A/D and D/A Conversions

A point often overlooked by home recording engineers is that for every digital unit in an analog instrument chain an A/D and D/A conversion is being performed. Doing this once or twice with high quality converters is probably not very noticeable, but chaining several digital pedals together is probably not wise. Each pedal will do a full round of conversion and introduce their own ‘flavor’ of signal degradation.

Most home recorders are already converting twice by necessity, getting the sound in and out of the computer. Intuitively, it makes sense to leverage analog processing whenever they’re appropriate to avoid these additional conversions prior to the sound interface. The other option is to record dry and use digital processing ‘in the box’ as there are no additional conversions in this case. There are no shortage of high quality software DSPs.

Most folks, including myself, likely have more pressing problems to address in their home studio. However, A/D conversion is certainly a factor to consider before mindlessly stacking another gadget on the signal chain. Think about where in the chain the gadget is being placed. Could the number of conversions be reduced by rearranging the chain? Could this gadget be placed in a digital loop with the sound interface, thus avoiding another conversion entirely? Most modern rack-mount DSPs do indeed have this capability.

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