The Lottery Microphone Daydream
Let’s say we’ve got Johnny Cash and he’s tracking Hurt not long before he bit the bullet. We put the ol’ bastard in front of mic A and the sound is just lacking. Lacking what? For now, let’s play dumb. It’s just not right.
Then we put him in front of microphone B and suddenly out of the sky, the Wild Thing version from Major League (at the end of the movie where Charlie Sheen comes in to relief pitch) blasts from the sky. It’s the same feeling as when Moses parted the Red Sea or the ending of the movie Four Rooms. It’s like getting a parternity test and realizing it’s not yours. Sheer bliss. Money falls from the ceiling and goosebumps appear in places that scare you a bit.
It’s never happened. I don’t think it ever will. At least I’ve never seen it happen.
When I was at the Michael Wagener Workshop, we had a robo singer sing through 15 mics that were all up to Michael Wagener’s standards. We listened. I didn’t even think of Charlie Sheen one time. You could hear differences in microphones. Yes, differences. Not improvements! (Radically important distinction, btw!)
The truth is, after all the damn microphone shootouts I’ve done in my life, I can’t remember one time saying, “Holy shit! That mic just rules for what we are doing.” The differences are well below anything emotionally significant. In other words, it doesn’t freaking matter if we use one LDC or another in almost all cases. Mutt Lange is infamous for ordering his engineers to process each individual SYLLABLE. Think about that.
We are taught to be picky about the subtleties like the wine snobs who haven’t learned the value of just chugging the damn thing. SMILEY
Some of you have maybe seen the Brad Pitt movie, Moneyball, (I always wanted to name a band “Brad Pitt’s Ass” after seeing Troy) where Brad Pitt is the GM of the Oakland A’s, they’ve got 1/5th the budget for players as the New York Yankees, and somehow they’ve taken the Yankees to the wire for the past two years in the playoffs. So HOW did they do it?
I liked the movie,but I think the Moneyball book may be the greatest book ever for a guy in my position. Let me explain my position.
I feel absolutely ostracized when I hit Twitter (or even visit it). The usual shit occurs. Some asshole is recording an album so he takes a picture of his 1073 and Tweets “Analog glory”. I can’t imagine Mike Tyson Tweeting a pic of a ultra high end boxing glove to acheive status from it. Tyson achieved status from actually winning (well, and raping), not fashion. Let’s not sugar coat this. The music industry didn’t fall apart in that phase where you couldn’t give away a Neve 1073. Music was still music. The 1073 is a fine tool, but flashing tools is for people who aren’t busy or secure enough.
I can’t put into words how alone and confused I’ve felt since I realized my Rane Ms 1b ($51 used on Ebay) is a more effective tool than my API, Vintech, and Wunder preamps for my tastes. I feel like I’m the only guy on the planet who doesn’t get it. I feel like there is something wrong with me for liking the Rane better. I do. It’s not my hearing, either.
The saving grace of Moneyball for me has been the major league scouts. These guys don’t even pretend to invoke logic. Their job is a full-blown crapshoot. In both the book and the movie, they draft pitchers and 3rd basemen based on them being “good looking”. Yes, you heard me! Ugly, outstanding athletes are ignored. (This clearly doesn’t happen in basketball as we all know what Shaq looks like.) Repeatedly, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has to say, “We aren’t selling jeans!” to remind the players that the contour of a man’s buttocks is not the way to choose major league players. (Comedian Doug Standhope has an outstanding rant on the NFL buttocks in his last Netflix adventure.)
I’m not making this up. They’d even consider what the potential player’s girlfriend looked like. Bonkers!!
To counter the knuckleheads (major league scouts), the book dives into some of the ultra-math used by real-deal fringe scientists in baseball. The section on derivatives would be exceptionally interesting to anyone who studied the 2008 bailout and enjoys math. (I know 3 of you are out there!) Applying it to line drives and fielding was quite spectacular. I don’t expect anyone in audio other than Ethan Winer (HEADBANG!) and Boz from Boz Digital Labs to care about the real deal science behind our tools just like no one in Major League Baseball was remotely interested in the science of what makes a team actually win even when there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.
The Media Problem
The book mentions that one advantage a poor team like the Oakland A’s had over a rich team like the Red Sox was the poor team was relatively immune to public scrutiny. The Oakland A’s went out and hired a bunch of fat and sometimes handicap guys (seriously) that had this uncanny knack for not getting out (aka SCORING!…aka WINNING!!). The press went easy on the A’s because Oakland couldn’t afford the ultra stars. If a team that could actually afford big money talent and showed up with guys who had the single most important trait of a winning baseball team/player but looked like Revenge Of The Nerds, it would be political suicide regardless of the results.
This Steven Slate Virtual Microphone Thing
There’s a ton of talk about Slate VTM. His video sucks. I take that back. The video raises excitement. So from a profitability standpoint, he’s done exceptional.
Here’s the freakin’ problem. Not once has he shown that my recordings will improve with it. If my recordings don’t improve from this thing, it is a fashion piece. I don’t need a new hat.
Here’s what I want:
I want Steven Slate singing into his microphone with all the modeling stuff on bypass. Just a clean mic and a clean preamp. Is that flawed? Crappy? Boring? I already know. (Well, I’m willing to bet that I know.) Slate has the “it” thing with his voice. He has an A-list voice. It doesn’t need EQ. He’d sound outstanding with an SM58, just like Bono seems to.
When we turn on all those vintage sex machine mic models like the U47, 251, etc. what happens?
I’ve not used it, but if Wild Thing and Charlie Sheen don’t show up, I can’t say I give a shit. If this thing doesn’t help me win the f’ing game, why should I buy it? Convince me that this u47/251/u67 idea is even worth my time.
Pushing even further, if the clean mic and clean preamp sound great on Slate, why can’t we use an ADK Vienna and a $51 Rane MS 1b (a clean mic and clean preamp)?
Moneyball has shown that Major League Baseball with its labor costs of over 2.903 BILLION DOLLARS (2012) were too stubborn, too latched on to “old ways”, and too ignorant to even look at why some teams won with tiny budgets that they plundered zillions into bullshit and fashion. It makes total sense that logic, reason, and the absolute need to WIN don’t happen much in this tiny microcosm known as home recording.
I don’t want to crap on the guys who buy fun stuff because they like to. I’m not ever judging that. Somebody has to buy $10k compressors and the latest and greatest gizmos.
However, I’ve decided to exercise the same logic I use to buy car insurance and toothpaste to run my recording studio. My results will be the same and maybe little Max will get into MIT. BEERBANG!!