The common theme around here at RecordingReview.com is to make dramatically more effective recordings at home. I’m of the opinion that once a bare minimum of gear is obtained (we’ll say an SM57, a $200 condenser, and an audio interface) that additional gear upgrades offer 1% improvement (MOST OF THE TIME*)..
I know that you are immediately debating whether I’m an idiot or whether the guy that has 20 platinum records is the idiot. All the big boys say you NEED super high end gear, right? (Not necessarily). Obviously, I’m not going to win that war, but I can without a doubt say that the benefits of high end gear have essentially zero impact in an unideal situation.
So let’s define the ideal situation. The ideal situation involves an incredible song with incredible musicians playing in a phenomenal sounding room playing with amazing sounding instruments with an engineer who doesn’t screw it up. That’s it. Look for a pro engineer who disagrees. You won’t find one.
So the real question is this: What in the hell does a home recording dude who doesn’t have have an ideal situation? It seems that in almost every case, the current inclination is for that person to ignore this fact completely and skip right over to the cherry-on-top stuff the big boy engineers have fun talking about.
Forget the fact that Arnold lifted weights for 8 hours a day. He wore Nike shoes while he did! I need Nike shoes! This is what most beginning home recorders are doing when they obsess over AD conversion and preamps before they’ve worked on the stuff that REALLY makes a difference.
Instead of me just whining and moaning about my disappointments in gear, I figured I’d provide some examples for you to make your own decisions. So here is a collection of highlights from here at RecordingReview.com that put this whole gear thing in perspective.
$1,000 Lessons Learned and Budgets Burned
Bilco discusses a few shocks he experienced when taking his tracks recorded
from a variety of sources to a local studio to be mixed.
Preamps Don’t Matter?
It appears that Tape Op has spilled the beans about mic preamps!
Recording Gear Quiz
Here’s something I put together to give you an idea of the sound quality benefits of
the high end gear. I did the best I could with signal paths ranging from $100 all
the way up to $5,000. You decide which you like best.
Stressing the Importance of the Source and Minimal Gear
Here Lolgreg shows off a modern rock/metal mix that he got right and did it with relatively inexpensive gear. (The old timers won’t like the compression) but the kids will love this one.
AD Converter Shootout: Mytek AD96 vs Presonus Firestudio
Here are a few examples of tracks recorded through a Mytek AD96 analog to digital converter and a Presonus Firestudio analog to digital converter. Is the difference what you expected? You may be surprised.
Guitar / Bass Preamp Shootout Results
Back in 2005 I borrowed $5,000 in preamps from Mercenary Audio to see if high end preamps were really going to change my life.
Electric Guitar Microphone Shootout
This little shootout compares a number of mics at 3 different placements. How does a $2,600 Soundelux U99 compare to a SM 57?
Preonus M80 vs Vintech 1272 Metal Guitars Preamp Shootout
I’ve been told that you MUST have a Neve style preamp for metal guitar tones. How much did I gain from the Vintech version of the Neve 1272?
What Is My Point?
My goal is not to undermine the significance of high end recording gear. There is definitely something to be gained from it. There is a reason that the big boys gravitate towards the high end mics and preamps.
With that said, ask any pro engineer how many out-of-tune, off-time 16 year kid rock bands they’ve worked with this year. Ask them. What sounds better? A band that can’t groove through a Neve console or the Motown band through a Behringer mixer? You’ll immediately see where your priorities should be placed.
Ultimately, I just don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about what it takes to make a great recording.
* When a particular piece of gear happens to be perfectly suited for the source, something magical does happen. You immediately so “Wow! What happened???” and your fidelity increases dramatically. While this isn’t exactly dependent on high priced gear, a person with a collection of mics is more likely to hit the nail on the head.