Whether or not the demise of analog is around the corner has been a hot topic of late. Digital technologies have certainly affected professional audio, but let’s delve into both sides of the topic and take a closer look at analog.
For years, touring companies have used analog mixing consoles. Models like PM4000/5000’s, K2, and the Heritage 3000 were household names. Most consoles were huge and required a whole crew of people to move. Many analog mixing consoles had excellent mic pre’s and all the features a live sound engineer would want.
Digital consoles, on the other hand, come in smaller footprints, often weigh less and feature onboard processing. In fact, a digital console has the capacity to perform so much processing that it can take the place of several FOH racks worth of gear.
Why mention these things? Perhaps I am offering additional reasons to move to digital. But let’s remember: analog reigns supreme in some applications.
Most schools don’t need a digital mixer. In fact, in many situations analog offers a more user-friendly interface. What concerns me most about digital mixers is the fact that many functions are accessed through pages, typically displayed on the digital mixer screens.
While I see the value in digital mixers when under the capable hands of an experienced sound engineer, I am a bit leery about putting that same digital mixer under the hands of someone who has little to no experience in sound engineering. I have known inexperienced operators to accidentally hit buttons that send the digital mixer into a new mode and not be able to return the mixer to its original settings.
There isn’t a way to justify purchasing a digital mixer for simple applications, especially when some merely require a couple of inputs. I think that anything computerized and running on a processor could have problems. I am sure we all have dealt with products that required constant firmware updates to resolve a particular issue.
While analog isn’t without problems, things like firmware updates are simply not a concern. In it simplest application, analog is easy to troubleshoot. We don’t need to be concerned with IP addresses, network settings, etc. that are incorporated into many digital products.
While many digital mixing systems offer a multitude of controls, many of them are not user-friendly enough for inexperienced users.
Digital mixers are coming into light as the new norm, but I do think there is still a place for their analog counterparts. While I don’t feel analog will disappear, we will see a change.
Jeffrey L. Miranda is president of NeoLogic Sound, a commercial integrator specializing in high-performance audio systems. He has been a live sound engineer for theatrical performances, church worship services, in addition to indoor and outdoor concerts.