal Audio’s Apollo audio interfaces, emulating the channels of the Neve console. Every setting on the digital channels will be matched exactly with the settings of the Neve’s channels. The two recordings will be edited, overdubbed, and mixed, matching every single setting and parameter with each other.
The end result will be a set of two mixes, one completely analog and the other completely digital, all necessary studio documentation, a full objective and subjective analysis of the two mixes, and a blind preference survey of 30 people, asking which of the two mixes the subjects preferred.
McKernan, Aidan C., "Digital Versus Analog: How Well do Audio Plugins Compare to Their Analog Counterparts" (2022). Honors Scholars Collaborative Projects. 70.