Why do older songs sound so grainy?

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Why do older songs sound so grainy?

In: Technology

If they were digitalized from an old record, then dust/physical damage on the records themselves.

Many old recordings were not stored/archived properly and have been degraded or damaged over time. Only the most famous recordings still sound good after 80+ years and even then they may not be perfect. This is why you can listen to two records from the 40’s that sound decades apart in terms of audio quality

As mentioned already, part of it is the fact that analog recordings exist as physical objects: wax cylinders, vinyl records, and reels of tape. All physical objects deteriorate over time, and not only are copies always lower-quality than the original, the act of making copies or even playing an analog recording deteriorates the original a little bit every time.

But it also has to do with the fact that recording technology itself is always improving. The first records were recorded with a band playing in front of a big funnel and the sound was etched directly onto a wax cylinder or disc; that’s gonna sound grainy as fuck. The invention of tape made things much better, and then various improvements to tape, tape recorders and microphones were made over the years.

Digital recordings, however, don’t deteriorate and can be copied infinitely assuming the files stay intact. And the invention of that coincided with refined recording techniques and really good-sounding microphones (and effect units). I used to own a digital multitrack recorder that recorded on Zip disks (so we’re talking mid-to-late 1990s) that was more powerful than the tape machines used to record the first Beatles album. The problem is I didn’t own good microphones, or a studio space, or… skills.

Recording sound “properly” takes a *lot* of skill—and expensive equipment—that not everyone has, but both are more available to the average person than ever before, in terms of price and abundance. You can learn about recording and mixing for free off YouTube (though nothing beats an actual course in it).