Audio Simulacra

Copy Fidelity in the Digital Age of Reproduction


This paper examines the relationship between audio hardware used for dynamic processing and their associated software models. Focusing on a number of “sought after” compressor and limiter models, it addresses the questions surrounding the fact that hardware units are still found in operation in almost every major recording facility in the World, despite there proliferation of software models of these devices.

By conducting a control ABx listening test it became apparent that Expert Listeners (Sound Engineers) are able to perceive a difference between two popular Hardware models and their Software models. However, the Casual Listener test group could not. A further study shows that a test group of sound engineer/musicians are able to differentiate between the same circuit presented with different component types/tolerances and that the majority preferred the unit containing the components with the least “quality” in terms of stability and noise rating, reporting it to be “more musical”.

Aside from the two audio tests, other contributing factors are considered including: Professional presentation, cost, usability, the creative process, non-linearity and the adaption and “mutation” of analogue circuits over time. Further research is proposed in this area, using the principles of genetic mutation to map, in the software domain, how hardware circuitry changes over time.