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High End Guy, Reg'lar Gear

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by LSchefman, Feb 17, 2006.

  1. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I was reading the new EQ magazine last night, and there was a sort of roundtable discussion that included Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, etc. producer). They asked him what he used in his home studio, and it was neither expensive nor state-of-the-latest-greatest gear. It was all modest stuff; you know, powerbook, non-exotic interface, pretty ordinary gear really.

    Now, we all know, Don Was makes a lot of use of very expensive, famous studios, but he can afford just about anything for his home use, and yet he's just not into fancy gear.

    My label partner is pretty close with him, and I know that he makes use of his gear at home, so it isn't a case of not really using what he has and therefore not giving a darn. It's that he gets what he needs from modest gear, and loads of talent as an artist and producer.

    Don't get me wrong, I love good gear, I think it often sounds better, and I've probably spent too much money on it...waaaay too much money, since I got a lot of it back in the day when stuff was relatively expensive. But in listening to lots of work coming out of lots of studios (I'm not excluding mine, tho I am proud of my work, others might think it's junk)I believe too often we focus on what sits in the racks in our studios, instead of the product that comes out of them.

    Expensive gear doesn't make us good musicians, producers, or engineers. Sometimes I think we should keep all that in mind as we get into each other's sh*t about which gizmo sounds best.

    I've heard some pretty fantastic and compelling music coming out of studios that barely have any gear at all!

    A recent example: My son was asked to do vocals with a band he recently joined when they lost their singer. The band came up with what I think is a killer song in the genre, and went into their buddy's studio. The studio has a little behringer console, a few inexpensive mics, and an inexpensive interface. Monitors were also very inexpensive equipment.

    The recording is cool. This young guy may not have much gear but knows how to place mics, and got a really nice sound. But the song and performance are really the key. I was impressed!

    And yeah, I can nitpick the sound and mix, but really, I love listening to it. So from now on, I'm making a vow to be more interested in what a producer has *done*, than what a producer has *got*. ;)
     
  2. ricoh

    ricoh Member

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    I want the high end stuff but I just can't afford it or justify the cost.
    I was looking at some pres at Mercenery audio...................man....wow!!!!!$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ I will have to make do -w- what I have and follow your philosophy as well.

    Rico
     
  3. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    I went through this myself.

    I always had modest gear... capable, but modest. Then I went off the deep end and spent, for me, massive dollars on the best gear for my uses. Lots of it. After recording, mixing and mastering with it over the following 2 years, it bacame apparent to me that while what I bought was indeed fantastic sounding, what it added to the final masters was not anywhere near the $$$ difference from what I had in the first place.

    My solution was to not "downsize" but to "right size" instead. Bought quality pro-sumer level gear (Mackie 624 monitors, FMR Preamp/Compresser, Lynx Studio IO & A/D D/A, Soundelux U195 and a tube kit mic to replace a whole assortment of mics) and viola - been "right" here for 3 years since and the stuff I am doing now sounds really good, at least to my ear.
     
  4. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm with you. I've been hired to mix a project that's been entirely cut with less-than-stellar mics, an inexperienced engineer, amd one of those Roland be-all boxes. Tons of vibe, though, which is in very short supply in some sessions.

    I'm pretty shocked how decent some of the tracks sound, and more than pleasantly surprised once i do my thing with them.
     
  5. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    Amen. My I-Smell-a-Bullshitting-Rat-o-Meter has been tickled more than a few times in this very section (as somefolks opine about gear they've maybe used once (if that!)).
     
  6. elambo

    elambo Member

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    You're absolutely right, Les, and we often forget what this businiess is really all about amidst all the gear talk. All of this amazing gear doesn't sound very interesting on its own (although Philip Glass has tried very hard at composing with silence), but when connected to a great musician it can become euphoric and alive, with its own soul. And as you've mentioned, it's NOT the gear.

    But it's always easier, and more interesting, to talk about something tangible, like gear, than something mental, like production or compositional techniques, or how to choose a melodic phrase. And I think it's because of that that gear gets all the spotlight.

    If you put two master carpenters in a room they could talk about the hammers, or the houses they help make, but with music - and by that I mean MUSIC, not gear - it's harder to carry on a discussion. A discussion of music itself is vague and interpretable. Every time I get into a discussion of theory, or great composers, or production tricks, gear always finds its way in. Every time.
     
  7. Chevelle

    Chevelle Member

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    Tascam Porta, bless its little four track recording head. Limitations are never very limiting.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Elambo, you and I agree completely.

    Talking about about gear? Heck, it's fun and interesting. I guess my point is only "It isn't what you own, it's what you do with it."

    Sometimes we (myself included) tend to forget that, and get into too much "this is better, blah blah" stuff. I don't actually know anyone who sits around and says, "Listen to the vocal on this (Insert name of favorite artist) CD, boyoboy, it's all about that XYZ 7259 preamp, bliggiddy-blog cable and Nooman U-29, ain't it?"

    or

    "Hey, I just don't like this CD. I would have liked it if it was mixed on a NiiivSL console."

    If anyone DOES get into conversations like this, my sincere apologies. ;)

    I DO know people who say to each other, "I wonder how so-and-so got that great sound?" I think there's a difference.
     
  9. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

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    an axiom we should all pay attention to.
    having said that, there's NO WAY i'd like to have to make a record w/o the tons of high-end gear i've accumulated over the decades. for me it's part of my palette. i know that a certain mic coupled w/ a certain mic pre and a certain compressor and miced in a certain way is gonna give me a particular result.
    i think the secret is in avoiding trendy stuff that ends up being dated in a few years. certainly A/D-D/A convertors have been a moving target over the last ten years. affordable contemporary units from MotU certainly outperform 'state of the art' convertors from ten years ago. but the newer apogee 16X convertors (and others, i'm sure) are now at a point where where, for me, the results are more than 'acceptable'.
    all of this begs the question as to whether it is purely the performance or a combination of the performance and techniques used are the mitigating factors in determining the aesthetic value of the artform?
    alanis morrisette's (sp?) jagged little pill is a supreme example. tremendously emotional album that, to me, sounds absolutely horrible.
     
  10. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    >>all of this begs the question as to whether it is purely the performance or a combination of the performance and techniques used are the mitigating factors in determining the aesthetic value of the artform?<<

    Good point, and I do agree that it is not only more pleasurable to make, but also to listen to a good sounding record. And lord knows, I have gear that I really like to use. But lately a lot of my hardware is sitting in my storage room or was sold on ebay.

    I'm starting to feel guilty about my recent preference for software.

    I had racks of gear, most of it really nice stuff. But I find working with software so enjoyable lately. For years I ranted about my preference for hardware, and in most cases, I admit, hardware still sounds better.

    Yet i reach for the virtual knob on some piece of software instead, unless the tool is literally available only in hardware form.

    I'm hanging my head in shame.

    I got this software synth stuff, and it actually made me get to ideas faster than working with my hardware synths, because, I dunno...it was so much easier to BE creative on for some reason...I think the music I write has been actually improving...

    It's so easy to save a change on a patch in software. You hit the "save" icon, and you're off and running. And if you forget to save the patch? Screw it, the damn host saves your settings for you! It takes, I dunno, maybe ten button presses on my Waldorf, and on the japanese synths and samplers, it was way worse, and each had their own arcane operating system. The manual on my Kurzweil rack and keyboard samplers was three manuals, all thick and heavy! And every time I had to figure out some function, it took forever. Creative flow? Forget it.

    And my compressors...I had some nice ones. I had to reset each one depending on what I did, and I had to write down the settings in a little notebook. Now? Oh...yeah, now I save the settings as presets: "Les' clean guitar; "Sue vocal light compression"; "Marv-O rap"...want to return to where you were last week? Just open the file.

    So I have several blank panels in my racks now. I know. I should be ashamed.

    At first I felt naked without as much hardware (try not to imagine the sight of me naked, really, it isn't a glorious sight). But then, I don't know, it was like being a muscleman on a beach with lots of naked, beautiful but slightly sleazy women, all of whom were beckoning me and saying, "Yes, we're cheap, but come play with us!" And suddenly I was diving in, and running software, lots of software. And there is more to come. Because now I'm addicted. Soon I'll be swimming in software, just like I'd be swimming in a tub filled with jello and lots of naked, sleazy, but good looking women. I'm not sure about the jello, but the women would be lots of fun).

    If it was women, my shmeckel would have fallen off, from all the constant joy-making, but it isn't women, it's software, so only my mousing finger is falling off. Forget about the jello, ok? I was only kidding about the jello, but I'm not kidding about the women.

    I think I got way off track here. But I kinda like the naked women analogy. In fact, I'm thinking about diving into a group of naked women right now. Wanna know what I'm wearing, big boy...?

    You know, come to think of it, there is too much gear talk around here, and not enough naked women talk! ;)

    But I digress.
     
  11. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    You betcha.
     
  12. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    One of my favorite quotes...

    "You guys are caught up with gear. The cheapest stuff you can buy today would have been a godsend a few years ago. You're never satisfied. Use what you already have&#8230; I'll tell you what, you could pick whatever gear you want and just give me some blackface ADATs, a Mackie mixer, some SM-57s, a cheap condenser and I'll knock your socks off."

    Roger Nichols, quoted in &#8220;Gear versus Experience&#8221; by Garret Haines, TapeOp #40, March/April 2004
     
  13. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

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    with all due respect.
    it's not unusual for most of the AEs i know to sometimes overstate things in order to make a point. roger nichols track record (pun somewhat intended) speaks for itself and i am fond of tape op for it's matter-of-fact articles that are free from the commercial aspects of 'mix' or 'eq'.
    i'm also pretty certain that his first choice for gear would NOT be "some blackface ADATs, a Mackie mixer, some SM-57s, a cheap condenser" for the excellent track record that he does have. yes, the level of prosumer gear has risen dramatically in the relatively recent past. i don't think that he intimates anywhere in the article that the current level of prosumer gear is anywhere near as that achieved by bill putnam, rupert neve, et. al., some four or five decades ago. yes, compared to years ago, the current level of prosumer gear is a godsend. yes, it's not really about the gear, it's about the art that U create with it. yes, in many cases better gear isn't gonna make an individuals recordings better.
    but...
    in the right hands, better gear is ALWAYS going to be the the choice.
    can the vast majority of peeps rationalise spending the $$$ it takes to buy 'high-end' gear? i concur w/ the tone of the thread in that for most peeps it ain't. i agree that it's far more important really learn how to record.
    i guess what i find unfortunate is the nebulous '********' quote that prefaces Ur roger nichols quote. i find it rather condescending and a little bit of a cheap shot in that it's not really directed at anyone in particular so that they can address it in a cogent, rational and positive manner. instead, for me, it implies that U think i'm full of **** for using gear that i've had (for the most part) for decades.
    for what it's worth, i agree w/ the overall tone and much in what LSchefman has said in his posts here. in no way did i want to hijack the thread by presenting not a contrary, but a further view of the recording arts. i also dumped ALL of my hardware keyboards and make extensive use of software not as their replacement but also use software to recreate orchestrations which was impossible to do convincingly until recently. why, as LSchefman has pointed out, should we feel guilty for using software if it allows us to realise our artistic vision?
    man, please forgive me if i have taken Ur posts too personally. i'm all for an egalitarian ideal of putting tools into the hands of those that can use them. but there ain't NO WAY i'm trading in my telefunken, urei, AKG, drawmer, manley, etc. in for "some blackface ADATs, a Mackie mixer, some SM-57s, a cheap condenser" or whatever else roger nichols, Urself or anyone else thinks i should be using because i can get the same results w/ it.
    simply 'tain't so.
     
  14. elambo

    elambo Member

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    I think Roger Nichols was quite simply stating that he can make an amazing recording with simple gear, proving that knowledge and experience is so much more important than the tools. It doesn't say anything about the FACT that better tools will make the same recording even better, which goes without saying.
     
  15. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    With all due respect back at ya, $^#&%...

    You saw personal attack where there was none. My agreement with Basso's "********" statement was due to a general "smell" of experiential misrepresentation that's been permeating discussions in this forum of late.

    That said, I refuse to play any guessing games about what I meant, to what degree, or about whom. If the shoe doesn't fit, you surely don't have to wear it. But FWIW, I didn't mean you anyway.

    Back on topic...

    The Nichols quote was not meant as a jibe at anyone at all. It's just a favorite quote of mine on the general topic of gear - which I love, and which I also refuse to give up. The reason I like the quote is because I interpret it to mean that gear and skill are seperate and distinct, and that push come to shove, skill is more important... actually, skill can kick gear's ass. Which, as a musician and from other fields, I know to be true. So as a person learning audio engineering, I respect and dig his approach.

    Not that expensive gear is a waste, nor anything close.

    I didn't read anywhere where Nichols &#8211; or I, or anyone else &#8211; made any statement about what you "should" be using. Nor anything about getting the same results from cheap gear.

    In fact, I think he was saying he could get better results.
     
  16. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

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    oh, alright then...
    probably the deep freeze weather we're having right now making me all sensitive and stuff.
    mea culpa.
     
  17. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    No prob, we all get prickly every now and then. :)
     
  18. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    Good point about morrisette and jagged little pill. When I first listened to it, the mixing and related techniques used kinda shocked me. But it sounds pretty good, and creates its own unique vibe. That's the heart of creativity. I especially like the lack of reverb on some of her vocal tracks, and the way distorted guitars are kept far in the background, yet cut thru the mix. Really raw and in your face. I've been recording drums without ambience lately, for the sake of experimentation.
     
  19. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    The only high-end gear I'll buy has to do one, or preferably both, of two things:

    1. Make my job easier.

    2. Make potential clients choose me, over the other guys.

    We walk a tightrope between having enough "prestige" gear to attract clients, and overspending on stuff we don't really need and chasing them away by having to raise rates. Like any other business, we have to justify what any expenditure will do for our bottom line. The hobbyist can buy whatever he wants, just like the bedroom guitarists who have a dozen boutique guitars and amps. A whole different paradigm. Not any better or worse, just different.

    That said, today anyone can call up Sweetwater, drop $2-3K judiciously on gear and come out with a rig that will not in any way impede them from making a great record, if they have the songs, the time, and the recording chops. It's a good time to be into recording.

    Loudboy
     
  20. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    >>That said, today anyone can call up Sweetwater, drop $2-3K judiciously on gear and come out with a rig that will not in any way impede them from making a great record, if they have the songs, the time, and the recording chops. It's a good time to be into recording<<

    Yep. One note: My studio has only been used for my own ad projects or records I've produced, I've never charged separately for "studio time". It's always been part of the total package.

    But everyone and his brother can spend a few kilobucks, and they all think they know what the hell they're diong, so I'm hearing it's tough to get a decent rate if you own a studio that books outside sessions in many parts of the country. True or not, Loudboy?
     

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