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  • Does Anyone Really Believe that "Vintage Gear" is Better?

    Two things got me thinking about this...

    I have Cakewalk's virtual LA-2A (which as a public service, I should mention you can get for free for at least a little while longer) and while I was in Boston, had a chance to see the LA-2A after which it was modeled. It was big, difficult to patch, and frankly, I'm not sure it sounded better. Or consider IK Multimedia's Mellotron virtual instrument. It has a control where you can vary the sound from funky, unmaintained Mellotron to pristine and new. Granted, operating systems change, companies go out of business, and stuff happens that can render plug-ins obsolete...then again, try finding the fader for an SP-1200 drum machine.

    And then there were the people who when I joined Gibson said "Okay, level with me. Given the choice between a real '59 Les Paul and a replica made by the Custom Shop, which one would you take?" I'd always answer the original, and the person asking the question usually had the look of "Aha! I knew the old ones were better." But then I'd give the reason why: "I could sell the original for an obscene amount of money, and then buy all the Custom Shop guitars I could ever want." The fact is they're more consistent and better made that the originals (sorry if I've offended anyone inside or outside of Gibson).

    Vintage consoles? Yeah, okay...but I think that's more for the hands-on control than any "magical" sound. I'm really starting to think the obsession with All Things Vintage comes from a psychological need, not a practical one.

    But maybe I'm missing the point. What say you?
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  • #2
    Originally posted by Anderton View Post
    Two things got me thinking about this...

    I have Cakewalk's virtual LA-2A (which as a public service, I should mention you can get for free for at least a little while longer) and while I was in Boston, had a chance to see the LA-2A after which it was modeled. It was big, difficult to patch, and frankly, I'm not sure it sounded better. Or consider IK Multimedia's Mellotron virtual instrument. It has a control where you can vary the sound from funky, unmaintained Mellotron to pristine and new. Granted, operating systems change, companies go out of business, and stuff happens that can render plug-ins obsolete...then again, try finding the fader for an SP-1200 drum machine.

    And then there were the people who when I joined Gibson said "Okay, level with me. Given the choice between a real '59 Les Paul and a replica made by the Custom Shop, which one would you take?" I'd always answer the original, and the person asking the question usually had the look of "Aha! I knew the old ones were better." But then I'd give the reason why: "I could sell the original for an obscene amount of money, and then buy all the Custom Shop guitars I could ever want." The fact is they're more consistent and better made that the originals (sorry if I've offended anyone inside or outside of Gibson).

    Vintage consoles? Yeah, okay...but I think that's more for the hands-on control than any "magical" sound. I'm really starting to think the obsession with All Things Vintage comes from a psychological need, not a practical one.

    But maybe I'm missing the point. What say you?


    Hey, thanks for the freebie tip. Downloading it now. Wires are increasingly voodoo magic to children. I personally feel that lots of interesting things can happen when you start connecting stuff with wires. But on the other hand, if you grew up with wires, Lionel Trains, erector sets, vac-u-forms ezbake ovens (forget I said that.... never mention that one....ever). I don't really need wired stuff much now.

    Wires and stuff that can smoke can make kids think something magic is going on. I still think stuff is going on behind the Wizard curtain even though I have no idea what.

    I personally think we're in a golden age of wired hardware and not too many people realize it. This current stuff, born from the perception that 16bit had let us down horribly.... is a momentary blip in history. At the moment, we can find almost ANYTHING in a hardware, wired, smoking or otherwise tactile, ac-based "thing". These moments will end and then the current stuff will be even more pricey and rare than the 40-year old stuff it sought to clone.

    2016 stuff will be the sought-after vintage stuff in 2074 (the year of the next watergate scandal).

    So yeah, mostly psychological. Except if you GREW UP on wired stuff, you may have sort of an advantage in squeezing out more mojo from it... because you know how to actually wire it up to other wired-up stuff to make.... an erector set signal flow.

    I like plugs for the most part now.

    Also, I'd take the custom shop model guitar.

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    • #3
      I own a pair of 60's vintage LA-2a's. But if you asked me to bet my life I could tell you the difference between them and modern plugins... well I wouldn't take that bet.
      Don Boomer

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      • #4
        Real vintage gear makes people feel better about sticking something between the microphone and the listener.

        Vintage gear has a combination of sounds - the sound of its circuitry and the sound of its age and condition. They combine sometimes to make "warm," "thick," "fat," or "geez what's that hum? Can you get rid of it?"
        --
        "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
        Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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        • #5
          Amp emulations (Axe FX, Kempler, etc) are getting so good (and hopefully soon affordable) that I don't think tube amps will be needed much longer. On bass I'm not all that particular as to "tone" - I tend to listen to what I got and go with it . Most any mild tubeish OD sounds fine to me, whether analog or digital. I guess guitarists are quite a bit more demanding but those high end emulators do it for most.

          I was in an "old school" studio earlier in the year and they recorded my bass line through a real 1176 which was awesome - but didn't record the raw track which was BS IMO - I'd have loved to mess about with getting some tubeish grit on it before it was squashed to heck. Guess I can always retrack it. I'll have to try out that LA-2A. I did find a free 1176 but suspect it's not all that close. OTOH I still like my one knob 163X and most any 160 emulation can do that pretty dead on.

          For basses I have stuff that was <$200 new up to $2350 replacement cost and really don't see that much difference in playability once set up properly - and pickups are cheap if I'm gonna get picky.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by dboomer View Post
            I own a pair of 60's vintage LA-2a's. But if you asked me to bet my life I could tell you the difference between them and modern plugins... well I wouldn't take that bet.

            And you have pretty trained ears, so that says a lot.

            Something else occurred to me. Because analog gear is, well, analog, there are bound to be differences. There were a lot of LA-2As produced over the years and I can't imagine that all production runs had exactly the same components or the same component tolerances. So maybe part of the "magic" of vintage gear is no two are alike, so maybe from time to time you run into an "anti-lemon" where all the tolerances add up just right. Hopefully that's the one companies model
            Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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            • #7
              I got a soft LA-2A by Sonitus with my last Sonar. (I'm a dinosaur, still on 8.5) It sounds wonderful, but I also picked up a Langevin DVC and it's limiters are based on the la2a and they are magic. I think I mean it's important hearing what's going on while you are singing or tracking an instrument. I can plug a bass into the DVC and it sounds alive and vibrant and the meter in the DAW is barely moving.

              That said, I had a 1964 Fender Vibro Champ and made some wonderful recordings with it. Then I got a Super Champ XD and did a bunch of A/B with them both and ended up selling the 64 Champ just because I could get almost seven bills for it.

              It's hard to answer your original question Craig. Another quandary, I fell in love with the sound of Ian Anderson's little Martin in the 70s and searched a Martin 0-16 N.Y. for many years. Finally found one in 1992 and still have it and love it. Then I read up on the Epiphone Masterbilt guitars and sort of found the perfect, made for me guitar. Solid woods, V neck which I wasn't used to but love now, 1 & 3/4" across the nut, just what I need. I hardly play the Martin anymore.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Anderton View Post



                Something else occurred to me. Because analog gear is, well, analog, there are bound to be differences. There were a lot of LA-2As produced over the years and I can't imagine that all production runs had exactly the same components or the same component tolerances.
                I'm sure you are right about that. Especially when it comes to the tubes. There must be differences from unit to unit. But I'll bet there's an order of magnitude difference if you wanna talk about 59 LPs again. The wood is different in every single one. I'll bet that none of them have the same number of windings in each pickup. I remember the Fender engineers telling me that for an anniversery Strat they found 11 sets of original pickups and and after measuring them to make the new reproductions they found none of them were the same.
                Don Boomer

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Anderton View Post


                  Because analog gear is, well, analog, there are bound to be differences. There were a lot of LA-2As produced over the years and I can't imagine that all production runs had exactly the same components or the same component tolerances. So maybe part of the "magic" of vintage gear is no two are alike, so maybe from time to time you run into an "anti-lemon" where all the tolerances add up just right. Hopefully that's the one companies model
                  This is very true. Not only are there production changes, but also design changes, and of course component aging. This is particularly true with microphones.

                  When we first started seeing plug-ins emulating vintage signal processing gear, most of them were designed to emulate somebody's "gold standard" device. Nowadays, I expect that new LA-2 plug-ins get designed to emulate someone else's LA-2 plug-in. But they all work, and people who are into messing around with sounds like to have a lot of options to try, even real hardware if they have the opportunity. But there's no reason why anyone who can make a recording great using a piece of hardware can't make a recording great using software. The thing to beware of is that modern emulations of vintage gear usually offer more control or range of controls than the original hardware had, so there's a tendency to work slower (and hence worry more about whether you have the "real" sound) with softwar than with hardware when you just plug it in, grin, and move on - or decide to use a different guitar.

                  --
                  "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                  Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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                  • #10
                    As aguitarist I was late getting into telecasters. What did it for me was when a friend let me borrow a '52 reissue for a weekend gig. When I was playing it I realized that it was the sound I heard on many recordings that I listened to in my formative years.

                    There are a lot of electric guitar designs that are improvements on the basic design but we keep going back to the tele.

                    I think the obsession with vintage gear is because those sounds have been established and used in the creation of the music we have come to know and love. We can design equipment that is better, more versatile and more reliable than the old stuff but the music is ulimately what dictates what we want out of our equipment - which is why I like my telecasters.
                    As a human being, you come with the whole range of inner possibilities
                    from the deepest hell to the highest states.

                    It is up to you which one you choose to explore
                    .

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                    • #11
                      As Mike mentioned, there is a magic that happens between an amp and a microphone and thats still my preferred method but is the sound that much different? Its getting pretty darn close these days... and having the option to tweak the sound ITB is hard to argue. (I`ll just add, I`m not sure if the magic in the sound is from the space between the amp and mic but I do think a guitarist plays differently when they are in the room with the sound... perhaps the player "feels" the sound better and therefore plays more inspiring?)

                      I have said this for the last 3-4 years to many studio owners dismay... plug ins have improved so much that vintage gear is no longer necessary for great tone. I have done sessions with really talented players using amp simulators and the tracks sounded fantastic.

                      I remember doing sessions 15-20 years with some the NYCs best session players... these guys showed up with their own rigs of outboard gear and amps and their tracks where incredible. Now guys are showing up with a couple of guitars, plugging in, and engineers are sitting there dialing in a sound from an amp sim, compression and EQ is all plug in based.

                      Two very different approaches but I also think a lot of it depends on the group you`re working with and the style. A band that is used to playing in front of a crowd through amps is going to want the real thing even in a recording studio. For the majority of tracks I`m producing these days, I`m going straight into the interface and EQ`ing, compressing, and "adding space" ITB.

                      Vintage gear is nice if you have the room, the budget, the patience to deal with upkeep/repair. At this point in technology, I can get a great sound ITB so why bother with vintage or any unnecessary hardware?

                      Last edited by Ernest Buckley; 10-30-2016, 08:50 PM.

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                      • #12
                        I love new gear and new instruments.

                        Cheers,

                        Mats N
                        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                        BT King - all my backing tracks can be found at :
                        http://nermark.articulateimages.com

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ernest Buckley View Post
                          I remember doing sessions 15-20 years with some the NYCs best session players... these guys showed up with their own rigs of outboard gear and amps and their tracks where incredible. Now guys are showing up with a couple of guitars, plugging in, and engineers are sitting there dialing in a sound from an amp sim, compression and EQ is all plug in based.

                          Two very different approaches but I also think a lot of it depends on the group you`re working with and the style. A band that is used to playing in front of a crowd through amps is going to want the real thing even in a recording studio. For the majority of tracks I`m producing these days, I`m going straight into the interface and EQ`ing, compressing, and "adding space" ITB.
                          This is a key point. If you're just capturing notes and will design the sound as the mix develops, then clearly plug-ins give the mixer far more options, if only because most of us have only so much money to spend and you can get many more options with software than with hardware (vintage or not). But when you want to capture a performance, getting the sound as close as possible to what you'll want to hear when the project is finished is the most efficient way to work.

                          Some guitarists will have their own setup, use it all the time, and give you what you brought them in for. But it doesn't matter if they're using vintage compressors, preamps, equalizers, and amplifiers, or are plugging their guitar into a computer and out comes "their" sound. There are some high priced artists and producers who can specify the microphone and vocal chain they want and don't worry about the cost, but these are a very small number of the people recording today.

                          But, today, vintage hardware is quite adequately covered with new hardware if you have the budget. But you can't substitute a $50 plug-in for 30 years of experience in the studio. That's what it takes to learn how to choose the right hardware or find the right plug-in settings.

                          --
                          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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                          • #14
                            At this point I have my amp sims dialed in to get the sounds i want (which frankly took a lot of effort and stages of parametric EQ), but it means I'm not into "I'll record it and fix it after the fact." Nor am I sure that approach makes sense anyway. The guitar sound I lay down at the beginning of the recording process locks the song in a certain direction. I may do some minor tweaks as I would with any signal source during mixdown, but the fundamental sound doesn't change because...well, it can't. If it does, then everything else has to change.

                            I even find this is true with a less "obvious" instrument, like bass. Whether it growls like an amp, or has the smooth roundness of the bass in Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," everything else is affected. I'm working on a song now where the bass is very growly, and it took over the space normally inhabited by distorted guitar. Instead, I laid down an acoustic guitar and the two worked well together. If I changed either one, the other would have to change. But then the drums would have to change as well, and now with the heart of the song changed, the vocals would probably have to change as well...

                            Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                            Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                            • #15
                              Ultimately I suppose I'm just not that much into "vintage" gear. Yes, I have favorite plug-ins that are my "go-to" plug-ins. But if they didn't exist, I'd "go to" something else. I'd be willing to bet the difference it would make to the song's overall emotional impact on the listener would be negligible. I think the most profound effect of vintage gear is if the musician using it thinks it's magical, and therefore, becomes more inspired as a result...regardless of whether that inspiration has anything to do with rationality.
                              Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                              Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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