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Does recording equipment matter?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by Kurt Foster, Feb 26, 2005.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    There's an interesting thread running in the Acoustic Music forum titled "Recording equipment doesn't matter". I have been following it with interest.


    I am wondering how the rest of you feel?

    Of course most of you know I think it does. The one thing I keep returning to in my thought process is, "Why do people who have a lot of nice gear seem to think equipment does matter and why do people who don't have it think it doesn't, aside from the obvious ... that if someone didn't think it mattered, they wouldn't go out and buy it?

    Would the people who aren't using high end stuff, use it if they could, or is it really a choice of "I don't really think it matters"?

    Do the people who have great gear know or hear something everyone else doesn't, or are they all suffering from some "disease" that the people who have only used "affordable" gear are immune to? I know it sounds a bit snobbish and elitist. I don't mean it to be.

    Of course, the performances and talent level on both sides of the glass have to be there first. The question I always ask is "Why are you recording? Is it because you have (a) great song(s), or is it because you just want to record? I submit the latter is a lousy reason, other than in the context of education. If some of you think I am a snob when it comes to gear, you should hear / see what I think about songs, performance and arraignments. I expect even more from the talent than I do the gear. This is part of the reason I am not so active in commercial recording any longer. I am very frustrated / disappointed / disgusted at how shallow the talent pool has become.

    One reason I look upon the past as the "Golden Age of Recording", is I feel for the most part, there was a "weeding out" of untalented people who really had no business recording. In those times, recording studios were so expensive to build and to book time in, the most cost efficient way to make a record was to bring in a load of very talented musicians, like "The Funk Brothers", "The Swampers" or "The Wrecking Crew" and record everything in one pass. It was not uncommon in those times to record 3 or four sides in a 4 hour date. Record companies were the primary clients and a lot of them like Atlantic Records were run by music lovers and composers, who really knew talent when they saw it. I personally feel that a lot of those records were some of the best pop music ever recorded. I doubt that anything that good will ever transpire again, given the current trends.

    But things change. The delivery systems are different these days. In the 50's and 60's vinyl and AM radio were king ... Quality at the initial stages was an absolute requirement in order to get an end product that was acceptable after all the loss during mixing, mastering, duplication and broadcast processes.

    These days with digital transfers and broadcasting, loss is not so much an issue. Along with that the miniaturization of electronics and digital recording has put reasonably decent tools in the hands of almost anyone who decides that recording would be a good alternative to a "real job". Has this been a good or bad thing?

    Still, I am wondering why the audio community seems so polarized when it comes to this issue? Is it arrogance or ignorance or something else?

    I hope that some experienced pros as well as novice and experienced home recordists will chime in here. For this to be a valid exchange, we need to hear from all areas of the recording community.

    In advance, thanks for any comments any of you may have. I hope to recuse myself from the rest of this, I am happy just to initiate the discussion, so please don't address any comments directly at me unless absolutely necessary.

  2. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    It sure matters to me and my clients. Once I knew and could hear the difference, I knew I would not likely ever be satisfied again with lesser quality that I could obtain and that is all the justification I've ever needed. The real turning point is when I learned that gear is not just gear. It is tools that are used to get a job done. The better your tools and your skill in using them, the better the results are. Great tools are expensive and should be considered an investment. Since I consider myself a professional, I take my work very serious. I believe that in doing good to great work I need to consistantly invest time, money and effort to do the best job I am capable of. It is a constant never ending drive and attitude to keep learning, experimenting, and gaining experience so that I am able to stay ahead of my clients and competition.
  3. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    I do believe in gear that works

    also in gear that is fairly priced

    It can also be seen that there is an esoteric group out there that will hear what they want to hear.
    The HiFi boys are a good example.

    it may come down to making a living ... or needing to eat on occasion.
  4. TomK

    TomK Guest

    Hi end equipment does matter but, it only matters when these two other conditions are met in my opinion. You can have all of the greatest gear in the world, if the tunes stinks it stinks! Nothing can fix it. Secondly, the best peice of gear is a good set of ears.
  5. mcmilliron

    mcmilliron Guest

    I agree with TOMK... High end gear can significantly improve your sound but not without a set of trained ears. I believe an engineer who is a trained musician will have an advantage over an engineer who isn't.
  6. mjatas

    mjatas Guest

    True. You can buy equipment for $5000 or $800 and would sound much the same, however more expensive gear has more options, easier to use and more advanced for the guys who have many years of experience. My opinion is do not get dirt cheap equipment, no name or junk. I had many problem with no name brands and also do not get any equipment used unless you know what you are getting and are experienced with gear in general. If you are really a beginner at recording by mid priced range gear good brand name. If you are experienced sound engineer go for the top and spend all your money.
  7. Oats

    Oats Guest

    I agree with much that has been said. I think hi end gear is useful-- IF you have the ears/skills to use it and IF the music is good to start with. I would rather have someone with an incredible ear as producer/engineer with cheap gear than someone with no ear/experience and alot of hi end gear-- but I do come from a players/writers perspective having been on the performing end before moving to engineering/producing...
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    In past times, even the cheap stuff was pretty pricey. If you wanted to be a recordist 25 years ago, it required some commitment and dedication. Now days any schmuck with $1000 is a "producer".

    Even in present times, I don't know of too many individuals with no ears or experience, that would know good gear if it bit them on the ass. Usually thier concept of great gear is what the Musicians Friend and other catalogs or thier buddy down at "Digital Mart" is pushing. Good tase in equipment is often (but not always) indicitave of a persons knowledge and expierence.

    There are individuals representing themselves as being knowledgable, who seem to think they can hear well, that really just don't have a clue IMO. These are the kind of people who will say there's no difference in 96K v 44.1, who swear digital is "more accurate" than analog and that there is no difference in various EQs, compressors or mic pres.

    I really don't know of too many engineers "with an incredible ear as producer/engineer" that are willing to work "with cheap gear" for the most part. My observation is anyone who can really hear (in my estimation), who has been exposed to the high end, are not so willing to go back to working with "semi pro" gear.

    Sure, a great engineer / recordists can do good work with budget gear, but the really good ones will tell you everytime it could be much better with the good stuff. Some, absolutely refuse to work with less than the best.

    Is this snobbery? Are these people lazy and unwilling to take the effort to squeeze everything possible from inexpensive gear as ahs been suggested? Or are they rare, talented, dedicated, discriminating individuals who refuse to compromise thier craft or to limit themselves to the sonic pallete of the low end? Do they know (or hear) something that the "average Joe" doesn't?

    It is evident to me, why it seems there is not as much good music and more bad music since affordable gear became available. People who really have no business playing music, much less recording and producing it, are "dumbing down" the industry.
  9. Crane

    Crane Guest

    Yes I agree there is a BIG difference in levels of equipment. Just like there is a $80,000 Steinway, $120,000 Bosendoeffer and a $5,000 old Samick or any other cheap grand pianos. But I have seen many times on this board people asking what is bare bones and then are blasted because they won't or can't spend thousands or dollars on equipment. Alot of us can't spend what others can so we work with what we have to make the best recording we can. Yes I admit my ways aren't smiled upon by several on this forum, but at this time this is what I have and actually many of my recordings sound awesome. I am a classical musiciain who performs quite a bit and can hear the difference in quality or recordins and gear. Just give us guys a break who ask for advice and don't have the big bucks to spend. Who knows later on we might get better at what we do and take your jobs.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have been moderating this BB for over 3 years now and I can not recall one instance of that occuring. No one is being blasted or attacked on my watch for being financally challenged. I see thigs completly from the opposing POV. Recently it seems that when anyone dares suggest that high end gear is better, they are villified as lazy, a gear snob or some rich person to be resented because they have some good gear. I am getting tired of people complaining that they can't afford it. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    And how to define "bare bones"? Is that one Neve pre and a U87? Or is it a SM57 through a Behringer pre? It means different things to different people in different circumstances.

    I am arriving to the conclusion that the music and audio recording business was far better off when "affordable gear" didn't exsist. At least the music was better.

    As far as "taking our jobs", those from the cheap end have already laid a big fat greasy turd in the pool and ruined, as Martha Stewart would put it, "a very good thing", quality audio. They can take it now, I don't want to swim in there anymore.
  11. Crane

    Crane Guest

    If i can't afford it doesn't mean I should not record. I do this for my own enjoyment and for a few close friends. I think you "Kurt" would better off , off this board and playing with that "big fat greasy turd"
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I am soooo sick of this sh*t. I never said don't record. Perhaps if you were to stop drawing inferences from what people say and accept their comments at face value, you wouldn't spend so much time putting words in other peoples mouths and then getting angry at them for something they never said in the first place.

    But your last comment proves my point. It seems those who "cry broke" are usually the first to point fingers and make personal insults while they snivel about some perceived slight that no one ever made.

    Who blasted who here? Am I not allowed to have and voice my opinion? Why would this board be better off without me? Because you would be able to spout off about how great your cheap gear is without someone to burst your bubble?

    You don't want to learn from others experiences or be exposed to other opinions than your own. You just want to make posts on the internet about how awesome your recordings that you made are while other people rblow smoke up your rear replying how wonderful you are.

    I personally don't give a rats rump what you record with, or what kind of music you play.
  13. Crane

    Crane Guest

    I remember I post I made about recording with minidisc and you were the one to say don't take advice from someone who uses this format. On the other hand others on this forum say go with what you have and do the best possible. That's all I'm trying to say here. I don't think I'm making any inferences that aren't justified. I'm not saying at all how "wonderful" I am. I do want to learn from others and have learned alot from this board but some people like yourself CAN'T seem to take anyone elses opionion if it doesn't agree with yours. Not that I have said that let's let this go and be more human towards each other. Peace
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Cool ... all anger aside (and I admit this got me pissed) I am plenty willing to listen to others opinions. I however reserve the right to constructively argue points I do not agree with without enduring personal insults. Just because I am willing to keep hammering on the points of contention, does not mean I feel that people with other opinions should be silenced. I am not sure where this all comes from ... ??? Often when others reply to my posts, they bring up new points I wish to address. I am not intolerent of other opinions. I admit I may think at times that some people don't know what they are speaking about, or may not hear very well but that doesn't mean they don't have the right to speak thier minds.

    As to the Minidisc, I am sorry I offended you. But you are better off recording to a decent cassette recorder than to a Minidisc. The data compression on Minidiscs do a huge amount of damage to the audio by dropping large amounts of "least significant bit" data.

    Anyone (myself included) who posts on any BB should be ready to take the heat on what they say. BBs are not for the thin skinned. Like the old Fleetwood Mac Song "Oh Well" says, "Don't ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to".
  15. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Most important (#1) - the talent in front of the microphones - the music. A lesser recording of a great performance will be more enjoyable than a great recording of a lesser performance.

    Next (#2) is the talent behind the microphones - a great recording engineer with mediocre equipment will get better results than a mediocre engineer with great equipment.

    Somewhere below #1 and #2 is the equipment. Recordings made with good gear sound better and are easier to work with, but without #1 and #2, what have you got?
  16. Crane

    Crane Guest

    Just a further note Kurt the new minidisc "Hi-MD" is now a no compression recording. The results are much better than the compressed recordings made with the old atrac compressed system.
  17. kingfrog

    kingfrog Active Member

    Although I rspect Kurt and understand his frustration I do disagree with his premise. As Kurt knows from the pre Amp thread I am a huge advocate of those who don't have the money or choose not to purchase the esoteric gear. I have been doing this for 30 years and have gone thorugh various incarnations of Home Studios and all kinds of formats.

    I am getting ready as soon as I get home to once again revamp my home studio. I'm selling just about all and simplifying. I have come to the realization that the quality of gear available today costs a tiny fraction of what that same quality would have cost when I began. Thats why I do not subscribe to the "must have a $2000 pre amp theory."

    HOme recording of decent quality is available to the masses and that does upset those who feel it should still be reserved for "qualified" individuals. If the quality was that terrible, major geared studios would not be going out of business by the day. Nor would labels be looking for less expensive places to record.

    I remember when I was recording on a TAscam 244 on cassette format.....I hear Bruce Springsteen records Nebraska on the same format carrys the tape around in his back pocket for a week. and it is released! I am sure it was tweaked by expensive gear at some point in the process but the original tracks were still on the lowly Tascam 244. I felt "validated" in a small way with my lowly gear.

    This gave me incentive and some confidance in my own gear but more importantly the content. . I remember start up companies like Alesis (digital reverb for the masses), Ensonig (sampling for the masses) Cakewalk (Sequencing software for the masses) CAD ( large diaphraim mikes) Tascam ( my hero) and many more recent companies have made once unobtainable technology affordable to many.

    The gear is getting better exponentially as the price points decrease inversely. The Gap between prosumer and Pro is very narrow and I believe now in the "hair splitting" arena in many cases. This is evidant by those who claim to need "ears" to hear the differences in very extremly priced gear. I read it many times. You need "ears." Amatuers don't have the "ears" therefore they are not qualified or something like that.

    My argument would be most endusers of CDs don't have those "ears" and thus the mid priced gear is plenty good enough. I don't claim to have those "ears" nor do I want them.....golden ears are very expensive to satisfy and its unfortunate but the masses cannot appreciate the subtities of sound in their high SNR listening environments.

    You can record for other producers and engineers or you can record for the general public........I choose the general public who listen to the end products as mP3s and boom boxes. There are those who will claim they record for themselves and could not live with lesser quality recording (read anything but the best gear)....well the piper has to be paid for that very personal if somewhat unappreciated by the masses need.Society has been dumbed down...I certainly am not going to pay the prices to buck that trend.

    All that said..I have to say if one is recording Acoustic guitar and voice ala Tuck and Patty......There is a valid argument for very quiet gear and quality mics....$2000 pre amp? no. $3000 mike again no..but not Beheringer either.

    I do believe spending $300-$400 per channel on a pre amp is plenty good enough as is a $500 LD mic. Any more than that in my experience and opinion is money better spent on music lessons....
  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I posted this in another thread as well but it applies here as well.

    I also disagree that any budget level pre amp is going to duplicate the phase accuracy and bass propagation as that of a mic pre with a well designed power supply. All of the low end stuff cheeses out on the power supplies and without that foundation, all the tubes and transformers and Burr Brown chips are worthless. There's even more to it but I can leave it at that for the moment.

    Also, there are very decent mic pres for a lot less than $2000 per channel. The JLM TMP8 sells for $2100 for 8 channels. The Brick can be bought for under $350. I've used the JLM but not the Brick. But they both utilize very adequate power supplies.
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    ALL gear makes a difference.What you do with it makes MORE of a difference.

    BTW...I'm teaching my monkey to type. As soon as hes done with this lesson, I'm expecting the Declaration Of Independance.I mean he IS using an IBM SELECTRIC for gosh sakes, it oughta be good enough for that!It is the best typewriter in the world after all........
  20. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Ahhh yes, vintage analog gear. That's the ticket :cool: :cool: :cool: :cool:

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