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Sound recording and reproduction is a re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects.
The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording.
Acoustic analog recording is achieved by a microphone diaphragm that can detect changes in atmospheric pressure (acoustic sound waves) and record them as a graphic representation of the sound waves on a medium such as a phonograph.
In magnetic tape recording, the sound waves vibrate the microphone diaphragm and are converted into a varying electric current, which is then converted to a varying magnetic field.
Analog sound reproduction is the reverse process, with a bigger loudspeaker diaphragm causing changes to atmospheric pressure to form acoustic sound waves.
Electronically generated sound waves may also be recorded directly from devices such as an electric guitar pickup or a synthesizer, without the use of acoustics in the recording process other than the need for musicians to hear how well they are playing during recording sessions.
In other words, electric instruments can be recorded directly into the recording unit with musicians wearing headphones to hear their performance.
Digital sound recording and reproduction converts the analog sound signal picked up by the microphone to a digital form by a process of digitization, allowing it to be stored and transmitted by a wider variety of media.
Digital recording stores audio as a series of binary numbers representing samples of the amplitude of the audio signal at equal time intervals, at a sample rate high enough to convey all sounds capable of being heard.
Digital recordings are considered higher quality than analog recordings, not necessarily because they have higher fidelity (wider frequency response or dynamic range), but because the digital format can prevent loss of quality found in analog recordings due to noise and electromagnetic interference in playback, and mechanical deterioration or damage to the storage medium.
A digital audio signal must be reconverted to analog form during playback before it is applied to a loudspeaker or earphones.
These days music is often recorded in digital form as it easier faster to record, edit and manipulate.
It's also cheaper. However, most recordings once complete, are transferred or mixed down to analog tape to gain back the warmth that can often be lost in a digital recording process.
That's why people are going back and listening to LPs and turntables again. Very interesting!
AUDIO RECORDING DEVICES
All computers have the capacity to perform sound recording and reproduction. With the right software you have a home studio in your laptop. I have found Macs to be the most user friendly audio recording computers, no matter what digital recording software you have chosen.
The easiest way to begin is to use Garageband which comes with any Mac you buy on the market. The compatible upgrade from there is Logic Pro X.
I still use the Yamaha AW2816 DAW with an internal hard drive. I find it so user friendly that I still use it in conjunction with my Yamaha Motif. For home recording, software is the wave of the future, but hard drive units still work very well. I have actually begun to use Logic Pro X as well.
Hard drive units are mini versions of real mixing boards in professional studios. Sometimes having your hands on the faders and panning knobs helps you control the recording process.
*Here is a discussion on the top pro mixing consoles.
*Here is an excellent timeline on a brief history of sound recording.
Sound recording and reproduction is an art and science unto itself. If you want to learn more and take some online courses visit my Berklee page.