Analogue / Digital Mastering The combination of analogue and digital processing makes for an extremely flexible option not only just for Evolution Mastering but for every step of the creative process from recording to mixing etc.
I’m not going to get into the analogue vs digital debate, each have their own merits. Starting with analogue processing the main advantage when it comes to the sound (which is the main priority here) is imperfection. Analogue signals are not perfect, they will never replicate the exact same result every time (although this is extremely difficult to actually pick out). It is this imperfection that we find so musical sounding. The slight nuances and distortions in an analogue signal is something that we find very pleasing to listen to. Obviously every box has it’s own sound and it’s down to the mix / mastering engineer to decide (through experience and experimentation) which is the best option for the job.
At Evolution the custom G-series compressor gets used on a large number of projects. It has enough options to be flexible enough to use on lots of different sound sources and the sound of it is incredible.
The future for the analogue side of Evolution is to break out into the EQ world, possibly something along the lines of API, Sontec etc
Of course while analogue does provide a great sound and the ergonomics can be a real joy to work with sometimes they just don’t offer enough flexibility and that’s where digital signal processing comes into play.
The biggest advantage that digital processing brings to the table is flexibility. We can do things that analogue just simply can’t do. When it comes to transparency as well this is the option that comes up on top, we don’t need to think about converters S/N ratio etc and although it may not be deemed as musical, having a process that is technically ‘perfect’ every time may be what we are after.
The majority of digital processing at Evolution is done through the UAD 2 Duo card. For some of the plugins such as the Manley Massive Passive and Pultec that are emulation based they get most of the way there. The advantage to being ITB is being able to use more than one instance, easy recall as well as not having any downtime from repairs etc.
For emulations I would highly recommend the UAD system (or other similar dedicated DSP systems). Due to the amount of processing power needed these are the best way to ensure that projects avoid maxing out on processing power while still having enough detail to provide a faithful reproduction of the emulated unit.
For the more ‘surgical’ processing then we can get away with less processor intensive plugins. Even the stock plugins found in a lot of DAWS can be great for this. If you need even more flexible options then something like the DMG Equilibrium EQ can offer even more options. This is still one that’s not made it’s way into the digital collection here at Evolution yet but after demoing it on a few instances it’s only a matter of time.
Which to use
It all depends on the project whether analogue or digital is right for it. Sometimes mastering can be done with entirely analogue, sometimes all digital and most of the time a combination of both. Usually I find that projects that have been mixed too cleanly and entirely in the box benefit more from analogue processing whereas tracks that are fairly dynamic, distorted, ‘alive’ etc etc may be better off with some more transparent digital processing. Of course this isn’t the case every time and each song has it’s own case but that’s just a common observation from experience.