All the Gear and Some Idea
I have a love hate relationship with recording technology - as I think so many engineers and producers have.
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and by and large it does. Anyone who has ever used Pro Tools may beg to differ.
I go through phases of gear lust and obsession to gear revulsion and a fuck it punk D-I-Y attitude.
I know engineers who are passive about the gear they use, and engineers who are obsessed to the point of dominance by it. I would say that I can be both.
Finance plays a massive role in what gear we have access to. A rule of thumb: the more expensive the studio, the more expensive the gear.
The question in our days of credit crunch is this: do the results of the expensive gear justify the costs, and is that “cost” delivered to the audience.
In the age of mp3 and poor quality playback medium the expense is hard to justify to the consumer. To the audio-savante however the top 5% is what we are consumed by. The difference between great and timeless.
There are non-negotiables: good microphones and preamps for instance. Good converters. But these are no more important than high quality playback amplification, speakers and media. Why the fuck are we still listening to mp3s?
What is so often overlooked in the world of middle-class engineers in the prosumer world is the value of an amazing room. The acoustic space we live and record in is integral to any sense of originality and character in our recordings that the space often trumps the capture device. Does this sound familiar to anyone with a cursory knowledge of photography or design?
I am reminded that some of the best work I have done was on a Digidesign Mbox through Behringer Truth speakers with only a Shure SM57 at my disposal. To those of you who aren’t engineers everything just mentioned is “budget” gear. Sometimes I actually long for that creative restriction.
Tchad Blake makes a great case for “working the medium” in his various interviews. He loves the tape sound but is realistic about it’s application today and thus has “learnt” to make digital sound great.
One thing is for certain: gear has character. Every piece of equipment colours the sound. The imperfections are sometimes desirable and variety is truly the “spice” of life. I like to push gear to it’s limits, find out what it’s made of and create something with it.
Like any artists I am bound to flights of fancy and rapidly changing mindsets and I very quickly get bored of doing things the same way twice.
Do you need great gear to make great records? Definitely not. Does it help? Sometimes. Does all gear have a place and a purpose? Absolutely.