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World class recording. What does that mean today?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Rodney Spaulding, Feb 24, 2004.

  1. As I read through the remarkable posts on these forums by so many industry veterans and the wealth of knowledge of professionals I can't but wonder your thoughts on what a GREAT record means anymore.

    Although my own studio doesn't compare with 90% of the engineer / producers studios here, I do have GEAR (not skill perhaps) that rivals and exceeds gear that was used on some of my favorite records. Records that AT THE TIME were considered 'golden' 'world class' and 'state of the art'.
    So where does does the line end and begin in terms of 'professional' recording anymore?
    There is this HUGE gray area of engineer/producers like myself where I can consider myself professional in many areas and compared to many others..But can hardly consider myself more than a working hobbyist on another standard compared with, for instance many people here (most maybe). Regardless that I make my sole living with my small studio.

    I work with some world-class musicians here in Santa Barbara Ca. (there is a tremendous wealth of talent) and I have captured some great performances/vibe/emotion etc in my small studio. So can I consider that 'professional'? What can I compare it too or base it against? The quality is certainly better than alot records from the 70's and 80's or early over-digitized low bit rate 90's.
    However I still can't compare myself with the engineers or studios who did those pieces. I can compare my work the work they do now, and it takes me back to 'hobbist' level.

    I would genuinely like to hear your opinions. Thank you and Peace.
  2. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    We love music, we work on it and we grow... Top producers, engineers, arrange, songwriters, musicians, vocalists, had to get their start somewhere- If its your passion, go for it, you'll get better! Maybe one day you'll be listed among the greats, but that's not your call to make. It will be bestowed on you by your peers if you grow to be good enough... :D
  3. Xavier,
    Thank you for the reply, great comments and insight.
    My real question is 'what does it take to be considered a world class recording'...today?

    I really don't have any need of impressing my peers. This is music and it is my passion and my career.I wake up everyday and work in my studio and survive. It doesn;t bother me that I am not 'known'. Many wonderful talented people aren't known until a record breaks. Then all of a sudden they are 'somebody'. That includes small independent producers like me as well. Being known doesnt change your gift or who you are, being known just gets you known...and buys you better gear to work with. :)
  4. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    :) This is just my answer to a question like yours; of course it depends on the style of music too, so I will confine it somewhat. To me, a world class recording is a great performance captured to tracks. The tracks may or may not need to be mixed (direct to 2 channel), but definitely mastered. Where voices and instruments sound like voices and instruments, with space and dynamic excitement within the confines of the media and sound of general reproduction systems.

    If you are capturing these qualities, then you are certainly in the ballpark.

    This is just the way I hear it; I am not a mastering engineer.

  5. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Well, I think that impressing your peers and having the respect of your peers as well as having them label/describe what you have done as being a world class recording is just about the most important aspect to define what makes a world class recording. No one else but your peers and other professionals that are in the same field knows better or is more qualified to know or judge than those who do the same thing. It certainly isn't the general public. They are willing to accept and even like MP3's so what the hell do they know?
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    "World Class" is the most often over used and over stated phrase if there ever was one.

    There are now so many "world class" studios and musicians that it is hard to understand the true meaning of the word. I did a search on the WWW and found 495,000 listings for "world class recording studios" and 2,300,000 listings for "world class artist" and 3,410,000 listings for "world class CD" - WOW. I guess almost every studio and every artist and every CD is now considered "world class"

    The Dictionary has this to say about "world class"

    Adj.1. world-class - ranking above all others;
    best - (superlative of 'good') having the most positive qualities. adjective of or denoting someone with a skill or attribute that puts him or her in the highest class in the world
    example: a world-class swimmer. Someone or something world-class is one of the best that there are of that type in the world:
    - a world-class athlete/performance

    To my way of thinking and if you follow the dictionary's definition then there can only be a handful of people, studios and artist that can truly call themselves "world class" The same can also be said for a "world class" CD. Unfortunately this is not the case in today's world where everyone likes to describe what they do as "world class".

    How about a more attainable goal. What makes a "good" CD.

    A good CD comes from good writing, good playing, good recording and tracking, good mixing and good mastering. It should sound good. The instruments should be recorded well and have the sound of real instruments (or not depending on the type of material), the vocals (if any) should be well sung, in tune and contribute to the overall sound of the CD, the effects and reverb should also contribute to the over all sound of the CD. They should not be done for "effect".

    It should be a CD that you will not play once and forget about. It should be a CD that draws you in so that you want to hear more. There should be an initial clarity to it but also it should reveal more to you every time you hear it. The playing should be such that each member of the ensemble contributes to the overall sound of the CD but no member of the ensemble should overwhelm the rest. The writing should be such that the listener can feel the emotional state of the writer when he or she wrote the song. A good CD is one that you will want to listen to over and over again and that you will not tire of nor become bored with after hearing repeated playings. I have about a dozen CDs in my collection of over 600 CDs that meet this criteria for being a good CD

    This is my definition as to what constitutes a good CD. As to what constitutes a world class CD? I guess from the way the term has been overused every CD produced by every studio and every artist is truly "world class"

    IMHO and FWIW
  7. Tom and Rick, thank you for the thoughful reply.
    Both of those combined basically summed it up and I couldn't agree more.

    AudioGaff, Thank you for your insight as well, appreciated. It is apparent by reading your posts elswhere on the board that 'looking' good is as important to you as sounding good, that's totally cool. I would prefer to hone my skills and do my best to produce great music.
    If you can produce great music you WILL be respected by your peers.

    What does the public know? That sounds like a naive question. People care about great music. Every single album I cherish as remarkable, that 10% that Tom discussed was a record I learned to love BEFORE scrutinizing production values. According to many, it isn't the production at all but everyting combined. 'People' will take mp3's if the song is great because they are looking great music, they could care less what kind of mic you used on the snare.

    best to you

  8. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Rod, If you read my postings you will find that I have never placed looks from either talent or gear over sound, and I place great value in using the highest quality tools I can obtain to do my work. Since you made the statement "my own studio doesn't compare with 90% of the engineer / producers studios here" I only guess that you don't place the same value to the tools you use as I do. I also prefer to keep on honeing my skills and producing the very best I am capable of. I have never said or implied otherwise. Why you would think otherwise is odd. You asked what World Class Recording means, and just because a song may be good or even great or just because it is downloaded many times, that has very little if nothing to do with it being a World Class Recording. And just because you may make great recordings and even are abel to get the respect of your peers, that still doesn't equal World Class Recordings. World Class is just that. Something that has very high reguard through out the entire world be it artist, musician, song or piece of gear.
  9. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    On the other hand those little decisions, such as what mic was used on the snare, are precisely what adds up to a "world class" recording, something that is above the rest. A great producer and engineer will know just what to do to get the best sound possible within your budget-
    All the general public will know its that it sounds great but your peers will know what you did, and if they respect your work you are indeed doing it right. That's why your peer respects is important, because they are the ones that know what you did and why you did it well and why it sounds like it sounds- its not an ego thing at all, its the reality of life and its the same in any field of human endevor. If you are a brain surgeon and you have the respect of your peers, people who know what brain surgery is all about, then you are a great brain surgeon. If you lose the respect of your peer it will be more likely because you f**K up, not because they are jelous of you or something like that.

    Tom summed it up nicely as great songs, great singer, great recording, great mixing, great mastering... Also don't forget great MARKETING or the song won't get to your ears in the first place so that judgement can be made- If that recording you made got out there, was well received by the public and your peers and it was generally accalimed- then baby, you and your music have arrived! :D
  10. No you guessed wrong. I simply have not had the option to purchase particular pieces of gear yet in my career. Not everybody has.
    The point being that it is important not to focus on the tools but just that fact that they are a means to an end. For example I happen to use Tannoys and Yamaha's to monitor with, not Genelec's and Adams. I don't own a single U87 but I have some really nice vocal mics. Does it mean I don't care about great sound? Duh.

    I don't drive a Lexus either, but because I drive a Honda doesn't make me a bad driver.

    Sure It frustrates me not being able to capture an energy/sound/vibe I feel or hear becaue I haven't the right tools for it, however it won't change whether or not it is a great recording, not with some of the tools I do have. That was the point of this thread. And most importantly it won't change whether or not it is accepted by the public.
    Not much I can do about it if my peers feel like they could have gotten a better vocal sound. They weren't there and they weren't the one's doing it.
    There will always be nicer gear to get. I won't let it stop me from making music and trying my best for a 'world class' record or better yet the best I am capable of.
    Not much I can do if my peers like it or not, they happen to artists as well.

    Best of luck to you.
  11. I have known AudioGaff long enough to call BS on that "looks" comment. The guy is a solid pro and one of the best resources for straight, no crap info on the boards.
    World class? Why try and qualify such a nebulous term? Here is a good way to figure out if you are world class:
    1. Pick from A. Rubber Soul by The Beatles B. Wish You Wre Here by Pink Floyd C. Check Your Head by The Beastie Boys D. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis E. Synchronicity by The Police F. So by Peter Gabriel G. Summer Teeth by Wilco H. Lauren Hill Live I. PortisHead NYC Roseland.
    2. Put four of them in the CD changer with one of your CDs.
    3. Press shuffle and play.
    4. Any questions?
  12. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    yep, that will tell the tale in a hurry... :D
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have been around here long enough to recognize this kind of topic.. It falls under the heading of “validation”. Forgive me if I am mistaken but IMO the question really is, “Do I have to own world class gear to make world class records or is what really matters is my talent as a producer and as an engineer?

    My 2 cents is one needs great gear and chops.. there is no substitute for either. Crap gear sounds like crap. If cheap gear worked, there would be no market for the good stuff and high end boutique manufacturers like Great River, Manley, Focusrite, Sebatron, True, Grace, Millennia etc. Just the fact that these companies exist in a very competitive marketplace where you can purchase a “tube” mic pre for under $200 and a LD condenser mic for even less proves out that they have “something” to offer. I promise, if you can hear at all, once you have worked with the high end stuff, you will become a gear snob not willing to “settle” for less like Audio Gaff, myself and most the others who frequent this BB..
  14. My comment wasn't BS it was my observation and one that doesn't discredit anyones standing or reputation. Audiogaff seemed to have noticed that.

    As for your test, I do own most of those records and could add 10 of my own. It is still your opinion which I was asking for, nebulus or not.
    No flame here to fan.

    Kurt actually summed it up. (thanks) with “Do I have to own world class gear to make world class records or is what really matters is my talent as a producer and as an engineer?"

    What is consider 'middle of road' today was considered amazing 25 years ago. So the question is if a record is considered 'world class' or great but was recorded on gear that by todays standards is considered low-quality, where does that leave the engineers without world class gear? (by todays standards)

    Kurt, 'settling' has nothing to do with having the money to buy it.
    'Settling' to me does not mean scrapping everything I own, not recording, not working, and not growing until I have ALL of the high end gear 'acceptable' for recording. All gear in my experience is aquired slowly over time. Is it for me anyhow.
    You know I have bought some 'less than high end gear' on your personal recomendations. I trusted your ears for reference. What does high-end mean anyway? Not always dollars.

    BTW- I never called anyone a snob, never would. My ears are sensitive to everything I own and I know exactly what I would like to change. Just because I don't have the 'right' gear doesn't mean I am settling. It just means I haven't been able to afford it. Maybe you can relate to that.

  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    No it’s not ... What was great 25 years ago is still good today and what was crappy then is even crappier now.. What you are referring to is specifications. There are many ways to arrive at specs and for the most part great specs doesn’t add up to great sound. Your comments are a direct reflection of the marketing hype that many bottom feeder type manufacturers spew out on a regular basis, hoping that if they say it often enough, it will be believed.

    Neves were favored 25 years ago and still are today.

    As far as the “settling” and "gear snob"comments, I was referring to AudioGaff and myself as much as to you or anyone else.

    Please don’t construe my remarks as me saying you should not record and explore production techniques using budget conscious gear. Many of us started out doing just that. But on the other hand, there is only so much that can be done with that kind of gear, only so much you can learn before the equipment becomes a hindrance. You can’t learn to tweak a noise gate with noise gates that don’t have “tweak ability”.. you can’t learn about pushing mic pres and other front end components into saturation when they have a narrow area of linearity where they sound right.

    As far as being able to “afford” something or not, well that’s exactly what my sig line refers to. It’s a matter of priorities. Maybe you don’t have to drive a nicer car, hit the clubs, drink a six pack a day, or smoke the best weed ... I know that AudioGaff has refered many times to making sacrifices so he could purchase the best of something, as I myself have done.. None of us here that I know of has deep pockets..
  16. Thank you for the reply.
    That's er', a tad bit stretching to make your point Kurt.
    I can name countless pieces of gear that didn't exist 25 years ago that have revolutionized the recording industry for the better. Gear that you yourself review and praise. Your statement is close ended.

    there are always exceptions, but that certainly isn't the rule.

    With all due respect that is a poor example,you are basically saying that those who don't use the high end gear must not have made ENOUGH sacrifices, now that is indeed BS. Priorities which cost money, require money.

    Referring to a quote from Henry Ford, and a quote which incidently has nothing to do with money, doesn't prove anything OR have anything to do with the subject at hand. Certainly doesn't apply to sacrifices.
    Sorry Kurt I can't 'think' more money into my bank account, regardless of my self esteem.
    The $30,000 I spent on pro audio gear this past year will take me 2 or 3 to pay off. In meanwhile I will continue to add to it as possible, that is just my reality. Priorities and all.
  17. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Thanks to the Doc for the specific examples of World Class. And for the record I take no shame and I am proud to be called or labled a gear snob as well as a no BS straight talker. No offense taken in that. As for the looks thing, well most great high quality gear also looks great so I never have to worry about that.

    No, that is not BS that is the truth. Truth based on the experience of thousands of professionals including myself. One day you may learn that lesson as well. I am always amused at those that have little overall experience or own and use mid level to crap gear be so commited to defending it and having to justify why they don't have to have the great stuff to get good results. They all have their little excuses of why they don't own any of the great stuff. Like all things that are important in life, it is about priorities. Argue all you like. In the end you still have to live everyday using what you know are less than ideal tools, working harder, longer and living with those limitations and going to bed each night dreamming about the good stuff and what you might be able to do with it while others and I live that dream everyday...
  18. Thanks for the reply, but Kurt's statement is still bogus.
    Just for the record I haven't EVER once defended my gear, I have never needed to. Besides, you can't possibly know what kinds of sacrifices I make for my life or my career. Why pretend you can? That is preposterous.

    As I said, I wake up everyday go to my studio and make a living. That is my only dream and I live it daily. Why knock me down for that? Because I use a set of RNC's and not an LA2a? Because I use a Focusrite ISA110 and not a Great River MP2NV? How about my Tannoy 600a's? $*^t? not in my opinion but it is all I have. I bought a pair of Yamaha MSP5's based on Kurts review as a second set of references. $*^t still? They work for what I bought them for.

    My gear happens to be Middle of the road by many standards and great by others standards (that is precisely what I said in the original post..read it)
    There's no excuse in that, that is life.

    I didn't start this thread to argue with anyone and especially not about gear.
    I certainly don't need your wisdom on creating a happy life though. God knows I am grateful I DONT dream about owning gear. Life is more than gear.

    Best to you.
  19. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Look buddy, You came and asked for opinions and opinions were given. if you don't like or agree with them, tough...

    Perhaps you are not as wise as you think you are and still need as much total wisdom as you can aquire. Keep reading, keep trying. Making a living on just provding recording services is indeed something to be proud of, but at the same time many can make a living doing it full time and still get nowhere, never do anything really great, never be truely satisfied with what they are working on or who they are working with. Wait until you have at least 10-solid years under your belt doing it full time and let's see if don't laugh and blush over most of the comments your making now...
  20. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I think this topic has gotten a bit off topic.

    I personally have friends who are "world class" musicians. They are classically trained musicians and are members of major US orchestras that are also "world class" (The Cleveland Orchestra being one of them). They are completely committed to their art and spend inordinate amounts of time practicing and playing so they can maintain their status. I have also worked with people such as Yo Yo Ma and Isaac Pearlman and when you hear them play their instruments you know you are in the presence of a "world class musician" just by listening to them. There is no question about them being "world class" in every way possible.

    Much hype exists in the field of contemporary music. Everyone wants the edge to sell records. Some of them go to inordinate lengths to look or act differently (Michael Jackson comes to mind here) or they so completely master their instruments or do things so well that they become the people that legends are written about (Jimi Hendrix comes to mind here) or they surround themselves with so much media hype that they are already stars before they even take the stage (pick anyone of the current crop of girl singers who wear less than the law allows and who were already media hyped before they sung a single note).

    When you talk about "world class" you are talking about an ideal that should be reserved for only the best. Unfortunately it is an overused term and as I pointed out in a previous post almost anything done today seem to be "world class" by someone's standards.

    It is not a "gear" thing, it is not a media thing, it is not an over hyped musician thing it is an ideal that should be used to describe the very very best in the whole world and when it is so overused the term becomes valueless and useless. You could say the same thing about the words fantastic, beautiful , enormous, one-of-a -kind as they are also over used and have become valueless.

    What really matters is the music and how it speaks to you. Music is a form of communication. When everything is right then the music speaks directly to you and you feel the emotion of the artist. This is what is truly "world class music" to quote an over used over done phrase.

    How about we get back to the business of making and recording music?


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