Andrew Scheps: Don’t Mythologise the Analogue Era
Legendary mix engineer Andy Scheps shares his wisdom on a variety of topics from audio education to the loudness wars.
AudioTechnology caught up with legendary Grammy-winning mix engineer Andy Scheps at Collarts, Melbourne, to talk about all things audio. Andrew willingly shared his wisdom and unique insight on topics ranging from audio education to the age-old analogue vs digital debate. Here’s some of what he covered.
Andrew Scheps: There’s a little bit of a myth about all analogue things being better than all digital things. Well, that’s not a little myth; that’s a gigantic myth. And it is completely a myth.
The only reason digital audio exists is because people saw digital technology and thought, oh, this is way we can finally overcome all the problems with analogue audio technology: getting rid of a lot of the noise; having perfect copies instead of going down a generation as you bounce tape; and the fact tape itself completely changes what you put on it, because that’s the only way you get it to stick to the tape itself. So there are a lot of reasons why digital technology happened.
But then when you take all of that out, you realise you’re removing some personality.
So harmonic distortion is actually really good. You don’t want to completely get rid of harmonic distortion because harmonic distortion is fun and it’s ‘EQ for free’, and it’s ‘compression for free’.
So now there’s this push to put it back into the digital processing, which I love because I love things dirty. But I don’t want ‘random out-of-control dirty’ again. I now love that I’ve got control over how much dirt I want. If I want a clean EQ, I’ve got a clean EQ that does exactly what I tell it. If I want a dirty EQ, I’ve got that as well.
To have both sets of tools is great. But don’t mythologise the analogue era.
IN THE BOX DISAPPOINTMENT?
When I was transitioning from mixing on a console to mixing in the box, there were people who wanted me to mix on the console: ‘you’re going to mix it on the console, right?’ ‘Well, no, because that’s not what I’m doing now.’
I’ve never been a hard core evangelist about it either. But, at the moment, I would hate to have to mix a record analogue. It’s just not as flexible as I like to be. I don’t like working on one song at a time. There are a lot of things about the process that I would not want to deal with again. But I’m not going to say I’ll never do it again because, who knows?
If somebody is going to be bummed out that I’m mixing on an iMac and a pair of speakers and that’s it… Well, I don’t care about that, because in the end it’s about what comes out of the speakers. That’s not my catchphrase and it’s nothing new, but it’s true.
Nobody who buys that record is going to know or care what it was mixed on. It absolutely doesn’t matter.
NOBODY HATES AN OLD NEVE
They will care if the song is great and if they feel excited, and the mix will be part of their excitement when they listen to the song and connect to it emotionally. But there is nothing more emotional about a Neve mix versus a ‘not a Neve’ mix. They are just two totally different ways to do things. And there are plenty of mix engineers who hate old Neves. Not hate. Nobody hates an old Neve. They’re awesome. But they would prefer to be on an API; or they’d prefer to be on a modern SSL; or they’d prefer to be on a modern Neve, or whatever.
And it doesn’t matter. It’s just whatever gives you the tools to make what you want to hear come out of the speakers. And for me, at the moment, all the tools I need are in my computer.