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Music & Entertainment

Digital Vs. Analog Synths


Lesson time 17:53 min

Analog synths are a big part of the deadmau5 sound and a great way to add creative elements to your productions. Hear the difference for yourself when Joel plays some of the same patches on digital and analog equipment.

Teaches Electronic Music Production
6 hours of instructions, 23 video lessons, and a downloadable course workbook.
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OK. So what I'm going to do is-- that, what you just heard there, was a pure as pure can be analog saw wave. So I'm going to take that analog saw wave, go into an analog filter. [DIGITAL TONES] All right. And what I'll do is I'll take a digital synth here. Let's see, like what? I don't know. Anything will do it. Massive or something, which is not analog. And I'll match that frequency with a saw wave. So massive here consists of three oscillators and a modulation oscillator and all that stuff. But just for demos sake I'm going to use a single oscillator. So what I need to do is just match [NOTE SOUNDING] that note if I can. [BEEPING NOTES] Well, see the analog one is slightly out of tune because that's analog for you. [MATCHING TONES] change that envelope a bit so we can actually hear it. Raise the voice in a little . So I got it close. And this is something I tend to do a lot with analog census You have to reference your pitch to a digital synth because the digital synth will never be out of tune. So I'm going to try my best to line up the pitch. Close enough. And the thing about analog is you don't necessarily want it precise because-- so this one is digital. And that's analog. So analog is giving it a little more warp to it even though I am running it through a low pass filter. But the filter is wide open. But if I go direct out-- [DISTORTED TONES] Whoops. So that's analog and that's digital. Now, in a square wave, you're going to hear there's no filter being applied on this digital synth. It's actually bypassed. [DIGITAL TONES] And it's pretty close because it's a saw. But when you start introducing things like filters-- so say I put a low pass, a four pole low pass on that with no resonance. You'll hear the way that-- No. It's hard to A and B it at the same time. But the way that works with this filter is if I-- [WAVE TONE] --you're going to get-- [WHISTLE TONE] you'll hear things like this ringing IN the resonance in an analog filter. But in a digital filter, unless it's being over sampled a ridiculous amount of times, you're not going to get that kind of resonance in a filter, a digital filter. It's close, but it's step. You can actually hear the steps in it as you're turning the-- [MOVING DIGITAL TONE] So the analog, there's no amount of steps. It's infinite. But with digital, you're obviously locked into certain increments of values due to the interpolation of the filter or the oversampling amount, which is basically the more oversampling, the more divisions it'll have within a filter step, or an oscillator, or something like that. That's what oversampling does. Some digital synths have oversampling that can come pretty close to recreating that to the point where, shit, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. But then some don't and are just so obviously b...

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Before he was deadmau5, all Joel Zimmerman wanted for Christmas was old toasters to take apart. Now, you can watch him take his music apart. In his first-ever online class, Joel teaches you how he approaches melodies, mixing and mastering to make unique sounds you can't find in a cookie cutter sample pack. You'll not only get his lessons, you'll learn how to create your own music without spending money on million dollar gear.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Good insights on music and creativity and new ways of doing things through experimentation. Increased knowledge of synthesis. Gained good insight into career growth. Inspirational.

This class sort of reinforced concepts I already knew. I'm a long time song writer and a somewhat new producer. I found the mixing and the analog synthesis portion was eye opening. Over all, I enjoyed his style and '0 fucks given ' personality.

Loved it! So much insight, information, stories and knowledge for such an accessible fee... amazing times... really well done, Masterclass!

Excellent. Joel was very straightforward and frank about his process, which is truly something to appreciate.



Interesting that he used Massive for a saw wave instead of his homeboys plugin.

Robert &.

So I was wondering more about how the application MAX/MSP and its digital synth sounds stand up against Analog signals ? Does the granulation of digital still present itself in this program language based music development also ?

Sasha S.

I'm a lifelong professional musician, I have a degree in audio production, and I've worked as a music producer. I got a LOT out of this course even though he's covered topics i knew very well. It's just always great to hear a genius like DM5 discuss their process. He showed me some new things, reenforced some things i knew, and brought some bullshit i've been doing up to the surface of my attention. Great series.

William A.

you know, I'm very pleased. Not only does he illustrate the difference between analog and digital effectively, but I also learned a lot about how to manipulate both synths more effectively.

Thomas K.

I am curious at around 11:11 when he's talking about analog having infinite precision and digital being constrained to a float, I don't believe that is accurate because the analoy knob has some degree of granularity right?


The filter resonance sound grainy while swiping it up or down in some virtual synths, nicely illustrated in this lesson.

Robert P.

Knowing how to do something, even very well, unfortunately does not always translate into being able to share and/or teach that something.

Jesse G.

I got my first analog synth a year ago. It was the moog subphatty. Great synth. You can get them for $800 new (I had to save up). It's monosynth, so no chords (although you can layer tracks to create full chords if you really want). I found that it was the perfect analog synth to learn on. I think my favorite thing about analog is the imperfections. You can kinda feel the electricity flowing through it. It feels alive compared to soft synths and more intuitive to learn what's happening to the signal. And I end up making mistakes that just end up feeling more interesting. People get into debates about what's better (analog v digital). They both have advantages. I personally like using both. There are things you can do to digital synths to get some warmth, too. Like adding LFOs to adjust pitch, and maybe an S&H wave to create random artifacts if you want that imperfect "boards of canada" from a digital keyboard. The Microkorg is probably the most versatile and cheapest keyboard I've ever used. I actually use it for more sounds than my sub phatty, but they are just totally different. I'm usually surprised when I hear that certain artists used a soft synth or digital rack unit on certain syth tracks I love. Kandinsky uses almost entirely softsynths, and the "Real Hero" bassline by College is a digital rack synth (I was told the tx81z). They are both sounds I thought I needed analog gear to get. Sometimes it goes to show you, the ideas and your taste are the most important thing. Different gear is great to teach and inspire, but don't let not being able to afford expensive gear hold you back. People always told me that but I never really believed it til i got these keyboards. Get what you can afford, learn it inside and out. Experiment. Have fun, and don't make stupid excuses. That's what I've been trying to do :)

Joshua T.

This is pretty damn fun, you have a lot of input about the questions I have involving the synths. Helps eliminate all the confusion involved with it.

Ron L.

I have to admit i was skeptical about the digital vs analog (Nyquist-Shannon and all that) but he makes a solid case for analog based on three things: 1) Creative uniqueness (patch disappears when you pull the cables!) 2) Grittyness (warm imperfections of analog) 3) No worries about aliasing or limited (digital steps) in control .