Molasses or Syrup? Which do you prefer?

Here’s a fun experiment. I mixed this song called “Travelling Light” by Chicago blues artist S. Joel Norman. You can hear the original here

I downloaded the tracks after watching this YouTube video by Mixer/Producer Marc Daniel Nelson

The video is all about how they recorded all of the tracks to digital, but some tracks were also recorded in parallel to tape, and illustrates the differences/advantages/disadvantages of the different recording media.

I really loved the song, so I decided to try an experiment. I first mixed the entire track using all digital sources. Then, once I had a mix I liked, I duplicated the project and replaced the digital elements that were also recorded to analogue tape with their analogue counterparts. I tried to keep the processing exactly the same, however, it was necessary for me to adjust gain staging, as the some of the analogue tape sources had a different RMS level.

In any case, here are the results. Can you guess which is purely digital, and which one has the analogue elements? Which mix do you prefer?

(oh, and feel free to bash the mix[es] while you’re at it! :grin: )


…or “Syrup”?

This is not scientific, just a bit of fun, really… but it does probably reveal a lot about the differences in a “real world” scenario.

BTW, the elements that were recorded both digital and analogue are as follows: Drums, Bass, one of the Electric Guitars, and the Piano…

… and if you want to download and mix the track for yourself, you can find the download link here

Edit - The answers can now be found here


Yeah I watched that too a few days back!
I love that producer.
I am not sure which is which but I prefer the 1st one.

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I don’t know which is which but I definitely prefer syrup. I find the molasses was giving me a crunchy feel. I look forward to seeing which is which.

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Ill repeat the response here too, just in case lol
Molasses sounds better in headphones but deteriorates on monitors, Syrup translates better in a studio and is ok on the headphones, so it sounds more together. If you can get Molasses to translate better on monitors, it would likely sound better than Syrup overall.


I second that!
I replied here after listening on headphones at home.
Now that I’m in the studio I started second guessing myself!


I’m listening on my laptop speakers and the difference is not huge. I would say the syrup mix sounds more glued. The mollassis mix is perhaps more transparant, but the transients (in particular the snare) seem somewhat harsher.

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Molasses for me

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Ok, I scrolled past the other responses so as not to color my impression.

I very much prefer Syrup over Molasses. Sounds richer, fuller, higher dynamic range to me. I tried to a/b as best I could with the site player.

But I hesitate to choose which is digital and which is analog. If I go with the knee-jerk “analog must be better”, then that would be Syrup. But as soon as I say that, I’m certain Andrew will say “Nope!”

So I’m going sit right here on the fence. :wink:

Edit: now that I’ve read the other comments, I’ll add that I listened on my Sony MDR-7506 cans.

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I dont think anyone can differentiate between digital and analog elements in todays day and age. I have failed that test in blind setting several times. Called analog elements digital and vice versa lol


So have I Michelle! Once bitten, twice shy…


Muh. I thought this was gonna be a food question :frowning:


Thanks for the great replies so far everyone! I’ll keep it going a while longer before I reveal which is which, so some others get a chance to have a listen and comment…

Yeah, I think this is the case with most who have grown up in the “digital era”.

Even most of us who are older, but who never got the chance to record or mix on professional grade analogue equipment (my old Yamaha MT1X 4 track cassette doesn’t count!) never really got to hear the raw analogue recordings…

That is why I recommend anyone who has the opportunity to download the files (they are here) and drop them in your DAW to hear the differences. I mixed the whole project, but you should be able to really explore the differences by listening to the raw tracks.

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Well, I had to do something to get your attention! :grin:

Hey man… I’m listening on a really wonky hi-fi system (one of those 3 foot tall column speakers with a built in sub)… but the way the hi-hat’s translating is really low in proportion to the kick and the snare. I really like the tone of the snare, was just wondering if that was intentional or not.

The snare and the vocals are the only thing I really hear a difference in on this speaker, but going of this completely untrustworthy speaker, both the snare and vocals in Molasses come across as having a slightly more smooth, warm, and bulky weight to them. If I had to guess, I’d say this one because of the tendencies tape has to mellow out and tame real high range harmonics and frequencies (according to Dave Pensado).

But REALLY that’s a total guess.

Very nice work by the way!!!

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It’s a very sticky situation. Clearly going to sap our analytical skills.


Jeez, I’m having a hard time deciding which one sounds analogue or digital. The more I listen to each recording, the less confident I become. Initially I thought that the Molasses = Analogue. I think it was because the piano at the beginning of the song seemed to sound a bit fuller . But after going back and forth A/ B -ing them, I’m feeling unsure.

At a guess i would say Molasses is the anolog one

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My past experience recording bass on cassette is that the bass guitar had a really nice, smooth and powerful sound compared to what I achieve in digital DAWs. I’ve got a bunch of Ampex Reel-To-Reel 456 (1/2 inch, 1 inch and 2 inch, but I haven’t listened to them in a long time. I seem to remember bass guitar sounding fuller and better on those reels verses digital, also). But memory is a faulty thing…AND, plugins as well as other things can compensate for the “digital” sound, making things sound analogue.

Probably the best method of identifying the digital VS the analogue versions you posted above, would be to hone in on a specific instrument and analyze them individually, one by one. It would take a bit of time and patience to come to a reasonably confident conclusion…And I wouldn’t bet my life on my conclusion!

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I was recently reading a thread on another Recording/ Mixing forum where the TS had just purchased an expensive 8 track reel to reel recorder. I think he paid around $5000 pounds or maybe it was euros (I can’t remember). The guy was asking the forum members if he got a good deal. I was thinking the guy is absolutely nuts to pay that much for an 8-track reel-to-reel. The maintenance, the mechanical parts, the tape reels and the storage of those tape reels…not to mention the editing and splicing that might be required!..All of that makes me feel very happy to be in the digital world. I used to love all that recording gear but it was a bit burdensome compared to what we have now. Storage is SO MUCH easier now and you can store your songs and files in a little hand-sized hard drive. Years ago that hard drive was basically a big room…And that room’s temperature and humidity needed to be carefully regulated.


My mate was saying using tape is ok but you are forever trying not to loose to much high end .
Too much hassle and expense for most people to bother now days