Analogue versus digital

Jack Prest on Analogue Vs Digital – Part 2


Analogue Vs Digital Part 2 – Synths and Drum Machines

Read Part 1 Here

For part two of the Analogue versus digital shootout we will be comparing (arguably) the worlds most famous drum machine, the Roland TR-808 with its software equivalent inside Ableton, and the monstrous Korg MS-20 with its software MS-20 from the Korg Legacy collection.

Originally designed as an alternative for musicians who didn’t know (couldn’t afford) any drummers to perform with, the TR-808 (along with TR-909) went on to influence and shape and sound of a generation of electronic musicians. Testament to the universal appeal of the 808, in recent years it has become a staple of electronic production. Imagining club hip hop tracks without a booming 808 kick is like imagining garage rock without distorted guitars. The original TR-808 units have gained almost mythical status and fetch 10 times what they sold for when first released in the early 80’s; luckily enough we have one residing in Studio 6!

For this demo, I have programmed the same beat on the Ableton sampled 808, by cutting up audio of the TR-8 samples made in Studio 2 and then on the TR-808 analogue drum machine. There is also a version of the sequence inside Ableton triggering the analogue drum machine.

click on image to download the sample pack.
Our TR-808 via Fairchild 670 Sample Pack

For the MS-20, first I’ll A/B the basic waveforms with both the high and low-pass filters completely open. Then A/B of the high pass and low pass filters sweeping through their full range first with the resonance turned to 0 and second with the resonance turned to full.

Here are the recordings for you to compare:

For me this one is a no brainer, analogue hardware wins hands down. It’s the instantaneous feeling that you are working with a real sound. I find consistently when working with hardware that as soon as you get you sound right on the unit it requires little if any processing, where as I would need to work a lot harder to achieve a similar energy from a software instrument. In the case of the 808 the sequencer also brings something special with the groove and feel of the unit far out performing that of Ableton (although you can use groove quantizing to achieve similar results, the point is it’s already there to begin with on the hardware).

Korg MS-20 (software controller & hardware versions)

The other reason I love analog hardware is it’s hands on nature of operation which enable you to work far more organically that tweaking settings with a mouse. If you’re an electronic music producer I strongly recommend you get yourself some analogue hardware, even if it’s a crappy old cheap Casio. The limitations of the device enable you to generate something that can help to define your sound and give your production a unified direction. At the very least get yourself a quality midi controller and make templates for your favourite soft synths to help at least bring the interface into the real world.

[Written by Jack Prest who is an In-house Producer/Engineer at Studios 301]

To book Jack for your next project, contact us on 02 9698 5888

Jack Prest