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recording equipment

It's not the gear. It's how you use it.

In the hands of a skilled surgeon, a scalpel can be a life saver. In my hands, a scalpel is an accident waiting to happen. What does that have to do with recording gear? Everything.

I get asked frequently, and I see in music and recording related discussion boards, questions like, "What's the best microphone for under $300?", or, "I need a better preamp to make my recordings sound better, how much do I have to spend?", or, "Which is a better compressor X or Y?", or, "What mixing board do you recommend?". These are not bad questions. People who ask questions like these are usually looking to improve their music production skills and recording quality and that's always a good thing.

The problem is, that there are no specific answers to questions like the ones above. What's really important are the abilities, or skills, of the user. Does it matter if someone spent $1000 on a microphone if they don't know the first thing about microphone placement? Or, what do you get if you hand a skilled engineer or producer an $80 microphone and have them use it as part of a system to record say, an accomplished guitarist? You can bet that a skilled engineer with an $80 microphone will get a great sound from an accomplished player. You can also pretty much bet that someone with little or no production skills and a $1000 microphone is a waste of a $1000 microphone.

This all seems pretty obvious, right? The person who's using the gear and how they use that gear is far more important than the gear itself. So, does that mean that expensive recording equipment is a waste of money? No, not at all. There's a reason why some microphones cost $80 and others cost $2000 (or more). But, they are all microphones and they essentially do the same thing which is to convert differences in air pressure (sound waves) into electricity. The means by which they do that might be different. Their inner components (and external ones in some cases) are more than likely different. Their build quality may be different. And the resulting recordings from both microphones on the exact same sound source (and at the exact same distance and angle) will sound different to some degree. Keep in mind that the same thing also applies to other recording equipment like compressors, preamps, eq's, mixers, converters, and instruments.

The best equipment advice that I can give is to focus on the skills of the user first before spending money on the gear. Many times, improving the skills of the user (by learning and practice), or hiring a skilled user will make more of a difference than purchasing or replacing equipment.

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Copyright © 2011 Michael I. Oster. All rights reserved.

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17732 Nathan's Drive
Tampa, Florida 33647

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Dr. ReGurgiTron (2011) Michael Oster
Recording equipment advice.
recording music, sound effects, broadcast, CDs.

Michael Oster
F7 Sound and Vision's Michael Oster has been known to drift off into inner space while listening to all kinds of bizarre sounds. His excuse is that it's "research".