Sky, I agree that CDs were a vast improvement in convenience and often more revealing sound-wise when they first came around. And they were definitely a different listening experience than vinyl or tape. Some songs sounded too “harsh” at first. Although recording and mastering engineers soon learned to compensate for that.
Everyone has their own opinon on how audio should sound. Digital can be harsh/cold, analog has its own list of issues, as you mentioned. There is no “perfect” way to record. Some use software or real tubes to “warm up” the sound”, which is basically adding a tiny bit of distortion to the audio. If you ask ten producers and you will get ten opinions of what sounds best.
There has been a tendency to over-compress music in recent years to make it louder. The idea is if it’s louder it will get noticed. But it squashes the dynamic range and makes music more tiring to listen to long term.
My opinion is keep level sensible so there is some dynamics range left while recording. And use at least 24 bits. Then when you mix it down to CD or mp3 or ACC or whatever, it will sound as good as possible. I still prefer uncompressed audio. I’ve had peole tell me compressed audio is just as good. Opinions…
I’m a musician, I don’t want to argue with people about audio, I just want to enjoy music that sounds the best it possibly can. Thanks for responding. : )