Skip to main content
forums, blogs, song critique, support & more...

Sound quality of equipment.

A lot of questions have been asked regarding sound quality of various pieces of equipment. We (the mods) are asked if this compressor is better than that compressor and is this recorder better than that recorder, what mics will do what. We welcome this but the novice who wants to go hog wild and buy a bunch of "big gun' gear because they think it will instantly make them capable of be making great recordings is sadly mistaken. Having great gear helps but you gotta have the chops too! It makes no sense to worry about if your Hard Disk recorder is warmer than the next one if your routing and mixing through a Mackie and you don't know squat about gain structuring! The thing is, surprisingly much of the cheap stuff actually sounds rather good for what it costs. It is entirely possible to make a great sounding product on very inexpensive gear. The trick is to not let yourself be boxed in by conventional sound and equipment performance values that have been established. There is just no way your going to get a record to sound like you recorded at Ocean Way if you don't have a Neve, Alan Sides mic and equipment collection and great rooms. This is not to say that Neves, API's and SSL's are better than anything else. It's just a sound that we have become accustomed to. These days we all love the sound of vintage equipment. Ironically when most this stuff was designed, the golden ears were all complaining about the coloration and how much they hated it. The best thing you could say about a piece of equipment if you were trying to market it in the 70's was that it was "transparent". Using a better converter isn't going to help if everything else is at a lower quality. Better mics are lost if the console or the pres bite! A U47 through a Mackie! Ukkie! And anything sucks if the band / talent bites!
Michael Fossenkemper, moderator at the "Mastering" page has been trying to say this for a couple of days now…..

"I think learning with a small setup and progressing up allows things to mature and develop. Otherwise it's like learning how to drive in a formula 1 race car. Sure it's going to be fast but it's not going to make you a race car driver. I've heard many things done very well on setups that were cheap. But these were done by guys that knew what they were doing, they had a lot of experience."

In another post Michael also said….,

"There is no black box to buy that is going to achieve this. It's all just practice and experience. You have a basic set of tools to do a nice job. you just need to slowly add to this."

Start with a basic set of tools and learn to use them well. Milk everything you can out of it…(that's half the fun) it makes no sense to go out a spend a ton of cash on s#*t you don't know how to use. Novices buying ribbon mic and wondering why they break so soon. Well I bet you didn't handle it correctly. Not your fault, you didn't know. If you require a rule of thumb, consider this. If your using a prosumer board use prosumer mics and outboard. That one really good compressor or mic isn't going to help if the rest of the signal path isn't up to it. There is no such thing as a "Goodulator" …………Fats


audiowkstation Sun, 10/27/2002 - 09:55

Calibration, maintenence and cables.

This is what separates a good system from a great system (providing an experienced operator)

Weekly calibration using test tones and gain management will show any problems that may be creeping up. A good dose of listening to everyday music is healthy. Buy or build the best cables you can afford. Route them using common sense and disconnect everything (except solder joints on patchbays LOL!) at least 4 times per year.

It does not hurt to disconect your loudspeakers and amplifiers and reconnect them. Keeping the teminations solid. The extra money invested in locking banana males are worth it.

Cable routing ..important!!

audiowkstation Sun, 10/27/2002 - 15:42

Add me to the list of folks that would not choose a Mackie as first choice in economy equipment (mixers).

I can make one sound pretty good but you cannot push them or they get Ugly

Your solo per track needs to be around -10 peak.

sign Mon, 10/28/2002 - 00:18

Some seven years back I was recording a well known Dutch band in co-op. with a well known producer.

I had two small Seck 1882 boards which sound very good. When it was mix time, the producer decided to mix on his own Mackie board, because he thought it was better.

The Seck has only one mid sweep, and the Mackie has two. The Mackie sound was just bad compared with the open and "airy" sound of the small Seck.

A couple of weeks later I was called by the band and they asked me to make a reference mix of one of the songs. Only when it's o.k. with the producer I said. I called the producer and he had no problems with it, so I mixed the song on the Seck boards.

A few days later I was called again by the band who was very happy with the sound. This sound is soooo much better than the whole CD they told me.

That's my experience with Mackie boards.

Now I have a big DDA board which sound is very good, it's a lot more quiet than the Seck boards, but in fact the sound is not so much better than the Seck boards.

Peace, Han

Profile picture for user Kurt Foster

Kurt Foster Mon, 10/28/2002 - 07:26

Yeah I have 2 Mackies, an SR 24 that I use for monitor off the DAW (16 channels out). The other one is a 1604. I inherited it from a grade school chum that recently lost his battle with cancer and I keep it around for sentimental reasons more than anything. Besides, it looks good in the set up, everything matching, like "I meant to do that". It's wired to the inputs of the DAW at the moment but I try not to use it for anything but sub mixing outboard pres and eq to the DAW. As I said they both work ok. That's it. But y'know, the room ain't perfect and after all it's digital, nothing over 20k, so I don't worry as much about bandwidth, CD's sound like crud and on and on! Lots of reasons it's just fine. One thing I don't have,.. a huge overhead. No servicing! No maintenance! I can change interfacing by myself if I want, no calling the tech to re wire the Tuchel connectors. It has brought me bliss. I chose the SR24 because of its features as a monitor console. It originally was the sub mixer for digital reverb returns into the MCI 636 and it served well for several years. I also used it as front end for several remotes including a "Nick Turner" record for Cleopatra Records. It has performed "ok". But now I use it to monitor and it is well suited to that task. It has 6 dedicated auxs, all on their own sends with output trims. I don't know of any other small mixer that does this in the footprint of the SR24. I am currently hunting for some additional mic pre and eq's to beef up my front end. Han referred to the Seck mixers, I read somewhere once that Seck was a cheapo knock off of the Neve BCM stuff and that it was actually pretty good. I might be could happen....Fats
:w: Mon, 10/28/2002 - 20:23

Just about everyone has limitations some where along the lines. The signal chain is long and bumpy.

Recording is a lot like life. You know it will be difficult the key is all in how you handle it. :)
We all know this but yet there are 1000's of threads about "stuff" instead of the how.

The key is technique, technique, technique and doing the best you can with what you have to work with. Some times it's the musicians, the material or the gear that is lacking but the goal is the same.

I have often wanted to see a contest where engineers were given 2 mics and 8 tracks to work with. Seeing what the best engineers could come up with using limited resources, this would separate the men from the boys.

I would be lying if I didn't enjoy using great sounding gear. But I try to keep my eye on ball and that is to make the best product I can with the knowledge and tools I have in my toolbox.

Michael Fossenkemper's quote is right on the money. There is no black box and great recordings only come from practice and experience.


Profile picture for user Kurt Foster

Kurt Foster Mon, 10/28/2002 - 21:16

Lee said; I have often wanted to see a contest where engineers were given 2 mics and 8 tracks to work with. Seeing what the best engineers could come up with using limited resources, this would separate the men from the boys.

What a good idea. In your trial what kind of mixing facilities would be available? Efx processing?
.....Fats :w: Tue, 10/29/2002 - 16:02

Fats I think to be fair it would have to allow for some efxs. Instead of limiting to number of boxes orplug-inswhat if it was limited to the number of actual effects.

For example I think it would be interesting to limit a contest to 3 applied effects. This would mean if you had a ober-box with a 5000 efx you could only apply 3 total effects. So maybe reverb, compression and flange would be 3 efxs and that is it.

This would also allow a guy who like to use a tape loop for slapback could still compete with out having a rack full of gear or daw full of plugins.

The other advantage to this approach is it would be an incentive for someone to seek out a great sounding room with natural reverb. You would be rewarded for natual effects that are not electronically created and therefore would NOT count against one of your effects.

How does that sound ?

I haven't worked through all of the issues it is just an idea I have had for awhile to get people to focus on technique not technology.


Profile picture for user Kurt Foster

Kurt Foster Tue, 10/29/2002 - 16:11

Are you saying if someone used an acoustic chamber in the mix that would not be counted as an effect?
How about this?
8 tracks
10 channels
4 mics, RE20's, D112's, 57's, 421's or 4033's, your choice, mix or match.
One stereo reverb. LEX PCM 60.
One R t R tape recorder for mix and delay or other efx, may be used in any manner.
One stereo / dual mono vca compressor, (2 RNC's?) may be used to track and mix.
If there's a room available it may be used for reverb, if not tough!
.....thats it. Lots of great records have been done with less! :eek: