Is There a Way From Here To There?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Kurt Foster, Apr 8, 2003.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Is there inexpensive recording equipment that measures up in every way to higher priced items, in terms of headroom, noise level, durability and sound quality? Or is this all just a dream? Is budget equipment a compromise of quality vs. price? Do the cheaper knock off products really measure up to the “real” thing or are they just half or three quarters as good? Is this a good trend to pursue or are we allowing ourselves to compromise (if there is indeed a compromise) our art with substandard tools?
  2. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    Sep 23, 2002
    I agree that you most often get what you pay for. It seems foolish to think that a $200 compressor can give the same quality results as a $2000 compressor does. It can’t just cost more, there has to be a reason for the higher price… design, quality of parts, etc.

    For the independent musician it comes down to making choices. Do you not record anything until you can afford the best gear, or do you maximize your dollar, get the best you can for now and get started?

    There really is no wrong answer; it’s what works best for you. But Kurt’s point is well taken and forewarned is forearmed.
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Thanks Doug for your reply. But I am not really trying to make a point here. Or soliciting agreement. I am just posing the question and waiting for some responses. Surprisingly, I really don’t have an agenda in regards to this thread. :D I am just trying to get a conversation started. I thought this would be an interesting subject for everyone to get in on. I intend it to encompass mics, mixers, monitors, compressors, reverbs as well as digital converters and DAW programs and platforms. So here it is, is there stuff out there that sounds, works, lasts as good as more expensive gear? Kurt
  4. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Kurt, every once in a while, their is a fluke, so to speak. The short radioshack dynamic microphones that went on sale for 14.97 each that are also marketed under the sennheiser name, the SM57, and many others.

    Everything is simply a tool. Sometimes a piece of lackluster equipment may be a perfect piece for a certain set-up.

    I don't agree we have to line the coffers with the most expensive equipment to get the job done. Some people get spoiled by certain pieces as I have with my 3529 B&K microphones. I have done plenty of really good sounding songs on a black face adat. I think it is the diversity, that the engineer is willing to try on a given piece of equipment, cosidering the limitations.

    I use to get awesome sound out of a quadraverb....when the studio I visited only had that, to work with.

    As for price range and performance:

    If the mics and mic placement is stable.
    If the cables are high quality.
    If you have good clean voltage and a solid ground.
    If your monitor louspeakers and room; work.

    The above is crucial to the foundation of good quality sound.

    Experimentation is the key.
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    It seems that my attitude proceeds me :D That’s ok, but really I am not trying to make a point or state a position. No ulterior motive. Just posing a question for discussion. I am not stating my opinion, I am reasonably sure most everyone knows how I feel by now. Nothing to agree or disagree with. This thread is simply a place for discussion of other points of view besides mine. Please discuss…. Kurt
  6. Recording Engineer

    Recording Engineer Active Member

    Mar 4, 2001
    Well, it's not as if their stuff is dirt cheap in price, but I've found DaviSound gear to be top-notch for a steal of a price; especially considering it's hand-made to order and really are a custom company. The TB-6 is the best "deal" (when the price/performance ratio is the highest consideration factor) in their Tool Box lineup. I don't own the TB-6, but I have their TB-3 and it uses the same "Mic-All" preamps as in the TB-6 and TB-10. It's also the same preamps that will be in my console.
  7. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Kurt, this is very interesting. In fcat I was thinking the same subject when I created the post about mic pres at this same forum.

    I was thinking beforehand: I assume bigger brothers here will hate when I mention Octapre, Digimax, Tl Audio and other nice gear that are not top, but reasonable for the guys like me that are in the middle of the pyramid.

    I remember how happy I was hen I got my 02R and my PT24 Mix. I would look at Eq, mix and see lots of nice rooms in the USA using exavtly the sam gear.
    Now seems this is stuff is something from project years and so"...
    If we compare the late 80´s with the late 90´s. at the end of the 80´s, people were into portastudios, trying to make the hell out of a 4 or maybe an 8 track based cassete studio.
    Nowadays, this same niche is into digi 001, Sonar and so. a very giant leap from those years.
    Also, at that time, you would have to be extremely rich to be able to open a reasonable facility...
    I was examining the Octapre/ Vocal pro a few minutes ago...
    i look with good eyes and at the very same time I start rememberring some things people commented here. Buy the best you can, make a considerable leap and so.
    However, how much of quality raise versus money invested?
    Just to tell you how things are, for the price of an ISA 430, I can buy a brand new 2003 GM car here in Brazil.
  8. NeonCactus

    NeonCactus Guest

    I think it would just depend on what you think expensive is really now i truly think tube microphones are way too overpriced i mean they are the best but way too expensive it's like hey here have your cake but don't eat it. All the great
    converters compressors or in most cases eq's
    cannot and will never make up for a great mic
    and i think it sucks that i can get a great compressor eq and limiter and preamp all for the same price as an industry standard Tube Mic ala c12,m149,manley
    that just sucks
    so as i have now trailed off on the whole subject
    i in no way think that anything cheap except for the few couple of phenomenons is anywhere as good
    think about it
    lundahl, jensen, sowter, transformers are amazing
    not these 2 dollar little jobbies in a presonus
    or behringer
    and there are such things as bad tubes
    there are soo many differences in say a
    Avalon and a cheap DBX I in noway have ever skimped on the most important things
    yeah sure i've been known to buy an offsuit
    cable or a cheap effects unit
    but hey whatever but as far as for my main signal flow nothing but the best
    i would rather have an amazing stereo setup
    from mic to cable to pre to comp to eq to converter or what ever
    than some crappy eight channel all in one jobbie
    oh well that's my two cents i'm sick of typing hAhaa!Peace and Love
  9. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    hey, but you can´t compare Behringer to Presonus.
    Today I almost sent to trash an old Behringer patchbay. The same with the Ultracurve ( produced a nasty sound that burned ome expensiv tweeters, etc.

    I also do not believe that Focusrite Octapre ( focuswrong, as ya may call it) is so bad as most point in here.

    I do not trade my At4050 to some top end $$ mics I have faced years ago.
  10. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    Sep 23, 2002
    Re-reading my earlier post I see I did a poor job of expressing my thoughts clearly. Let me try again….

    I will confess to being an audio snob and a gear whore. I like to have cool toys, but mostly I need tools that effectively do what I want them to do. All of our discussions about gear really come down to preference. Mac vs. PC is preference. A $500 Beringer compressor vs. a $7000 Weiss compressor is preference, and economics.

    Having all the cool gear and no knowledge is pointless. That’s what’s cool about RO. There aren’t any of us here that can’t learn from each other. Excellent! The pursuit of knowledge should be high on our list of things to acquire.

    After that, buy what you can afford or bill clients for and get going. The ultimate mission is to be able to effectively communicate thoughts and emotion to your listening audience. If you know how to use your gear to get the results you want, then it’s the right piece of gear for you, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it or their ability to get the results you get.

    A crappy song through great gear is still a crappy song…
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Doug, Well said! :tu: :tu:
  12. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Member

    Mar 15, 2003
    I also second Doug's post. Right on, dude.

    I would argue that we have seen "price compression" (OK, pun intended). A decent professional studio (whatever that is these days) can now be nicely equipped with $50k, it used to be a cool half million when I started breathing studio air (as a musician) in the late 70's. The idea of a decent condenser microphone below $200 was simply absurd - dream on. Nice digital reverb units for $200? You gotta be kidding.

    But to answer Kurt's question:
    I don't believe that there are low priced units that measure up in every way. What has changed, however, is that there are now plenty of what I would call 80- or even 90 percent solutions at very reasonable prices. They can not quite match the really expensive units but they are pretty darn close. In any case they are definitely good enough to create pure magic in the hands of a gifted musician or recording engineer. Just as much as the most expensive equipment will not help anything if the musicians and the songs suck and the recording engineer doesn't have a clue.

    In line with this remark I personally believe that the proliferation of inexpensive studio technologies has NOT PRODUCED ANY more high quality music and artists than it used to. Outstanding talent is rare as ever. Being able to operate a turntable or tweak the filter frequency knob of a sequencer unfortunately doesn't qualify in my opinion. Just spend a couple of hours on and you know exactly what I am talking about :roll: . Don't mean to be arrogant, I'm nowhere as good an engineer and musician myself as I would like to be. Still, I feel blessed to be able to afford, own and operate a decently equipped studio for all kinds of purposes. I'm still working hard to get to that "pure magic" level ...

    Sorry for ranting around the main topic,

  13. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2001
    Well said MisterBlue!!! I agree wholeheartedly!!!

    I think there are areas where it is obvious when lower cost items are used, and for me right now, I am struggling with the A/D conversion and Clock issues (obviously referring to the digital domain here). As Kurt has said time and time again, "Spend your money where it will make the most difference", and that location is certainly one that is debated around here quite frequently!!! For me (at least at first thought, I do reserve the option to change my mind once I think this through a bit more however!), it is:

    1) A/D
    2) Mic Pre Quality
    3) Clock source
    4) Mic quality
    5) D/A

    I love my Rode mics...are they as good as Neumanns? Well, probably not! Certainly not as "smooth" (however you define that term). Do they hit the "80-90% mark as MisterBlue commented...obviously *I* think so, otherwise I wouldn't buy them! Others may have a different opinon.

    Let's address software DAWs for a second as an example:

    Could you really tell the difference between a mix created with Sonar vs. Protools? Let's just say for a minute that the same engineer was mixing the same recorded material using the sameplug-ins same harware, mics, A/D's, etc., could you really tell the difference?

    I contend that there are serious feature differences, and interface differences, but the audio engine differences are slight enough that it would be difficult to tell the differnce. (NO, I am *not* a Sonar fan, I use Cubase SX)

    It would interesting to see an A/B comparison of this test, and then take a poll to see how many people could tell the difference between the 2???

    Interesting topic Kurt...I could go on and on here, but I'll stop for now to let others on board...
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    My this is such a pure example of subjective selection.Even with the 'higher end' gear there are vast differences in sound and performance.One is not 'better' than the other simply on price.Is a Millennia mic pre 'better' than a DW Fearn?More like different.The same holds true throughout all price ranges of gear of all sorts.Not just recording equipment, but almost all manufactured tools,electronics,basically everything.Someone,somewhere makes a cheaper version of what professionals in every walk of life would agree mostly,are the accepted 'best' tools in any trade.And these tools of the trade all have limitations.Even the most expensive and seemingly highest quality.My feeling on this as pertains to the recording arts is this.Better gear makes a RE's job a little easier as its easier to obtain a quality sound in less time with less futzing around.The cheaper gear will allow someone with a LOT of experience and knowledge to achieve a high level of sound quality.. probably at least 70 to 95% of the quality afforded by the higher end stuff, as long as they're willing to spend the time to use the gear within its more limited abilities.I myself,am NOT a gear costs a lot of money to be a gear snob and its really not worth it in the long run.I am a gear lover and find a lot of joy in bringing high quality sounds to a mix with whatever pieces there are around to be used.Its really amazing what you can do with virtually no gear at all if you have the mind and heart for it.
  15. Bobby Yarrow

    Bobby Yarrow Guest

    I'm certainly a bottom-feeder in this company, let's just get that clear up front. That said, seems to me we're at a strange moment in terms of the nexis of gear and art. The best gear is now by and large being used predominately in the production of the worst product, and a lot of very good product is coming out of less-than-elite rigs. I'm not just speaking of the quality of the material, but of the production quality.

    A lot of things have changed to allow this to happen, including especially the introduction of workable near-pro and budget-pro stuff and a technology shift that makes it possible to record without having a bunch of guys running around just to keep the equipment functioning. Even major label acts are deciding it's better to sink $50K (or less) into a project studio than to work by the hour with the really pricey stuff.

    So, Kurt's question -- are we allowing ourselves to compromise (if there is indeed a compromise) our art with substandard tools? I don't see how you could think so. Many of the most artful recordings I've heard in the last couple of years were done in budget studios, a surprising number of them owned by the band themselves. And, no offense to the big boys on this forum, but you've got to admit there's been a serious degrading in the level of innovation coming out of the big studios. (I'm thinking of something like the vanishing of dynamics, of course, but also just the flat homogenization of gear at the most elite level.)

    Right. So, one answer is to look at what's actually happened since it became possible to do this stuff with semi- or budget-pro gear. And I think its clear that the real quality in engineering (for music anyhow) has followed artists out of the big budget joints and into barns, basements & warehouse spaces. The gear must be good enough.
  16. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    telling the truth, every time I go to a Cd store I end up buying mostly stuff from long time groups/band ( Rush, Yes, satriani, Vai, Enigma, U2), no matter which musical style it is.

    I just cannot stand the autotune effect on most productions, the same eq sweeping of some analog synth patch, etc.

    To me the actual musical scene totally sucks. very boring stuff, insanely compressed. Some cool stuff goes indie, but most do not leave the band´s QG/city or some minor sales via web page.

    Madonna, for example, used to sell 10 millions of a single album like the nice Like a Virgin, Immaculate Collection, the same to Mr. Jackson. compare Thriller to the very boring Invincible.
    Last month I bought that Cd for just $3.2, something that should be costing like $10.

    seems any dude can buy an 01V and a Digi 001 and claim himself as producer, recording engineer.
    I am not into prejudice but what I see is a slight banalization of our profession.

    Here in Brazil things are not different from what happenes in the USA.

    I can count at least 10 Digi 001 systems around my house. Guys charging 50% of what I do with no minimal knwledge of recording is, just after the last cracked plugin.
    I can not count how many times someone asked me for a plugin XXXXX. hey, you do not have that yet?
    Everybody uses that!
    I would answer: i do not steal . would you like someone entering your house and keeping your windows CD ?
    I do not intend to be arrogant because these things happen on every level at the pyramid.
    The very top guys can also complain about the midguys like me that are into PT mix, 02R.
    One thing that does not separate the different $$$$ groups is talent. and that..... makes a HUGE difference.
  17. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    This has always been the great debate, cost versus quality. I started my career as a performer and had to have the "BIG RIG", Hammond, Rhodes, Moog, Clavinet, Mellotron. Thank God for MIDI and everything after. Every choice I made at that point was based on what it could do for me. My first poly-synth was a Juno-60 because it was cheap, available and I needed a poly-synth fast. My next synth was a good old reliable DX-7. I learned to program the hell out of it and used it for over 15 years. Remember (or maybe not) when everything went solid state? How much do you pay now for one of those pre-solid state processors (mic, whatever) if you can find them? Remember when you couldn't get $5 for your old 808 drum machine?

    Don't be caught up in the fads, don't believe that bigger (or more expensive) is better. Keep an eye on your future goals and needs as well as your budget. I'm still using gear I bought 20 years ago because it still sounds great. OK, so I waited and spent a little more than I wanted to most of the time, but the investment has proved worth it. Still love my Symetrix 528 and 501. The Audio Logic MT-44s are as useful as ever. My ASR-10 still sounds just fine. My recordings sound good (Great! Fantastic! Unbelievable! Stellar! You Believe this bullsh*t?) because I picked gear that I was comfortable with and learned it inside and out, backwards and forwards, drunk or sober, ear-fatigued or not. Michelangelo used a hammer and chisel, van Gogh used the most rudimentary of paints and brushes by todays standards. Mozart didn't have MIDI, Beethoven didn't have Pro Tools....

    Well, you get the idea. True artistry is the mastery of the tools you possess, not the ones you want. Okay, so the Beatles had the highest technology around, but only on four tracks. I don't think I could do that, can you?

    Sorry about the sermon.

    If it sounds good, if it feels good, it IS good!
  18. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Great Uncle Bob!!!
    Thanks for your nice words!
  19. There is no replacement for knowing how to use gear well, just as there is no replacement for musical skill and talent. However, to get back on track (really liking this thread), I can definitely say there is a difference in the quality of gear.
    Example: I will tell you about my compressors. The first compressor I bought was a DBX 266xl ($150). The price was right and the name was reputable, it did the job and, hey, I was 4-tracking.
    A few years later I bought an RNC ($125 used) for about the same price. Do I even need to say that the RNC blew the DBX out of the water? In fact it blew it out of the rack, into a box, and all the way across the country to somebody else's rack!
    To me the RNC is the benchmark for compressors at this point. I consider all other compressors by their value relative to the RNC. Brand X compressor costs $600, the cost of three RNCs- I ask myself, is the Brand X compressor going to give me the same value as three RNCs? Recently I bought an 1176 reissue for $1300, and I have already determined that IT IS worth seven RNCs.
    I have a Valley People 2-610 that I feel is clearly better than the RNC, that cost me $400 used. The Valley People (and the 1176) absolutely worth two RNCs (or seven) because you just can't get the same full tones from an RNC.
    The Valley People is no longer in production, so I have to say I can't think of another compressor under $800 I would think is better than the RNC. I would love to hear other opinions on this.
    I am rambling here, but I am just letting my thoughts spin out onto the page (er, screen). I hope this contributes. Cheers, Doc
  20. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    Hi Ya'll

    Hey Doc, there is no question that the more expensive pro gear will have better specs and better quality. My sermon was aimed at all the the newcomers who have a bad case of "technolust." Most of the outboard gear in my home studio is either "old" or "budget". Some of the rooms I freelance at have the latest toys and I love using them.

    The point I was trying to make is that just having the latest new toy and plugging it in will not give you a better sound. I used to work at BIG NAME MUSIC STORE. All the wannabes just had to have the latest toy used by (name of current chart topper), and then wanted to know why they didn't sound the same. Knowledge and creativity are just as important as the gear itself (as you have already mentioned).
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