Is it more than just the medium?
Having worked in professional recording studios and been a musician of the digital age this has been a much pondered question. The debate has raged on in the public forum and many of my working philosophies have depended on what my stance is with this very subject.
It wasn't until recent years that this was even a question. Audiophiles of yore could easily prove the wonderful experience of hi-fi analog sound. But then tech caught up. And suddenly you could only tell the difference because the analog was actually degraded and noisier! Everything was suddenly flipped upside down and we had a sound revolution.
But the Analog champions kept waving their flag saying things like, "the extra noise actually creates glue in the sound," or, "it's the infinite compression, man." I never could tell the difference. My ears, even as a professional, were not golden enough to hear the impact on the music.
Until this week.
I finally went all out and got a nice record player. And I just so happen to have stellar studio reference gear. I got her all set up and had myself a listening party. Of course the first record I played had to be brand new, and it had to be the baddest new music I could think of. So I got Mehliana: Taming the Dragon by Brad Mehldau and Mark Giuliana.
We cranked it and sat in silence. I could feel them. We were in the same room. The sense of space was unlike anything I have experienced withholding live performances. But this WAS a live performance! At least, it felt that way. I got to thinking about gnosticism and the idea of emanations of being, and how music is a momentary emanation of the performers being. I was in the room with these guys! Then the emanation thought led back to my experience with all recorded media and reminded me that a part of the artist's soul is in every one of his or her creations.
And it hit me. The reason analog is better is I am actually experiencing analog reproductions of the sound of a moment in time that has been captured infinitely, whereas the digital is just slices and samples of that same moment. Does it sound better? In the technical academic way, no. But, I believe you are closer in reality to the moment by experiencing an analog reproduction of the moment rather than the the sampled digital version, and that experience, to me is a much more momentous and precious feeling than I have had with recorded music ever before. I was able to actually touch and commune with my favorite musicians of all time. Pretty awesome, I recommend trying it.