Drum Machines Have No Soul.” Wait — “Drum Machines Have Soul, Ableton Has No Soul.” Photo: Leo-setä.

Given a choice between boring and crazy, I always choose crazy. After all, craziness is part of the artistic persona. So bring it on.

It’s been a while since we had a celebrity saying things that didn’t really make sense. It’d be unfair to ask Ricardo Villalobos live up to some of the titans – Bob Dylan saying CDs have “no stature” and “have sound all over them,” and Elton’ John’s classic call to “tear down the Internet.” (Not to mention, in the end I think we wound up agreeing with them and turned Elton’s quote into a brand-new verb.) As with Elton John and Bob Dylan, I love and respect Villalobos’ work, no less so as he says things with which I disagree. But Ricardo Villalobos does get special credit for claiming in a recent Resident Advisor interview, among other things, that what has really hurt sound quality today is the lack of cheap drum machines from the 80s, because they were analog. Or they weren’t, but it was as if they were. Or something. (If you think this might earn some ire from Ableton loyalists, you’re right.)

No. I think the development is going in the opposite direction because everyone is making tracks in programs like Ableton, which has an OK sound engine. When I started making music 20 years ago, you had to at least buy a mixer, then some synthesizers, a drum machine—which is the best quality possible of a sampled drum. There was a pureness of the source of the music. It was analog, direct.

Ah, yes, the good old days. Back in the day, digital samples of acoustic instruments played through digital-to-analog-converters were real digital samples of acoustic instruments played through digital -to-analog-converters. It was analog, direct – well, aside from the fact that it was digital and not direct, but it was real … um … analog … digital. Pulse code modulation was real, pure pulse code modulation, not like the pulse code modulation you kids have today. Not like now, when people don’t … own… mixers. It’s not like you kids today, you people who use Ableton, people like… Ricardo Villalobos. (Villalobos is, in fact, a notable Live user.)

I mean, at least it’s a novel argument. Usually, you get the “mixing in the box is bad” and “computers aren’t real” argument from crusty audio engineers with massive outboard analog mixing boards, not electronic musicians. Recently, many experienced engineers I’ve talked to have come to the side of accepting that “in-the-box” recordings in software can be just as good as their analog counterparts. So, we may have reached a real landmark, a world in which electronic musicians claim digital’s no good and turntables are the only way to listen, while engineers experienced with analog claim just the opposite.

Let’s go back in time. For the record, twenty years ago by my calculations would be 1989.

The drum machine you might have bought then could be the Alesis HR-16, or perhaps a Roland TR-707. They’re fantastic, unique-sounding instruments. But “the best quality possible” is not generally a phrase associated with instruments of this era. We love them because they aren’t 192kHz, 64-bit multisamples recorded from 30 microphones and shipped on a 100 GB hard drive, because “quality” isn’t actually everything. And if you bought a new mixer in 1989, I assume you picked up something like Mackie’s just-released LM-1602, rather than an SSL. Of course, you really could go do that now. In fact, Ableton Live recently added 64-bit processing in the signal chain; the software that does more aliasing to account for lower bitrates is actually Pro Tools.


Fear for the ghost not in the machine. Photo: Marco Raaphorst

He goes on:

The thing is, you have the limitation of the program, the limitation of the digital mixing which is happening inside the computer, you have the limitation of the sound sources of the synthesizers—the virtual synthesizers. Even the sound engine is playing a very big role in the whole sound of the product. If you have a good turntable and good speakers, you can hear it is made in Ableton. Logic, for example, is very neutral in sound but Ableton…you can hear it in two seconds.

It’s hard to know where to begin. Live does have an overused sound – but that comes from people using effects presets as-is, people not knowing how to mix, people time stretching and warping without adjusting settings or taking care to think about the impact on its sound.

The idea that you have to use a turntable to hear these things, or generally to hear quality issues in a track produced entirely digitally is… well, an interesting theory. (It’d be like testing the fidelity of your inkjet printer by first taking a Polaroid of the output.)

They have all of these virtual instruments that are calculated by a computer, and you have a certain space where you have to put everything. And when you want to leave this space, you have to live with compromises, the compromises of digital mixes and recordings.

Now, perhaps I’m wrong, but I thought that if for some reason you thought you needed to mix on an analog board and record to, say, analog reel-to-reel, you were no less able to do that with the analog outs of your MacBook Pro than with your 606.

And what exactly was in those vintage drum machines, if not a computer making  calculations? Eleven secret herbs and spices? Elves with slide rules?

But this is the beauty of interviews – you can say whatever you want. And it definitely beats boring.

There is also one statement with which I wholeheartedly agree:

People are finding it easy to publish something without any controls. And this is the problem with the internet in general. There is so much information, and no one knows if it’s true or not. It’s just there. It’s an information monster.

It’s almost as though the Internet is a place in which people can make any wild claim they wish, without anyone questioning its basis in reality or fact.


  • hold on – didn't we all agree that what dylan was saying did actually make sense? of course, his wording was idiosyncratic, but wasn't he talking about overproduction and the loudness war? perhaps i've read too much into it, but if that's what he was saying, wasn't that one of the only non-crazy things a celebrity has said in a while?

  • LZR

    Damn, I am torn about this. The drummachines comment is ofcourse pure nonsense from a man filled with bitterness about modern times. Yawn.

    But I have to agree to his comment about soundengines because of Reason. I used to joke that Reason has a hidden software switch that decides on startup if the instance which was just started sounds more like cardboard or more like plastic… Also, I heard alot of Demotapes/MP3 over the years and again, I always could spot Reason-Productions because they all sounded kinda "wrong" in a special way.

    And btw, there was a huge tv-project here in germany recently called something like "24 hours of berlin" which also featured him, also very enlightening.

  • anonymous

    well, the thing about the dylan quote is that it attributes production decisions (ie. over compressed sound) to the medium, CDs. it's not the poor CD's fault that all dynamics on a track burned to it have been smashed into oblivion.

    there are a lot of common misperceptions about new technology that are usually built as a result of listening to crappy mixes and assuming it's the fault of the technology and not the person handling the mix. correlation / causation and all that.

    i tend to smile and nod though as arguing these points feels like a borderline religious debate at times.

  • @Dan: Well, yes, that's right – we did *kind of* agree. He was making a blanket statement that may have been more than a little unfair, and there was the whole matter of figuring out what he meant by CDs lacking "stature." So, yes, maybe we can file under "crazy, if partly true."

    @LZR: Right, except again, that sounds like people using presets or mixing poorly, not the sound engine, and certainly not having anything to do with analog versus digital. That's the user. I mean, certainly it can often be *very* easy to spot FL or Ableton or Reason, but usually the summing engine, anything that has to do with mixing, would be at the bottom of the reasons why. And you wouldn't need a turntable.

    As anonymous says, these border on religious debates. But this isn't religion. At a certain point, we really can talk in empirical terms about how technology works and how it's perceived. That may not cover how you feel about the tech as a user – the way a LinnDrum or Ableton Operator makes you feel when you use it. But as far as the actual workings of the technology, how signal is represented and how it's impacted by certain processes, there are some areas that really aren't subjective.

  • Cant add anything! Just thanks, and GREAT 🙂

  • anonymous

    ok, i went back and read the dylan quote(s) and he isn't actually attributing poor production choices to the CD itself. the summary was a bit misleading (and shame on me for not checking).

  • anonymous

    @peter kirn

    true, and i'm with you there! there are definitely quantifiable ways to scientifically judge sound quality/sound resolution between mediums. but sometimes it feels like arguing evolution vs. creationism.

  • I'm still not sure why it is that hardware drum machines — even recent ones that match sample/bitrates of software tend to sound a bit punchier to me… i usually leave it to the fact that it's dedicated hardware (even though it is still software generated) going through dedicated outputs, but i'm willing to be wrong about this of course.

    As far as computer-generated recordings go, i recently had the opportunity to use an analog summing mixer and did notice a difference (both visually on the recorded waveform and with ears) between how it put everything together versus a render made directly inside a DAW. The difference was not huge, but did seem apparant that the 'in the box' mix was somehow more cramped.

  • Mike S

    i agree with what he is saying, i have an mpc 1000, and pretty much anything i put through it sounds different than if i'd dragged the same samples in to place in a DAW.

    aphex makes a point about analog gear here, which i also agree with (Date: 02-07-05 03:14) – http://web.archive.org/web/20070224101811/http://

    i think you've missed the point entirely, and your constant references to him being crazy are a little immature in comparison to what i've come to expect from the site

  • bri

    another DSP vs Analog flamewar?

  • Question for everyone: which DAW? That actually matters, partly because the internal mix engines in different tools aren't even running at the same birate and the difference in dynamic headroom *is* something you can hear.

    Bri: That's my point. It's not DSP versus analog. It's DSP versus… other DSP.

    Look, clearly, an MPC1000 can sound different than a computer DAW given a whole range of variables. But to say it is fundamentally different is simply factually wrong. An MPC really *is* a DAW. From there, you can talk about bitrates, sampling rates, quantization methods, summing models – and as I said, plenty of qualitative things like how it feels to use it and the kinds of things you do with it. But it *is* a computer running software. In fact, I hope to do a more in-depth interview about this, but I've talked to Roger Linn about some of the subtler issues, the timing differences, and Roger insists there's nothing about the way the MPC even quantizes time that can't also be done on a computer.

    Now, if this is all perception, that's a powerful thing. But then that means you talk about how the interface is perceived and how you interact with it. Saying it's "more analog" is simply inaccurate.

  • Orubasarot

    if something is popular then it's shit and you shouldn't use it

    100% serious

  • Working DJ

    As a longtime working DJ doing live sets on bills with many others i find that DJ's playing their sets on say, Pioneer CDJ or Turntables consistently sound better and way more upfront than another boring set pumped out with a laptop and Abelton. I can always tell when the next DJ comes on going through the same sound system. Its always muddy and tedious.

  • @Working DJ: Ah, actually, that's easier to explain. If you leave the Wet/Dry/Muddy parameter in the Muddy position, and have Tedious set to on, that is inclined to happen. I always tell people in workshops to make sure they set that up. It's buried a bit in Preferences, but you can find it in Audio/MIDI settings. They cover that in the certified Ableton training, but it's not widely known.

    Alternatively, if you take your boring set to a CD and put it in the CDJ, that'll sometimes help, depending on the dynamic range of the mix. If that's still muddy, you may need to export it to audio, send it a vinyl mastering house, and get the vinyl back and play that on a turntable.

    Oh, unless it's recorded at 32-bit, and then I try to feed it to a goat first.

  • Mike S

    re the mpc, a computer is built to do a million and one things, outboard gear is generally built to do just one thing, and that opens up a range of audible differences from machine to machine. i am not saying it is better, but it is different. read the aphex post and you'll get a better grasp of what i mean.

    it is an interesting subject, but it is unfair to label ricardo as crazy

  • splitradix

    While you might not like his music, Villalobos is an incredible producer and I'd definitely take his word over an army of internet laptop warriors! And he's not the only one I've heard complaining about Ableton's audio engine before.

    Youtube had some videos of his studio a while ago and it looked amazing. Martion speakers, studer desks, massive modular racks: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-i

  • wax

    theres a deeper issue that he's not touching on, basically skating away from – which is really not about sound quality but that 90% of producers are making the same record over and over. just a cursory listen to beatport charts will show you that.

  • haha

    "i'm well known…. im going to put down others that do the same thing as me"

    anti-digital high horses, in minimal techno!?

    what kinda electronic musician is this???

    fuckin kook

  • Psst… if I remember well, only summing (without taking into account DAW specific plugins like EQ) should give us the same result independently from the DAW. Well 64 or 32 bit change the game a bit because of the noise floor, but beside it, and it was often tested, we get the same waveform at the end with the same parameters.

  • Right, for the record, the argument as framed here — at least in what RA chose to excerpt for the article — is about "quality," as sound fidelity, and it's a digital versus digital comparison, not digital versus analog. The source of a typical drum machine in 1989 was digital, not analog. So you don't even have to open the analog versus digital debate here, because that's not actually what he said.

  • matt

    Wow, it's amazing how the zealots and sycophants come out of the woodwork whenever this subject is raised.

    For instance, having the money to purchase a studio full of the most high end gear doesn't qualify you in any way to be correctly informed, let alone an expert, on the technology you're using.

    You also don't need to justify your choice of tools with celebrity endorsements or subjective/objective conflations.

  • chaircrusher

    The difference between the average person talking nonsense and Ricardo V talking nonsense, is that there's someone with a digital recorder, willing to transcribe his nonsense.

    That being said, there are things analog can do that digital falls down on: specifically analog feedback loops vs digital. Digital does feedback by sampling the output of a computation and buffering it, whereas analog feedback is electrons travelling in a circle at a substantial percentage of the speed of light. The former is only a first order approximation of the latter.

    Don't believe me? Try setting up two oscillators FM'ing each other in an analog synth and two oscillators in Reaktor or Max/MSP FM'ing each other. Not only can you NOT get them to sound the same, you can't get two different analog synths doing that to sound the same.

  • @chaircrusher: You're right, absolutely, which is why I wouldn't try to make the argument that analog and digital are "the same"; they're not, especially since what the Aphex quote is talking about above is valuing things like oscillator drift and other imperfections in specific analog devices.

    The other difference I'll concede about Villalobos making this arugment is that I suspect his instincts are very good. It just means you have to separate his subjective instincts from the other things he's saying, to really parse what his point is, not to take this as gospel fact in regards to how the technology works. So, to me, it is interesting that people believe what they do — the MPC being a key example. I think it's interesting that people feel differently about the MPC than a laptop; I think that means something, even if it doesn't necessarily mean what people may think it means. 😉

  • wax

    also, I believe that there's a huge difference between people who get their music mastered by a pro… sound quality varies widely…

  • Mike S

    could he not be talking about drum synthesis and not just samples?

    could he not be talking about sample packs/emulations of equipment vs the real thing?

    could he not be talking about passing a digital sample through an analog desk?

    maybe he is talking in a wider sense of how most music making today is inherently digital and the problems that come with it?

    you obviously don't give a shit

    what you have done here is cherry picked a quote and used it to brand the man in question as crazy. it is this sort of reactionary journalism that is counter productive.

    why not get in touch with him and ask him to clarify his point?

  • wow peter, your outlook here and some of your comments are definitely bordering on the immature side (especially that last one). or at the very least, quite sarcastic/borderline insulting. not what i've come to expect from this site…

    i'll agree with the sentiment that villalobos is pretty eccentric, that he does seem to live in the audiophile world and has some pretty strong opinions. but he does raise some interesting points; many of which i think are lost in translation, if you will. so maybe they shouldn't be analyzed quite so intensely and instead just be taken as general commentary.

    obviously the man favors logic to Live, analog summing/mixing to digital and using real instruments to using plugins. many people agree with one or all of these sentiments. reading much more into what he said just seems to be a huge gray area of either mis-translation or him mis-conveying his true meaning.

  • Ypsi Kid

    Placebo effect can be a powerful thing. If people think they can be cured by a sugar pill, I'm sure if would also make them 'hear' the difference in sound as talked about above. You hear what you want to hear. Some call abstract art crap while others think its the greatest thing since sliced bread – reality is in perception and perception is subjective.

    I like Peter's approach of taking the measurements and taking the subjective thoughts of others out of the argument.

  • tim

    @Working DJ I think you might be referring to the relative quality of MP3 vs uncompressed sound… While the difference isn't so noticeable on headphones or small speakers, the data loss is far more apparent ona big sound system – I've had the same with playing temp music MP3s on a film mix dub stage; they sound okay-ish on smaller speakers, but in a big room the grain/lack of detail becomes apparent… (its not dissimilar to projecting a JPEG to fill a cinema screen – you see the grain)

    hint: laptop DJs dont compress your tracks; drives are cheap – rip your tunes to .WAV or .AIF

  • Why is it that over years of seeing simmilar discussions, no one ever uploads unbiased, convincing audio files to show A is better than B?

  • Gee Funk

    The thing is with more truly discrete components making up the sound, there's more room for error and variation to enter the system by default.

    Some people can hear and feel it in the music. That's really what it comes down to. So while error needs to be programmed specifically these days, it was part of the sonic landscape in the 80s and 90s.

  • Peter forget dumbs and continue working please.

    People is free to say, free to listen and free to understand by themselves.

    Villalobos or Pillaglobos?

    (for non spanish readers):

    Villa lobos (town) (wolves)

    Pilla globos (get) (globus) = (get high)

    just my2cents.

  • middleman

    @ Peter keep the insulting immaturity coming. That rant at Working DJ is hilarious.

  • Let's be clear – this is editorial, and it is my own little rant, not journalism in the sense of news reporting. I hope we do continue the discussion with Villalobos and others. I'd rather have a debate, however irreverent, than take anyone's word at face value — my word included, though that generally seems not to be a problem as you can see in comments. (And that's a good thing.)

  • synthetic

    I agree with all of his statements. First, if today many people and sound libraries are using samples of drum machines, then his first quote seems correct! Second, I agree that using synthesizers and drum machines through an analog mixer sounds better than plug-ins through a software mixer. No comparison.

    Plus, different samplers and processors sound different. Ever do a song using multitimbral mode on an old synth? You put together 10 layers and it sounds… really small, like a tinny organ. Then you break up those parts and send them to other synths and it sounds huge. If you're creating and mixing everything in Live, it won't sound as big.

  • UTM

    If you want to make mixes that sound like 20 years ago, use 20 year old technology and techniques. If you you want your recordings to sound like a hundred years ago find a megaphone and some wax cylinders. The state of the art is a moving target. Why worry about emulating yesterday's fashion? The tools we have today would be put to good use creating and processing sound in ways that weren't possible with older technology.

  • UTM for the win!

  • I think the problem here is about the workflows, not in the sound itself. The instrument often dictates the music we're going to create – the music is heavily influenced by the instrument we use to make it. It's a matter of interfaces, user interaction, even the colour of a plugin window could push our subconscious toward a different musical solution.

    I did very different music when all I got was a Kurtzweil K2000. And I'm quite sure it's not just a matter of filter cutoffs, antialiasing methods and jitter.

  • Being a user of Live since 1.5, and having previously worked with a fair bit of actual gear before that, yes – the summing technology in Live is *different*, to say the least.

    As peter pointed out, Live does come with a lot of instruments and FX right out of the box that are set up to do some impressive things. But anyone using the tool seriously, and as their only DAW, would do well to figure out how to put their own stamp on things to break out of that.

    Find outside plugins you like, and really master them. When using Ableton's stuff, save your own presets and discard or place into subfolders the Ableton presets – that way the "go to" presets will always be your own. I'm still guilty of this with some of the delay plugins. Lastly, try not to use the warping engine unless you really have to, and turn off the quantization on MIDI stuff – just keep playing and recording until you get a bar that feels right.

  • Mike S

    the problem with ranting is it doesn't promote healthy discussion and tends to tip the comments towards name calling and petty opinionated toss (in which i class the article)

    but who cares? you'll get a few more hits and a bit more money, maybe thats your plan.

  • Create Digital Tabloids!

    on the subject of mixing in the box vs mixing in software. there will never be a comparison. i cannot believe how you just include little mentions like that without any real experience or expertise on the matter, when thousands of people read your blog. software eq's will NEVER sound as good or better as an analog eq. PERIOD. it hurts my feelings that you write this stuff in your blog, you have no real opinions. definitely modern journalism!! ps Villalobos didnt "Trash" ableton like the headline reads. Create Digital Tabloids!

  • I think this is a serious case of a strawman argument. Not giving Ricardo the benefit of a bit of charity trying to figure out what he intends, because it is YOU that has a fundamentalist position in the old hardware vs. software debate. When he says drum machines of 20 years ago, he likely meant 20-30 roughly, not exactly the drum machines of 1989! It is easy to lose track of the fact that 10 years ago was 2000 for many of us. Anyways, running hardware (even digital) through an analog mixer, you have a bunch of differently coloured D/A converters being mixed together instead of a totally computer-based DAW where you have everything having only one D/A colour. And a simple Virtual Analog sound is boring to hear, where real analog doing the same simple sound is interesting. I agree with him that music has gotten more boring because of the convenience of the laptop studio, and to write him off as crazy is your own brand of zealotry!

  • MMI

    Peter, I think this entry was laugh out loud hilarious.

    And as someone who spent some teenage time recording an Alesis drum machine to 1/4" 8 track tape I gotta say there's nothing there that I want to go back to (though admittedly, this enlightened opinion comes from the fact that I was actually reunited with the deck and some of those old tapes 🙂

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Let’s be clear – this is editorial, and it is my own little rant, not journalism in the sense of news reporting.

    Yes, but when you've built your site's reputation on basically not doing that, to suddenly turn around and start… well, it's a bit of a bait and switch. And given your all-out Behringer-bashing a few weeks ago, it seems a trend is developing.

    Honestly, if this site is going to turn into peterkirn.livejournal.com, then can you tell us straight? Thanks.

  • Sumedho

    Maybe he is talking about the warping engine? Even on complex mode or complex pro it doesn't sound as good as playing through a good CDJ deck. Try it out, play the exact same track through a CDJ and Live into a good mixer and listen on quality mixing speakers. The live track sounds terrible. You can fix it up a bit using quality plugins (Waves Ultramaximizer etc) on the master out, but straight up its nowhere near as good as CDJ.

  • there's actually some really great ideas in that interview which were, sadly, overlooked. for instance, the idea that electronic music is far removed from acoustic recording where the playing experience of the musician, the engineer, the placement of mics, the room sound, etc will dictate the sound; all the electronic musician has to express themselves with is the ability to control production.

    and that electronic music is political. in fact, if there's anything to argue with this man regarding in-the-box mixing, widespread use of Ableton/DAW's and easy "pressing" to the internet, its this point. after all, if music is political then what's bad about more people having the ability to produce it as a form of expression? even if the sound itself is not as high quality as his personal standards, the ability for virtually anyone to create electronic music without spending $100K on a studio like his is certainly not a bad thing. maybe he would agree, maybe not. it would have been nice if this post had started that discussion instead of the typical digi/analog one.

    at any rate, it's worth reading the entire interview. he does have some interesting opinions. thanks for point me to it, peter.

  • Charlie Lesoine

    I disagree that an MP3 will sound worse on big speakers than on headphones or small speakers. That's magical thinking. Good headphones let you hear more detail than on big speaker systems. All the anti DAW nonsense is magical thinking. Buddy Holly would have gone nuts over an Mbox an imac and a free 10 year old version of protools. Creativity supersedes all these concerns.

  • Eoj

    Wow, I think a lot of people on here totally misinterpreted what Peter actually wrote. Ha.

  • zayn

    The comments here read like a game of telephone. I think some of you need to reread the article (and maybe a couple of equipment/software manuals?)… BILL… and CLOUD CITY… I always forget how defensive people get once words like MPC, ANALOG, and QUALITY are mentioned. If only I possessed the power of Akai Marketing….

    Thanks for the article Peter.

  • DJ5000

    If people use a tool to make shit / lame product, thats not the tools fault. ive heard millions of "djs" ruin a beat mix using the best mixer + 1210s but you dont hear people crying about how technics suck..

    who cares about your tools, let the nerds debate that. get on with making tunes.

  • seb

    @cloud city

    "10 years ago was 2000 for many of us"

    Well i think we even could say "For ALL" of us

  • Human Koala

    Ok what's the point ?

    music tools more accessible = more music = more bad music = more good music too,

    the only thing is you have to dig more to find good stuff because there is more noise, Live is a tool , analog and digital are only technology, we are here just fighting on something completely subjective and pointless, is villalobos is right, of course not cause he's blaming a way of production, there is bad analog recording, there is bad digital recording and it won't finish but the truth is it's the time that filter bad music

    so relax it is not so important, it's only music


  • "It is easy to lose track of the fact that 10 years ago was 2000 for many of us."

    I feel duty bound to insist that ten years ago was in fact 1999, for every last one of us 😉

  • Okay, in fairness, my headline was provocative and maybe that set people off.

    But let's just be clear: we're a good 15 years into virtual instruments, 25 years into computer music production and digital hardware, 50 years into synthesis. My point is, you ought to be able to use these different toolboxes, to use digital and analog signal without discrimination.

    I think Villalobos' call for more intention and integrity in music is admirable, and I believe he has the chops to back it up. I don't personally think that attacking a particular *kind* of technology is a way to get there.

  • Lets not get it twisted; this IS most certainly religion. for religious people, their religion color the way theyinterpret the world. it is the filter thru which everything passes…just like DAW software. the relationship between an artist and the tool he uses, is a spiritual one. it is the thing that makes form of the things he/she has in their head. to diss ones OS, or more intimately,their DAW, is to diss them, their art and their perspective.

    think about the lasttime someone was talking shit about some piece of software that you could not live without and tellme that you werent the least bit offended…thats what i thought.

    i think his comments were talking about the death of the analog stage of production. now everything is done withinthe same machine and loses some "speciallness". it wasnt very eloquent, but its true. many artists today adapt themselves to their tools rather than the otherway around. when i see ableton sets today, I already have an idea of what i will hear, down to the effects that will beused and how. maybe i'd be more impressed if i were a punter and had only seen/heard an ableton set once or twice,but after the 100th time, they tend to get predictable in sound and execution. they dont have to,but they do.I gather that this was what he meant.

  • quopyou

    firstly, if you want to be critical, his statement "If you have a good turntable and good speakers…" (re hearing ableton tracks). does not imply, as you say, "The idea that you have to use a turntable to hear these things." i can tell an loopy ableton release in 10 secs. and i guess i would have to agree that it is the producer, not software… but that is not the point.

    artists/producers are not trained as politicians and most probably don't understand what the passive voice means.

    i think what ricardo, and many others, refer to as "better quality" is a reference to nostalgia and "older" quality. not technically "better" quality.

    also, if you are passionate about something there is nothing wrong with trying to record that the way you want it be heard. regarding the reference to "soul", i think this comes from the "act" of creation. plugging physical things in and moving around etc. might seem a little eccentric to some, but the movement around handling a mouse and keyboard lacks effort therefore lacking soul. saying that, still, good music is good music regardless of how it is produced…

    a big point of that interview was how anything gets released these days, there is no control. this can be good, but i think it falls further into the bad.

    go ricardo! someone please stop all this crap music!

  • Alex

    Nice article Peter!

  • Just a few comments… People make decisions in creating music, for the most part, by what they hear. If you are creating electronic music in the box then there are many things to consider. Your monitoring environment allows you to make creative decisions while mixing, but if it is not very accurate or transparent, then it will not relate to what it sounds like when you bounce down. A lot of people do not realize that when you bounce a track to disk, it does not traverse your D/A path. That is unless you are bouncing OTB onto some outboard media device. Once you are ready to bounce and actually hit the buttons to record the track, it is all math… 0s and 1s… Then you could get into dither techniques and sample rates and things like that, that could effect the sound. There are a lot of variables. But thats just it. With all of the variables in a DAW, it becomes very daunting for a lot of people that do not understand the full capabilities of the DAW to really make proper adjustments. Combine that with a inaccurate listening environment and the fact that krk rokit-5s are a dime a dozen and very popular along with the m-audio interfaces and that adds to the sound that you get.

    Some people may prefer the old-school method of using 8,12,or 16 bit sample based drum machines because they had very few settings and got a consistent sound. Whether you like that sound is really a personal preference. But, whatever that sound was, you could get that sound consistently. With very little knowhow.

    To some it up… the sound you get depends on your knowledge of your tools, your monitoring environment, and creativity. I can tell you that i have created great tracks ITB and OTB, using many different DAW's and/or multitrack recorders. I much prefer the convenience and the selection of the ITB solutions that i use today. And yes, i came from the days of the outboard gear and DAWs like vision and notator.

    Just my few comments and another opinion. 🙂

  • golden master

    I agree with charlie's comment. In the end, I think people getting worked up over the medium that something is produced in forget that the power and originality of the work being produced is far more important than any of these other factors. Why else would people still be listening to abysmal sounding Robert Johnson recordings, or other stuff that sounds awful compared to modern recording standards?

    Also, what's with the haterade people. Can we start having friendly discussions on CDM again? PLEASE?

    Peter is just poking fun at how people believe there is all kinds of voodoo hidden stuff that doesn't really exist. And really, it doesn't.

    Personally, I think that everyone should try working in as many different ways as possible, and embrace the advantages and possibilities of every different medium, instead of making up stories about magic voodoo that is missing in whatever just happens to be the thing you dislike.

  • I'm with DJ500 up there – make your music. I don't care if you're pounding on logs. I came up with the Korg Polysix and Sequential Circuits drum machines, the odd Juno-106 here and there, Moogs (still have a big ol' Polymoog sitting over there). At point we were using a 909 and an SP-12 with a 5.25" floppy drive hooked to it. On stage. While loading sequences into an MMT-8 from a cassette tape! What's my point here? Oh yeah – now I'm all Ableton Live and Reason and Absynth and whatever. And I do work. I make music. I play it in front of people. The end. Same as it ever was. Except I can work faster and I can have a smaller car. I say, find a kit that works for you and use it.

  • Mike S

    "Peter is just poking fun at how people believe there is all kinds of voodoo hidden stuff that doesn’t really exist. And really, it doesn’t."

    running a sound through and analog desk will change it, you are naive if you think otherwise. as is peter is he thinks he can pass of an article as tongue in cheek when he clearly has a strong opinion on it.

    to clarify i am not on the analog side, i am also of the opinion that an electronic musician would be stupid not to consider both A and D as sources and mixing environments. he would also be stupid not to realise there are advantages/disadvantages to each format.

  • I'm no fan boy of Villalobos, I like his dj sets but not his own productions. And I'm not suggesting we go back to 1989, however from what I understood him to say, I agree. What he's talking about is the homogenization of sound, Cloud City summed it up pretty well, it's the D/A's of the specific hardware when combined in a mix. Why do you think people are going after sp1200's, s950's and Ensoniq's? Its the sound, its unique, gritty, dirty, whatever. Ableton is a great tool, I use it regularly but not as my main daw, cause I hate the sound it has (warping/mix buss) on a full mix. Yes I can tell the difference. And yes an ableton set vs cdj is shit on a big system. And you know what an ableton set vs vinyl on a big system is even more shit. I honestly wonder if the young dudes even know the difference, after a life of growing up on 128k mp3's.

  • df

    stop the moaning!

    Just listen:



  • @mr. ed: But that's exactly what I mean. I think our memories have gotten short. When the TR-808 came out, for instance, it was widely criticized as lacking the supposed "quality" of higher-end competitors. ("Marching anteaters" was apparently a phrase tossed at it by Keyboard Magazine in 1982 – a reminder why we need to get more archives online.) AS you say, part of the appeal of the Akai and Ensoniq samplers and drum machines of the era is their grit and idiosyncrasies. Now some of that same hardware has been idolized.

    But that's great. I love that. And like I said, some of the things Villalobos is advocating here are great things. Why shouldn't people go after these properties whether they're inside or outside the box?

    And kids in the 80s were listening on all sorts of terrible-sounding audio gear, like off-brand Walkman clones. Put decent headphones into the iPod and it can sound great.

    I think we're just getting nostalgic for something that never was. We have more access, more music than after before, more tools cheaper than ever before. Why do people keep complaining? Why not explore what's out there?

  • Stephan

    Shackleton, the producer who wrote "Blood on our hands," which Villalobos remixed, wrote in Reason. Flying Lotus makes his music in Ableton.

  • Low Resolution Sunse

    I think that a great deal of the quality argument hides insecurities about the inner politics of making music and the structures of control already in place.

    I think that when a well respected artist complains about the means of production of a newer batch of artists it actually is an attempt to hide their anxiety over their place in the existing hierarchy of the musical establishment. I'm pretty sure that we all fear irrelevancy, right?

  • Rick Thompson

    Maybe I skipped it, but I guess I'm the first one here to mention that


    wrote a statement in the topic (and it was EPIC!).

    While I'm no Ableton fanboy, I'm just a Live user, I totally agree with what he said. Plus for me Dennis Ferrer's opinion is much more important than Villalobos one.

    Why? No, I don't wanna say that Villalobos has no idea about music, sound or anything like that…. but: I play and love Dennis' tracks. Even if it wasn't total bullshit from the technical side (and provable wrong), I'd go Dennis' way.

    But besides that it's music. If I like what comes out of Ableton Live, I'm happy with it. I don't need anybody to tell me what tool I should use, I'm not doing music to satisfy Ricardo or anybody else who is trying to tell others what to do and what to avoid, if it is technically bullshit. Tips are always welcome, but I don't wanna know who paid Villalobos to get him on his side, what drugs he took or what he did wrong that he didn't get the sound of of Live that he wanted.

  • @Peter: I'm not really trying to idolize them per se, there was lots of shit gear from that period! I'm just commenting on the sound quality. I work 90% ITB and love the ease and simplicity. I also love all the new developments in software, thats why I read this blog! But I also have an ASR and believe me its "sound" is so much fuller and warmer than any Ableton clip. The converters on the ASR are not clean, they have some kind of bass boost, but they are musical. Its subjective, but all of my dj and musician friends who happen to listen to it agree. This is probably less so with newer keyboards that are essentially a pc in a box, but dedicated hardware often does sound better.

    So I think there IS something to be said about having a varied selection of sound sources, and flavors of D/A, thats what I understood him to be saying. That things can get really bland when everything is running as loops in Ableton and coming out of the same converter.

  • jonah

    Overall I agree with Villalobos's end point though I disagree with how he got there. All systems impart a characteristic on the sound and using a variety of devices it is more likely to get something unique. Different mixers, different drum machines, different synths.

    I disagree with peter too about old drum machines sounding good. In general compared to ableton and the like they sound pretty crap for the same amount of effort expended. The really great stuff made w/ drum machines you can tell they pushed it to it's limits because they had something they wanted to say or a point of view they wanted to express. With computer based DAWs many people seem to stop when it sounds good in the sense that it sounds like what has come before. That ends up being boring, to me at least. I think this is the challage Villalobos talks about.

  • Peter Raffensperger

    "Elves with slide rules" – LOL that's gold!

  • jason

    I most likely have no business commenting on this article as I have no idea who this producer is and I have never heard any of his music. I've come to sound from a background in visual arts and a lot of the arguments I've read in these comments sound like the same kind of debates I've heard and engaged in with regards to painting/collage/etc. by this I mean, people becoming trapped by the technical ideas and philosophies of their particular creative method to the point of missing the experience of the art completely. I know plenty of people that swear their allegiance to their methods/tools because of the nostalgia of historical practice, they would never dream of deviating or exploring experimental techniques/tools. I don't look at a painting and think, it looks good but it could have looked better if the artist had used a different brush, if I like it I like it! I couldn't give a shit how it is was made, because I'm not interested in copying/emulating it in order to make my own art. I understand the appreciation and love of particular genres of electronic music but I don't understand the worshiping of the tools used to make it, why not take inspiration rather than be trapped by emulation. For me, why so much electronic music sounds and feels the same has less to do with the DAW someone used and more to do with a lack of imagination. Just my lousy 2 cents.

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  • aikah

    analog – digital , who cares , at the end it is all digital …

    using only analog gear is no better than using ableton , you have to use the best of both worlds … period

  • newmiracle

    FFS people pay attention. One of Peter's points was that Ricardo's first comment doesn't even qualify as a "digital vs. analog" debate.

    Break it down: Villalobos said, "drum machines from 20 years ago." "It was analog, direct."

    Then Peter points out: the popular drum machines from 20 years ago weren't analog.

    That's where the ridicule comes in. Because some guy said, "Oh, those drum machines sounded so good because they were analog." And then someone raised their hand and said, "…uh, they actually weren't analog."

    In my book, that's good enough for a bit of ball busting. It's CDM, not CNN. Stop crying.

  • I simply cannot enjoy music unless it it made with a variety of converters.

  • Gobblebox

    Peter Kim is actually a Robot from the future propagating a pro binary utopian dream. To sway consciousness towards what WILL becomes of this all. We will 'think' music into a suspension gel chambers and try not to hate it.


    Contemporarily( and an overall good decision ubiquitous of time,) i feel HYBRIDIZATION charms my fancy.

  • People complaining about Ableton sounding shit on a live mix… have obviously never heard Scion's "Arrange And Process Basic Channel Tracks".

  • f.e

    Frankly, Ricardo doesn't speak proper english. Anything he said is wrong. There's no debate here about gear quality nor creativity.

    1 – "in programs like Ableton, which has an OK sound engine" / The debate is never ending about this, but clearly, too much people say Live does not have an even OK audio engine at all.

    2 – "drum machine—which is the best quality possible of a sampled drum" / Is this a joke ? Best quality of sampled drum is obviously not a drum machine, but a 96khz 32bits high-end mics + converters recording

    3 – "It was analog, direct" / Obviously not. It was digital.

    4 – "Logic, for example, is very neutral in sound but Ableton" / No DAW is neutral. Nothing is neutral.

    5 – "you have a certain space where you have to put everything" / Tell me what was the space before i get my first win98, samplitude 4 and sound forge 3.5, back in the nineties… God, these hours on my 8 tracks recorder, i don't want it back at all.

  • mack luster

    ok, the guys first language is not english. we kind of get what he was trying to say. so he said it wrong, big deal. like someone mentioned he has also used ableton in the past. whatever.

    most times with inexperienced producers using live you're going to get a sub par production. with pros like the scion cd someone mentioned you're going to get a pro product.

    nowadays with digital killing vinyl because anyone can start a label with no risk is causing a giant tsunami of boring music. i think that's the point these guys are trying to make, but in the process screwing up the message a bit. people who press records are protective of their dying businesses. i grew up on vinyl and nothing can replace it.

    ableton know they have work to do on their mix bus. no surprise.

    in capable hands amazing hardware instruments and mixing tools will probably create a better result. there's a reason these units still cost a lot of money.

    on the other side of this debate you've got people like omar s, who's production is all hardware based but the quality makes reason sound like the most amazing sound engine on the planet in comparison.

    so it all just comes down to what you know and what you do with it.

  • hehehe

    haha – good one peter.

    There's only one thing to do now – challenge Mr Villalobos to a blind test.

  • usedtobe

    live is bad ass.

    i like your spunk today peter 😉

  • Less Lobos

    Who cares what Villalobos says or thinks, he's just a DJ.

  • Jane S

    Villalobos is right. But his claim is nothing new to me.

    Although I don t hear his claims in his own music or his mixcompilation for fabric. But that might be a taste issue.

    Just did a test. D16 neph , audio realism drummachine in an AB comparison with a real 808. The software sounds good but it is something totally different. I prefer the real thing when it comes to the sound.

    For instance my Roland system 100 has a better sounding bass than any software synth I ve heard so far. It has identity!

    Lately I find myself buying all the vintage synths I can get my hands on.

    With the current tape plug in software emulations it is the same.

    Just try a real taperecorder….

  • I thought i could die while reading…um…laughing actually! Thanks for really funny post))) that's coool))))

  • daniel door

    …hm, since i'm all into recording my own samples for everything (and maybe should have down that instead of reading through this "discussion":) and don't have the $ to buy top gear, i'm stuck with comparing a casio rz-1 drummachine which can sample 0,2 on each of four pads and my laptop set of ableton live + tascam us-122 (obsolete model) + korg padkontrol. for field recordings i use an edirol rs-9 (also the now obsolete model), most of the time with its build-in mics.

    with the rs9 digital recorder + laptop setup i recorded a lockpicking session in a foyer with an incredible, disgusting reverb and made a deliciously clicking ticking scratching tender software-sampler instrument out of it.

    with the casio rz-1 (i think it was shitty when it came out and didn't improve / get a nostalgia boost for 20 years +) i can not record tiny quiet clicks since the mic-in just doesn't recognize the sounds 🙂

    hence i had to overexaggerate smashing my zippo lighter open/close to get its sounds into the machine.

    the zippo sounds processed DO NOT sound like a zippo at all, but that's interessting about it.

    AND i can hit myself with the mic or strike it along my arms and get really punchy sounds out of the rz-1 instantly…

    hm…actually i'm surrounded by shitty equipment, analog, digital and digital in disguise. whenever i try abletons soft synth operator it will sound like my circuit bend casio sk-1 craziness, same with reasons thor, same with automat1 plug-in. BUT none of those sound generators (including the sk-1, which feels sooo analog 🙂 did EVER sound exactly like one of the others…why would i want that anyway?

    i do spend most of my money for "shitty" equipment and instruments since the so called bad ones are the only ones i can afford. without industrialisation / digital revolution / cheap production / decadence of western world i would never have got the cance to make electronic music, which would have not only been a loss for me but for everyone listening to my music.

    music is not about tools, it's about expression and passion. without the passion (translate – the will to suffer in order to achieve greatness 🙂 and the need to express something you will be lost in front of ableton live as much as in front of 80s drummachines, an mpc, turntables or an orchestra harp.

    when someone starts telling you something about "hey you know 20 years ago you had to buy this and this and this and i took hours to set it up and weeks to programm it and you know it was music back then not computer gaming, you know…" HE OR SHE IS AN OLD FUCK!

    i got to know a group of experimental conductors who were born in the 30s of the last century and they invited a berlin noise musician with a MINI KAOSS PAD preset drone sound used within his in my opinion uninspired and lame performance. they listened through his whole damn performance and in the discussion afterwards they didn't ask ONE question about the gadgets/instruments he used but about what he's trying to express with his MUSIC. those people ARE OPEN MINDED CONTEMPORARY FUCKS who…sadly…hardly get interviewed.

    so…get over it, make the best music you can do and DO NOT load it up on myspace as 128kbit mp3 🙂

  • honeo

    okay, maybe all you "analog"(no it's digital)-lovers think a bicycle is much more beautiful than a car, but your totaly wrong by saying its faster than a formula 1- car!

  • Damon

    What ever happened to the good old days when real men made music without electricity? You spoiled kids have no idea what it is to be an artist. Now if you will excuse me, I have to fix the wheel on the cart I use to carry hay to the barn raising.

  • audiodestruction

    Thank you Peter, you can get people fired up and off topic like no other. Please keep em coming!

  • shamburglar

    wowsers… this is like the adult equivalent of PS3 vs XBOX flame wars that are so abundant in comments on the internet. This has gone off the rails.

    I'm only contributing one thing to this conversation, read the Ableton manual there's an entire chapter that is a paper on their approach to sound quality and the why/how they designed the sound engine the way they did.

    Work with what you got, you will make it sound good.

  • splat

    aarg, its not about what software or harware you use to make music, its about how creative and original you are. And for me, villalobos lacks this last two points.

  • aikah

    here we go again …

    as there is good and bad harware there is good and bad software too …

    does a mc303 sounds good ? no

    but maybe a tr606 or a tb303 does , the same thing goes for software.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Wow, it didn’t take long for the debate to swoop into undisguised racism, there. Still, when the debate starts with someone being ridiculed for an idiosyncratically-expressed, but legitimate and oft-heard, difference of opinion…

  • f.e

    Windows sounds better than MAC

  • If there is a problem with Live, it´s not about the sound quality or software vs. hardware, but how the loop-centric paradigm makes everything sound the same. The complexity and uncompatability of previous software and hardware forced people to invent their own ways of coupling it all together, thus becoming more inventive or at least open for new ways of imagining structure in music.

  • LittlePig

    I just bought a Tetra, it sounds loads better than any of the analogue vsts in ableton…

    Oh, just a min, could it be my perception has been coloured by the fact that it cost loads more than any of the analgue vsts?

    PS joking aside the Tetra is pretty awesome

  • The article is over-commented already, but I wanted to share my comments too.

    I have been using Live to make music for years, and I think it is the best music editing software there is.

    Thing is, I not always use it as a sound or music source. I have always played live with Reaktor, Max, and some hardware. Recently I have switched completely to hardware for live, and now I'm composing exclusively on my machines, and recording them and mastering in Live.

    I agree the machines sound different to software, its up to each one to tell which one they like the most. I still use Live to compose music for commercials, which is my job, and I'm sure no one can tell which software was used to compose my ads music. There are thousands of people who use Live to make music that isn't "electronic music" and I'm sure their music doesn't sound like "made with Live". I have made rock music, classical, folk, ethnic, and lots of ohter genres with Live. My artistic music? I do it with machines, and I can tell I achieve much better results with machines than composing in Live. This is a video of a track I made recently with hardware: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzrFEtjA6fk

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  • Fintain

    I think the problem is that while software like Live is great, it is now more an engineering tool more than anything else.

    House/Techno was at its peak when people just had boxes, there was no automation curves, warp markers, max/msp, just real musical instruments. You turned the knobs in real time, recorded it with than human element of groove as you messed around and the results were amazing. We need to get back to this and forget all the rest which is only a distraction and makes the music sterile.

  • infradead

    i don't know about all of this.

    i will be buying a goat for my studio however

  • @Fintain: Okay, maybe I will really sound naive, but if we assume the "peak" is now in the past, there's our first problem.

  • BARF

    Solution 1: Listen to things you like.

    Solution 2: Use instruments, tools, and software that you like.

    Solution 3: Argue on the internet.

  • :)) and hey that's my old Sony laptop now running Ubuntu with it's yellow screen

  • This two tracks were made, one with an Akai mpc2000 and mixed with Cubase, and the other totally in Ableton. Guess what track Villalobos identify in two seconds!

    http://bit.ly/villalobos0 http://bit.ly/villalobos1

  • aikah


    it may sound good , but what if one doesnt like the genre ? at the end of the day , what matters is what you are doing , not the gear you are using , that is why what Villallobos is saying is so stupid , i dont like house and it doesnt matter for me if Villallobos does its crap on MPC or Ableton …

    check out the album troublemakers – express way , it was 100% made with Ableton live , and mastered with it.

  • aikah


    and if i use Ableton only as a MIDI sequencer is it okay or not ? come on people , the problem is the people using the software , not the software itself

  • ricardo

    "People are finding it easy to publish something without any controls. And this is the problem with the internet in general. There is so much information, and no one knows if it’s true or not. It’s just there. It’s an information monster."

    …sounds like he's aiming at the fact that no-one finds his music for purchase.


    "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes."

    Andy Warhol

  • hahahaha what an idiot

  • Fintain


    Reckon there will be a backlash against the direction music technology has been taken. You can get a feel for this from the success of the monome, richie's video a while back, even this villalbos's interview. The industry is based on a business model of paid upgrades, which then drives more features, whether they are needed or not, so as to justify the upgrade price. We are now at a point of feature critical mass with the software, and close to a point where the whole thing just becomes too much. Sure if your in from the start you understand it as you evolved with the software, but new users? Guarantee you show any of the current software from the usual suspects to a guitar playing friend and he/she will go wtf!

  • Well, he of course used all the wrong words for it, but the old gear vs software argument is not shockingly new. if you concede him the benefit of the doubt regarding dates and such he was probably referring to the 909, and if you open that can of worms we can argue for ages and still you won't convince the purists.

    The daw summing part i don't agree, but i think that workflow and software features impact the sound in subtle but deep ways. you could hypothetically recreate the same track in logic and ableton, probably yeah, but realistically it wouldn't sound the same, and not for the 'engine' fault, but for what you did differently

  • Los Lobos

    villalobos should shut the fuck up. period. he gets too big for one's britches.

    this guy should sell his digital I/O stuff and should start playing congas and bongos and record the stuff via an analog console to a tape machine.

    by the way, how much drugs has he already taken?

    does he have the time to become a electical engineer? his appointment book is full! he only uses modern technology and is talking shite. that´s all.

    peter can publish what he wants, it´s his website here.

    over and out!

  • really easy for him now to say things like that, he's rich, he's got plenty of amazing speakers, gears, and expensive studio tools, he's famous(and in a way he deserves it), and he want to stop dance music buisness soon…But this is a really ridiculous and quiet snobish discussion. Is music all about sound quality? I love some of his work but i won't exachange one of my hieroglyphic being record (who is not really a supreme recording technician) to one villalobos record! Use what you have and use it well, that's all! Madlib! Four Têt! Burial! Ark! Bibio! Kool keith! Daniel Johnston! Pan sonic! Ikeda! Moondog! Allez Ricardo, do you know that 90% of time your music is played in bad mp3 quality! Aaaahaa.

  • Jeffrey

    There is a major psychological difference between when you hold something in your hand, and when you are only allowed to look at it. I personally think THIS is the major difference between what people think about computer making music versus purely hardware making music.

  • bob

    ah yes, the TITANS of music… Bob Dylan, Elton John and… Ricardo Villalobos? um, WHO?

    A celebrity? Really? OK, if you say so…

    I'm not sure which is crazier, his comments or the word 'celebrity' and his name appearing in the same sentence.

  • s0undc10ud

    To all mpc fans: its ok to spend 1000 euros to a hardware drum machine. its always ok since you can afford it. i think you all missed a part here. Digital age. Like Peter says, mpc is still digital, is still a software, is still a daw in a single box and of course you pay for all these. But hey (!), in my studio i have a computer, all the mixing is happening in my daw, whats the darn point on using an mpc over lets say…a ni maschine or guru. its all the same, plus a virtual drum machine nowdays is more feature rich and yet more handy! quality of the samples being used is all that matters. And as a final conclusion i say: Welcome to the digital age. you dont like it? its always ok to go back in time and use your "all analog" process. But digital age offers us not only a more than good and acceptable quality, but also cheaper technology and the right to choose among hundreds of products to find the one that fits our needs. if we lived back in the 80s, i could never imagine my self making music. i would need a fortune and a huge basement to mount and place all the analog gear. i have good memories from the "old" all analog days, but no thanks, i am NOT going back!

  • Tom Ellard

    As an old fart music making from '79 I've heard the whining 'things were better years ago' argument for thirty years. Ableton Live will eventually be a bit of nostalgia for somebody. Personally I miss the square wave out of a TRS-80.(Most probably wouldn't).

    Every era has great stuff, why sort by date?

  • mr. notaCeleb

    little bit OT…but!

    If I would been around a digitalrecorder in an interview I would have talked about the inflation of minimal techno these days according to DAW:s and MPC:s.

    There is monstrous amount of minimal 128 bitrate mp3 out there just waiting to be played, thats our legacy and our future nostalgia…is good or bad!?, I don't know, ask mr villalobos!

  • AO

    Perhaps a lot of his contradictions come from his command of the language?

    Interesting reading all the same!

  • david

    I think a lot of people (not all) post their opinion on these matters without ever having gotten their hands on any real vintage (digital even) gear. If someone put and mpc60 or mpc3000 in front of them (I am not talking about akai post HK buyout) and gave them a chance to play with it, they may have a different idea. Older electronic instruments were made for professional musicians with price tags to match, but they were made for quality. The output (analog) electronics for the individual outs on say an akai s950 or mpc60/3000 sound huge. New mpcs don't compare, and if you want to spend the money to get something comparable today to go with your computer, you'll spend a lot more than you would on a vintage sampler. If you're happy with the sounds that you make, however you make, them that's wonderful, but to suggest that there isn't a difference between the quality of design, build, and performance of older electronic music gear and the stuff sold today well I think you're out to lunch. Yes, you could choose to spend the $$$$$ today and buy some boutique instrument that may hold it's weight, but the style of today is quantity over quality — that goes for the gear, and it translates over to the music as well.

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  • Esol Esek

    In the BBC documentary on the history of electronic music, it was clear that what sold the hitmakers of that era was still topnotch vocals and lyrics, so that qualifies the importance of the music analog or digital right there.

    I own a juno106, the poor man's analog winner and it does sound warmer, and purer, and does things software doesn't do, including giving me some hands on time, the real point. Its chorus also throws a bunch of noise, so its permanently off, and the chorus in the DAW is better.

    I cant speak to what a 909 or 808 original sound like, because I'm not spending 1500 bucks to find out. I heard a Jupiter 8 and it sounded good, but not 6k of good.

    Converters matter, but so does having a good ear for EQ and mixing. I definitely am sticking to real gtr amplification although I did recently get an ok distortion gtr sound out of Reason. I tried GtrRig and thought it sounded awful. I've found Live to be totally useful for real instrument recordings. THe last generation of software effects sounded terrible. I'm sure there are better, but Live's seem reasonable.

    WHat do you want really besides, EQ, reverb, compression and delay (live needs a better echo)

    I agree Reason solo always sounds canned, but put your own drum samples in the ReDrum, use the mastering and things improve, and the Thor helped a lot as well.

    Live drums are always worth having around. Ultimately it still comes down to what you create. Synths are worth going analog if you can afford it, I guess.

    The song is the more important than whether your 303 is real, though. That 303 sound is not exactly new, either. Time to check out the new analog gear people are releasing.

    Ultimately, the freedom to record multitracks with onboard effects vs the old days of paying through the nose for a clown engineer and stress in the studio is no contest, not to mention tape rewinding, easy editing, yadda yadda. No contest whatsoever on the recording end of things. The computer kicks ass for recording, but you still need some analog bass, drums, gtr, and keys to not sound like mcreason.

  • jumping on the thread after seeing it linked from stretta.

    rv isn't a native english speaker. the issue is simple: ableton's subpar mixing engine, dithering, clipping, etc., and UI that lends to amateurs often distorting, compared with running outputs from gear into desks. old gear has unique character (both good/bad), which we now have countless plugins trying to emulate/simulate/process. i agree with chaircrusher that essentially the only determining factor here is putting a digital recorder in front of someone stating their opinion, famous or not, but RV has a track record that speaks of success in terms of listenership and dj support. my own opinion on his music, and those of commenters here, is largely irrelevant.

    this is just jumping on an obviously problematic dialogue, and making a big deal out of nothing. honestly money talks, and we have UAD, SoundToys, D16, AD, etc. making a living off simulating what he's describing. And maybe we'll all buy the UAD Ableton Simulator in 2020 when we want to recall the days where everything had beatsynced granulation and distorted midrange.

  • Hydrogen

    great point Justin. You are spot on with this post. no questions.

  • Wendell

    Incredibly late to the party, and much of the comments were TLDNR, so my apologies. Double apologies because this comment is also ending up to be TLDNR.

    The Alesis HR-16 was used by Godflesh for a good long time to make some of my favorite music. And yet he felt he could never get the exact guitar tone he wanted in those years.

    I dunno about all the detail-y arguments that went on in this thread. I just know that each piece of kit, computer, piece of software is a tool, and we choose the ones that sound how we want and let us realize our creative output.

    I'll spare y'all the examples of different instruments I like to work with and those I pass on. What I will say is each tool is made by people who made choices as to what to include and leave out in its construction at every stage, and we base our personal preferences of what to use on that to a large degree.

    Other than listening to friends' music, most of the time composition and production are at the fore of what I care about, and what they used and how they used it is in the background. I'm mostly concerned with "Do they know how to use their tools well?" I could care less if they've actually twisted a knob on a physical mixing board when it's clear they have mastered the virtual one they use.

    When doing a tasting of fine booze, if the tasting is blind you get different results than if the people knew which brand they were tasting when.

    Peter, thanks for this post. It's in keeping with something I've noticed more and more, and am trying to do better at myself: talking about exactly what I intended to talk about, instead of being indirect, using innuendo or hints, or even being passive-aggressive.

  • Jolsen

    Mr. Lobos is 100% right on this one, he says a lot of crap which isn't right. But the fact that ableton sounds crap is so true!

    And no it's not the effect nore people's mixing skills, it's just the sound engine which sounds like a horrible over compressed mp3 file or something!

    If you can't hear this right away when setting up your TR drum samples in Ableton i suggest you stop making music right away for you have a really bad understanding of how things should sounds. And you should protect the future electronic music scene from yourself, you got no hearing what so ever!

    It is nice for playing live sets!

  • 1. Of course the DAW's like Reason and Ableton that are packaged with distinct (and usable) instruments and effects will have the same "sound" to it.

    2. Half of you are making an irrelevant argument. For example, the dj who claims a set DOES in fact sound "better" on turntables that cd. Great, that's analog vs. digital. Drum Machines like MPC's are digital. That's digital vs. digital. The variables are bit-rate, hardware vs. ITB……two different things. Analog freaks walk away. This doesn't concern you.

  • leckter


  • leckter


  • Bube

    what a load of horseshit. people who think they can ‘hear’ different DAWs are deluded.

  • Bube

    what a load of horseshit. people who think they can ‘hear’ different DAWs are deluded.

  • Dylan Blumberg

    Easy to play semantics with a person who’s speaking a language he doesn’t normally use or have a mastery of. Ricardo Villalobos is a legend for a good reason; he’s an amazing artist. How many languages do you speak, Peter Kirn? Your criticism is a waste of time. I’d love to listen to/enjoy something you made. Feel free to send me a link.

  • Dylan Blumberg

    Easy to play semantics with a person who’s speaking a language he doesn’t normally use or have a mastery of. Ricardo Villalobos is a legend for a good reason; he’s an amazing artist. How many languages do you speak, Peter Kirn? Your criticism is a waste of time. I’d love to listen to/enjoy something you made. Feel free to send me a link.

  • Stefano

    The difference I heard by using the same plugin (a D16 drum machine AU) in Logic and Live was H U G E. I wish I could move to Logic but the money invested and the skills developed in Live (plus, its workflow) hold me from doing so. But the difference is just there as clear as …uhm. something very clear.

  • Stefano

    The difference I heard by using the same plugin (a D16 drum machine AU) in Logic and Live was H U G E. I wish I could move to Logic but the money invested and the skills developed in Live (plus, its workflow) hold me from doing so. But the difference is just there as clear as …uhm. something very clear.