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Money/Quality Discussion

Member for

21 years
Hi All,

I have recently been thinking about this... it seems like prices can get pretty outrageous fairly quick in recording gear... for example, I thought a Neuman U87 would be pretty top of the line, and those can be picked up for a few thousand... but if I may quote from another thread: "$10K Huh? That is barely enough for one decent mic and preamp!" ... after some searching, sure enough, there's mics around that cost $10,000 or $15,000 or more... on the other side of the spectrum, there's recommendations for Shure mics and Sennheiser mics that cost less than a few hundred (and sm57's cost around $80 now, I think)...

Or in monitors... some people are happy with ones that cost less than $600 for the pair... while some say you need something like Genelec or Adams which cost a few thousand for the pair... still others say anything with active power (even Genelec) is crap, and really you need a great pair of passives and a great power amp, which would run several thousand dollars...

those are just a couple of examples... I guess I don't really have a question other than, what do you guys think? .. when is it "good enough" ?... some would say it's all about using your ears, but surely high quality results can't be found if all of your equipment combined only cost a few thousand... on the other hand, I wonder how many recordings I hear on the radio were made mostly with all of that extremely high end equipment out there... or, for those of us not in the upper class, why spend out of our means if we're still coming up so short? (I haven't even mentioned the cost of high quality consoles yet)...

Well, thanks for reading...


Member for

18 years 4 months

Todzilla Sun, 01/25/2004 - 16:49
My opinion is that results are 20% gear, 20% recording space, 40% performance and 80% production technique.

Yeah, it doesn't add up, but you get the idea.

There are acknowledged top pieces of gear that don't cost an arm and a leg - the Shure SM-57/58 or the FMR Audio Really Nice Compressor. These aren't necessarily do-all pieces, but in many applications they can sound pretty great.

My best advice is to refine your technique on low-end gear and work your way up. If you start with really nice stuff, you won't have as much incentive to figure out what you're doing wrong, because wrong won't sound as bad.

You've asked an open ended question, so there's my rambling answer.

Member for

20 years 6 months

AudioGaff Sun, 01/25/2004 - 20:53
I'm the $10K Huh? guy and if you would like to read some of my views and opinions, search under my name or where I've used the words quality, performance and/or tool.

You don't need to spend out of your means, and how much you spend and what your level of gear you buy depends on your goals. Like all things in life, if you really want it bad enough you find a way to get it. I see the gear I own and use as tools. Tools that allow me to do the best work that I am capable of reguadless if it becomes a hit on the radio or not. And like all professionals that use tools in their work, I find it easier to get work done, more enjoyable to work with, more reliable with less problems and failures, and get much better results when I use the best sounding, highest quality, highest performace tools that I have available to me. The price and value I get from working in and under those conditions is high, and I find that it clearly is worth it to me.

Member for

21 years

Member Sun, 01/25/2004 - 21:08
Return On Investment is a valid point that doesn't get any air time here.

Tools are used by folks who have ROI or value in their business plan. Toys are collected by those with no ROI, but with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) or lots of discretionary income.

My living is not made from recording, so my hobby gear is middle of the road, and priced accordingly. Moving up for me, is replacing a few SM57 with a few Audix D-series.

Member for

18 years 6 months

jdier Sat, 01/31/2004 - 05:12
I have to guess that $10K for one mic and preamp is more like $4-5K for the mic and the rest for a preamp.

This will be said over and over, but it will all depend on your expectations and goals.

My goal is to make something good enough that I can share with friends, sell at shows, sell on line and, in the ultimate dream world, represent my songs well enough to possibly sell a song or two.

I am just getting started and have spent just south of $10,000.

$4500 on PC + soundcards
$3000 on mics + preamps
$2500 on acousticly treating our combo mix/tracking room

To test out our set up I recently recorded a friends band. Here is a link for your reference:

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 02/05/2004 - 22:05
Thanks for the replies... yeah AG, you're the guy, but this wasn't intended to be negative towards you personally in any way... I think I've just been taking things here (and elsewhere in life) a little to seriously perhaps... I kinda got the vibe that if you by cheap equipment, you're commiting a crime against nature... and most equipment is considered "cheap" to at least someone out there... but yes, of course there's a reason things cost what they cost...

perhaps I shouldn't write so many posts when I'm in a bad mood... sorry about that... but I guess it's at least a bit understandable... people come and ask "what monitors can I get for under $400" and the typical reply is "Crappy... you need to spend around two thousand" ... with the key word "need" ... then again, I can see how this question would get annoying, since it is asked once every two weeks or so... I guess I just got a little disturbed when I recently found out a certain console cost $800,000...

anyway, sorry...

Member for

21 years

Member Fri, 02/06/2004 - 07:40
My daughter's band just finished a grueling 80 hours in two Los Angeles studios. Both are ProTools shops, one full blown, the other PT LE.

Mics on the kit were SM57, with TLM-103 pair on two overheads, and U87 + Peavey CD-20 for the kick.

Amp mics were DI, SM57 and MD-421, and vocals were Neumann and Rode NT2. Pres included API and Avalon.

Results were steller.

Member for

20 years 6 months

AudioGaff Fri, 02/06/2004 - 11:41
yeah AG, you're the guy, but this wasn't intended to be negative towards you personally in any way...
No offense taken hear Death addeR.
I kinda got the vibe that if you by cheap equipment, you're commiting a crime against nature
I sure agree with that!

You asked "when is it good enough?" The simple answer is that it is good enough when you are perfectly happy with your results using the tools you have available to you. I have high standards and I'm not easily satisfied so it is almost always never good enough but is as good as I am capable of making it. Once most professionals hear and use great gear it is near impossible to go back and live with anything else so you find a way to get access to it. You can avoid that problem by sticking to crap and mediocore gear and living with the results it brings you. It is all a matter of your choice and your priority.

Member for

17 years 10 months

Kent L T Fri, 02/06/2004 - 17:29
Well there are priorities in life that some of us have made prior to getting into this which have to be taken into account. If you have made gear decisions taking into account those priorities then that makes you a responsible person. That however doesn't mean we don't lust after that elam 251. When we have taken care of our priorities then we go Shooppping Wheee! :D

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 11/27/2006 - 03:31
It really comes down to what you want or need. If you're just recording at home for demos etc it's probably a waste of good cash to spend $10k+ on a mic and pre-amp.
One thing I've come to understand gradually (slow learner me) is just how important the recording environment is. It doesn't really matter how expensive equipment you've got if your recording room is crap :)
Me, I'm recording in my home office, I've got an E-MU 1616M, and Oktava mk319 that I picked up cheaply and an SM58.
Personally I think these are pretty good budget items, and I get some really sweet sound out of them, but the noise level (amazing how much a condenser picks up!) and the crappy acoustics of my room really spoils it. As it is a rented apartment I can't really do major modifications to it, so I guess I will have to live with that.
Anyway, I would probably spend money on getting a good environment before splashing out on expensive gear.

Just my 2p.

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 11/27/2006 - 22:57
IMO The most important factors in order:

1: The band/artist/musicians natural talent
2. The songs/arrangements (A great song is a great song!)
3. The bands instruments
4. The acoustic space
5. The right equipment/gear
6. The know how to drive the gear

If you have an amazing artist, sometimes the rest of the recording chain can be compromised, and you will still come out with a great end result. I have heard home recordings that were done on 4 track cassette recorders that sounded absolutely gorgeous, because the artist was amazing, and their songs brilliant.

Member for

21 years

Member Sat, 11/25/2006 - 09:15
good gear is a relative term.

i have heard amazing recordings from gear that was "crap"

the fact of the matter is, is that you don't have to spend alot of gear to get good sounding recordings. you just have to be innovative. sure, maybe we have to do a little more eq-ing, maybe mic placement is alot more important, and maybe we have to settle for using things like native instruments guitar rig...but it doesn't make us less of an engineer.

i know a studio in my area that use only mxl 990's, and they are a premier studio. their recordings sound amazing, and no one can tell the difference. it just forces us to be better, and more innovative. maybe we are the macguyver's of the industry...but who doesn't like macguyver?

ayways, i use only gear that i can afford, and if i say so myself, the recordings sound good. no, no, they sound great. in the end, all that matters is what it sounds like, right?

i hope this was an encouragement. don't stop just because "good" gear is so expensive. because i have come across alot of good gear that isn't.