02004-12-01 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

Music: Downward Spiral – NIN

Adam asks what HD is. HD stands for High Definition. My ProTools rig is HD and can record up to 24bit/192,000Hz. However, regular CDs are only 16bit/44,100Hz.

I recorded every album starting with christmas + santa fe and ending with The Santa Fe Sessions at 24bit/48,000Hz and then dithered and converted the music down to CD quality. I always found it very depressing to convert stuff down for the CD… I also found that I preferred to hear exactly what the music would sound like on the final product, i.e. at 16bit/44,100Hz. Therefore I recorded La Semana and the upcoming 1001 Christmas Nights (2005) at 16/44.1KHz.

My philosophie is that I should compose and record for the medium that is sold to the public. In other words, I won’t turn a color movie into a black & white movie or vice versa. Of course the downside of this is that I won’t be able to sell the same product again via a better medium – how many re-issues of Pink Floyd does everyone have now? The original vinyl, the first CDs, then a re-mastered CD, then SACD etc. etc.

Anyway, the sound has a huge influence on how I work. You play better on a guitar that sounds great, enjoying every note you play, right? Same thing. If they find a great medium that is widely used, I will enjoy writing music for that medium. I find that converting music to Surround Sound, like we did for the Wide-eyed + Dreaming DVD is OK, but I would rather compose especially for 5.1 Surround Sound – much more fun.

Another issue for me is the amount of data. At 24/48KHz you are using more data than recording at 16/44.1KHz and at 24/192KHz you are using four times more data than at 24/48KHz! All that data needs to get managed. To record at 24/192KHz you have to use a seperate drive for every 8 tracks, which means if you use 32 tracks for your song, you are running 4 drives with 8 tracks a piece. No big deal, right? Drives are cheap, etc…. Yeah, but all of that has to be backed up, the drives have to be defragmented – if you believe in that, and you have to run diagnostic software from time to time. And all of that takes time! In a big studio that is no problem. You have a guy who comes in and does nothing but back up drives on tape or DVD, service the drives, and generally makes sure everything is in good shape.

The whole reason I am enjoying digital recording is because I can do it by myself. The technology frees me. If I were to record HD, I would become a slave to managing data, rather than concentrating on the music – and for what, to get really, really depressed when I convert the beautiful sound of 24/192KHz to the nasty CD sound? No way, I’d rather stick with 16/44.1KHz for now.

PS: Here is an interesting article on bits versus frequency and the author concludes that the sampling rate is more important than the bit rate. However, a higher bit-rate is important to get more head-room, i.e. for music that has more dynamic range. Jazz for example. Jon records everything at the 24 bit-rate.


  1. Carolynn

    This is very interesting commentary for those of us who are unsavvy in this area. Thanks for thinking “out loud” on this subject.

  2. Canton

    I’ve wanted to hear a super audio CD system for a long time now. It’s a cool idea. Instead of 44khz or 192khz sampling, you do 2822khz (2.8 Mhz) sampling. When you get that much time-resolution, then instead of needing 16 or 24 bits of amplitude resolution, you just need a single bit to represent *direction*: 0 = the waveform was going down at this moment, 1= the waveform was going up.

    The result is that (apparently) you get this totally amazing sound quality, but the data rate isn’t huge. (It takes as little as twice the storage space as regular 44.1/16.)

    What I’ve always wondered is whether it’s impossible for this technology to get cheap because of the processor you’d need to encode/decode direct stream digital audio. PCM AD/DA’s are 5, 10 cents in consumer products. I doubt a system that calculates at 2.8 Mhz would be nearly so cheap…


  3. Tito Martinez

    I was wondering what kind of mastering you do on your music. Do you use analogue compressors and eq’s or do you stay in the digital domain by using Sound Forge or something like that? It is interesting to see, because the final sound is pretty much determined on the mastering stages. I’m just curious.


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