Tarekith wrote:For years I was the guy arguing that (everything being equal) all DAWs sounded the same, or the differences were beyond the range of our playback equipment and hearing. Every test I've run or tried has shown the same thing, people can't accurately hear the differences.
Then I became a full-time mastering engineer and spent a LOT of time talking to other musicians about how things SOUND. And I realized that everyone hears things differently, none of us hears things exactly the same way. Over and over I've been amazed at how different people focus on different areas of music, in how they approach conveying and describing it to others. In how they internalize and interpret what reaches their ears.
I've met people who could hear the tiniest changes to the most background parts in a song, but miss the fact that they had muted the vocal track in one section accidentally. Or people who swore two identical copies of the exact same song sounded completely different. Usually the differences are more subtle, but I've been surprised at what the human brain can honestly believe it is hearing.
Now, I'm not so sure all DAWs sound the same to people.
Personally, I think everyone uses a lot of other external sensory inputs when determining how things sound. Maybe one DAW is slightly brighter in it's color palette, and for some reason that triggers something where that person hears things as slightly brighter. I don't know, I have no idea how it works or what is happening. But I do think that for whatever reason, people can legitimately hear differences where others can not.
The question of are those differences really there in the first place is the thorny bit though, and for that I still turn to the cold hard science of digital audio. Maybe one day we'll have a better way of describing and measuring sound.
Ultimately though, it's a dumb fucking thing to argue about no matter what. If you can't make a great professional sounding track in ANY modern DAW, it's not the tool's fault.
^ Thanks Tarekith, this post is exactly why it's not a bad thing for this discussion to be bumped every now and then.
I don't see it as old hat at all, and I think this issue is a big one in audio and probably worth doing a PhD on.
I was having this conversation with someone just the other day who was telling me "the audio engine in pro tools sounds better" and it was an interesting discussion because I think the guy knows his stuff, but I really disagreed with that assertion.
I was saying I would probably describe myself as an "audiophile sceptic" - meaning I am highly sceptical about a lot of these kind of claims in audio because I think there are massive amounts of placebo involved, and I also think the term "audio engine" is a misnomer.
But "placebo" is maybe also a misnomer, as it's more about how the brain actually deals with this stuff, and "placebo" gives the impression that you might be imagining it, but as you point out Tarekith there is definitely somehting valid going on and people definitely notice *something*. The really interesting question is what that something mostly is.
But it's not a simple answer, it's an accumulation of a whole bunch of somethings. But ultimately it's down to the decisions made by the person using it, so in this sense I consider "audio engine" maybe in the sense that different people feel more comfortable driving different cars and an experienced formula 1 driver might hate driving a truck and end up burning out the motor while a 17 year old kid who just got his license might wrap a formula 1 car around a tree because they both drive differently.
People will just prefer the way one DAW works over another and thus get a better sound out of it.
But what made me feel like arguing with this guy is he used the words "the audio engine in PT sounds better". I think he was probably actually saying more or less the same thing as me, but the choice of words implied something different. Partly because I'm very inexperienced with pro-tools so to me it takes longer to get a good sound, so judged purely on that I should say pro-tools sounds worse. But I wouldn't say it was because of the "audio engine", just because I don't know where everything is and am not as quick with it.