Analog synthesis vs sample

So, I was wondering:

Is there really a difference between samples or analog sounds?
Is it some kind of spiritual magic in the analog circuitry that can’t be explained or is it just placebo?

My ears are not the best, I can not hear any difference between highest quality mp3 and wav.
When converted to wav or played through a daw or sampler does the analog kick get converted and lose its magic?

So many questions, so little answers… I hope you can change that… <3

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A sample is a static recording, each time you play it it’s identical - with synthesis (whether analog or digital) the sounds are being created, which means they often have more life and dynamics, subtle variation and the ability to modulate parameters spontaneously.


Think you mean the same patch on analogue vs sampled patch. No difference except maybe a bit of noise.

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To use the kick as an example, analogue sounds (at least the sort of analogue sounds that people like) have a natural sort of wobble or slew, so that every time the kick triggers, it sounds very slightly different. Sometimes this is noticeable, sometimes not, but it creates just a tiny bit of variation and movement.

Obviously a sample is exactly the same sound every time, which can sound a bit flat and stale. Of course, the best samplers (both human and machine) create variation with the tools at hand (gentle modulation of pitch or sample start time/decay being good examples).

There’s also a fair bit of subjectivity involved.


Analog has a presence and definition that digital just doesn’t have. Plus, when pushed to the limits (think resonant, squelchy filters), analog performs better under duress.

Bit if it doesn’t make a difference to you, there’s no reason to sweat it.


You can make a shakergroove that is so quiet in relation to the the track you don’t think you can hear it, until you turn it off, and you can hear how much movement the whole thing loses.

I guess analog is like that, but you’ll never be able to turn the “analog” bit off to really hear it.

Doesn’t mean it’s always a positive though, imo.


analog is more important in the creative process in my view.

if you noodle with an analog synth, twiddling dials and modifying voltages, and record it. That’s the essence.

Thereafter all recording of that, these days, are essentially digital samples - whether as a small snippet in your daw or as you listen to the finished track on your digital audio player.

So it’s all about the initial performance piece.


I don’t know that it loses it’s magic per se, but it doesn’t move like analog. For instance, let’s say I load up 808 samples in my Digitakt. It’s going to good, but, they are static. If you hear a real 808, there may be slight things that change from one hit to the next because it is analog. It feels a little more more alive. I think that is what Roland got right with their ACB modeling in the Boutiques and TR-8, is a little movement there.

Of course, if you have a sampler like the DT, then you can add your own subtle movement with LFO’s and/or Envelope’s to liven it up a little. It may not be the exact same, but it’s something to experiment with anyway and maybe you will find something cool there.

And of course you can just use static samples. There is nothing wrong with that at all. A lot of people do that, and it sounds good too.


There’s always the option of multi-samples.


It’s the difference between playing a sample of a water faucet being turned on, and standing in front of a water faucet and turning it on. You can slowly turn the faucet handle, and it’ll be louder or quieter depending on how far you open it. But the trickle that comes out when it’s nearly closed, or the strong stream that comes out when it’s fully open will each sound different than just turning the volume up or down on your water faucet sample. The transition from almost closed to fully open will also not be something you could capture with your original sample of the faucet running.
You could record another sample of the faucet being turned from closed to open though. You could even record a series of samples of the faucet opening and closing to make a wave table of sorts. That would get you really close. But it still won’t be variable in the same way as just standing there opening and closing the real faucet.

Yes my apartment has fantastic water pressure :smirk:


One of these is a digital emulation, one is analog. It’s a matter of personal choice.

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Now I’m getting thirsty.


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but once recorded. Analog is a digital sample too :upside_down_face:

I also think that analog synth have some kind of magic. Especially listening to them live, instead of hearing a recording… Not all of them though. Depends on the synth.


There are real, measurable subtleties in analog that fully explain its appeal. Call it spiritual magic if you want, but I can show you the science with an oscilloscope.

Analog synthesis: you will never quite get the same thing twice. This can result in a pleasant liveness or drive you to madness, depending on how you approach sound.

Analog control: 127 steps is laughably coarse resolution for synthesis. It is fine for twelve tone equal temperament and east coast style subtractive synthesis, but can be limiting as you get deeper into sound design. The sweet spot in your filter may be hidden between two steps. If you are doing FM, no amount of resolution is enough. Analog control is why I got into Eurorack, and why I was OK with a digital oscillator - the Hertz Donut Mk1.

Analog patching: The Virus is wired up in a fairly conventional east-coast subtractive configuration. A cable-based patch system allows you to do things that were never intended. That was a secondary reason for getting into Eurorack.

I left Eurorack because:

  • Great discrete analog synths like the Syntax and Lyra exist and do everything I wanted my Euro to do
  • High resolution control on digital or digitally-controlled analog synths is becoming more common
  • Digital models in synths like the TR-8s and Jupiter Xm are very very good. Not necessarily perfect recreations of the original, but imperfect in the spirit of how the originals were imperfect.

Finally: a major discovery for me was the realization that many sounds I previously thought were “analog” were in fact Yamaha DX-series sounds. :upside_down_face:


But sometimes, the digital emulation can be just as good. Case in point :

…truu analog means, even at it’s hi end level, some sort of little imperfection here and there…and our human ears, not the best in and by nature anyways, and even if most of us can’t really detect this, we tend to associate all kinds of warmth and sonic humbleness with that…because no matter what, we can clearly tell, what’s too repetative, too perfect, too clean pretty well…

but since digital domain got better and “better”, we’re able to even simulate all that little imperfections more and more convincing…therefor, all that analog magic starts to slip off our hands and all lines of former perception get blurried…if synthesis is based on transistors u can see, or on transistors u can’t really see anymore, since all that basic concepts and differences are buried in chips these days and we’re talking not milimeters anymore, but nano meters…and what’s simulated, and what’s for “real” get’s lost in translation for the 21st century anyways…

while the basic difference between a sample and synthesis remains forever…
the sample is a frozen moment in time…
while synthesis is a realtime thing…
therefor, u can do a lot with a sample…
but with synthesis there’s literally nothing u can’t do…

If you can’t afford an analog kick (like on an analog drum machine), then perhaps you can try a software emulation/app.

Then use a sequencer to drive the software kick, listen to the pattern, then compare to the sequencer triggering the sample.

If you don’t hear a difference, then there’s no point in buying an analog kick as part of hardware. You save money = win!

If you do hear a difference then you can keep using the app/software until you can afford an analog device. Win!

Analog is like a series of hand drawings of the same thing, digital samples are like a bunch of photocopies of the same thing.

However, modern analog can be very stable, and modern digital can emulate analog very well.

Samples (of analog synths) can have their own charm, especially when using them in a simple way - re-pitching a single sample. Or they can be layered, multisampled, round robin etc to give more realistic results - although TBH if you go to all that trouble of sampling a synth, probably simpler to use the actual synth instead if possible. Or sample a phrase from it.

In conclusion WRT sound, if you can’t hear the difference then don’t worry about the technology, fine records have been made entirely with analog gear, and fine records have been made entirely with digital gear.


There are two dicotomies IMO:
analog vs digital
synthesis vs samples
About the first dicotomy, I prefer analog vcos and filters because seems (note: seems to me) to be more warm and alive than digital ones. More ‘dirty’. May be just an illusion, but it works for my ears.
About synthesis vs samples, it’s not only a matter of different sounds: are two worlds apart, two different technics, with different tools and tricks. I mean, with a synthesizer you shape your sound from scratch, working on waveforms with filters and modulations. With a sampler you load a prerecorded sound and you can reverse, slice, stratch, loop it and so on… it’s something totally different.
I prefer synthesis than samples, just because it is easyer for me. Also playing DT I prefer to use single cycle waves and I turn it into a digital synthesizer.


repitching analog FM :star_struck: