Sunday, April 25, 2004

Why bother?

The studio across the hall has much better equipment. The guys that own it also work at Manny's music here in New York, and they've got access to great deals (and day jobs to boot). So they're outfitted with the finest Universal Audio compressors (1176 anyone? Sure, I'll take two). Plus the really good Focusrite preamps, and the Apogee converters. Oh yeah, and they're running ProTools HD on the fastest Mac money can buy. They've got the nice tube mics too. And did we mention the Auralex foam on the walls? Our control room echoes like a basketball court, and our preamps are dissed by everyone at Manny's (that didn't stop them from selling us a few of them, though). Of course, Tony Visconti uses some of the gear we use, but that's probably just 'cause he's a paid endorser or something. Like the guy who produced Diamond Dogs and Young Americans needs an endorsement deal.

Our board was built by Tascam and is loaded with IC's. The monitor/control room section doesn't work so well, but at least the board works. Somewhat. Well, at least we have it.

Our blue and white G3 running Digital Performer coughs and sputters a bit. Thank God we don't have loads of cracked (read stolen) plug ins running. Sometimes we actually have to get good tones down right off the bat! Can you believe it? Real amps with mics in front of them, turned up nice and loud.
Pathetic. Imagine a world with no amplifier modeling programs to create the sound of a Marshall. Imagine having to trust an engineer who's actually used that amp live. Or knows what a real drum kit sounds like, and has actually heard the bleed of a hi hat on a snare track. Unbelievable! How can these guys even pay their rent?

Well, they can't, always.

So why bother? Why even hang a shingle that says "studio?" Isn't a studio a collection of high end gear hooked together with the greatest wiring money can buy, recording at 192kHz, through a Pro Tools system? Aren't those ART compressors made for "project studios?" Can't I spend a few grand on some gear and record my own damn record?

Sure, pro engineers will say "it's not the equipment, it's who uses it." Of course, those guys usually have the good equipment.

Why bother? Well, maybe it's because it's not a choice. Some of us just have to record, and did record on two home tape machines (running the left channel out and overdubbing another part on the right channel). Some of us spent years learning how to make the perfect bounce on a Tascam 4 track portastudio. Those recordings would've sounded better through a Neve, but then again, if we'd waited for a Neve those recordings wouldn't have been made. Is silence better than solid state? Warmer than tubes?

Why bother? That record sounds good, but it would've sounded better if it were mixed through an SSL. Of course it would. I don't have to work at Manny's to tell you that.


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