Sometimes it seems like manufacturers aren’t sure whether a feature is desirable or not. For example, product A trumpets “transformerless output stage for clean, accurate sound” while product B touts its “warm-sounding transformer outputs.” Then there’s the compressor that boasts “no VCAs or opto-isolators,” while another company spotlights its use of opto-isolators to get that “soft, vintage” squeezing effect.
Get the picture? A few years ago, having an all-digital signal path was the holy grail. Now it’s an all-tube signal path. Meanwhile, hooking up control surfaces to do-all hard disk recording programs makes them sort of look like . . . well, multitrack recorders hooked up to mixers and outboard gear.
Some people become so enamored of a particular approach that they assume if you don’t agree with their assessment of what’s important, you’re a fool. But those who can be a little more objective realize that it’s easy to have doubts about what is best, which begs the question: what exactly is best? The answer may lie in the “index of gear paranoia.”
All-tube signal paths have been available for decades, and were very much alive when all-digital units were being invented. It’s not like tubes are a new technology or anything, so why did they go away in the first place? This isn’t just an example of shifting public tastes. This is proof that everybody is pretty much clueless about what makes for a pleasing sound.
And you know what? No one ever will figure it out completely, because what the human brain enjoys so much about sound are the zillions of variations. Our ears are extremely fine transducers—the eyes see only an octave of light, but our ears can resolve eight to ten octaves of sound, with a dynamic range that puts just about any electronics in the world to shame.
Companies and musicians will strive for “the”“ sound because it’s what’s happening at the moment. Then like a mirage, the closer you get to it, the more it vanishes, only to be replaced by a “new” sound. Remember when Prince’s “Minneapolis sound” was the hippest, freshest thing on the planet? Try doing that now, and you’ll just sound dated.
As a result, don’t take any claims too seriously about what makes one product sound better than another. I have a pink paisley Telecaster from 1966 that was brought in 1973 for $200 because no one in their right mind wanted something so ugly and cheap. Then a decade or so later, it became so hot that people were willing to pay thousands for one in good condition. Did the guitar change? No.
So what does change? The “index of gear paranoia”—the idea that somehow, you’re out of touch, making the wrong purchase, or not keeping up with the Joneses. Did artist A have a hit CD using tube preamps on the vocals? Then we better get tube preamps! But wait—artist B just had a hit running a microphone through a fourteenth-hand Wollensak recorder. Guess what the price for used Wollensaks will do in the next few months?
At this point, the logical wrap-up would be “trust your ears, and buy what sounds good to you.” But I’ll go one step further: put all your attention on the music. Audio is now entering an era when differences are quantitative rather than qualitative. Many people ask me for advice on gear—the best keyboard, the best mic, etc. Reality check: give me a synthesizer, and I’ll get some cool sounds out of it. Hand me a guitar, and I’ll write a song.
Sure, playing with and debating about gear is fun; and there’s no question that good gear can go beyond serving a function to being truly inspiring. But the biggest improvement you can make to your studio is to hone your craft—once the music is in place, your gear will learn to serve it. —Craig Anderton
by Craig Anderton
Sleek, high-performance desktop interfaces are a hot product category. Does MOTU bring anything new to the party?
by Phil O'Keefe
You used to need a separate multitrack and mixdown machine, but today's DAWs can combine both—to good advantage
by Phil O'Keefe
These simple, useful, inexpensive boxes can solve all kinds of problems for guitar players
|Budget Acoustic Guitar Recommendations
All guitar players should have at least one acoustic in their collection, but if you're on a tight budget, do you have to forget about it? Not at all. This thread is full of suggestions for good-sounding, yet affordable acoustic guitars.
You can often purchase refurbished gear from stores or manufacturers. The advantage is that they usually sell for less than brand new gear, and usually carry the full factory warranties too. Are there any disadvantages that you might regret later on? Click the link to find out.
|Is an Identifiable "Sound" a Good Thing for a Producer or Engineer?
The Studio Trenches discuss the pros and cons of having a signature sound. Is it better to put your own identifiable sonic stamp on all of your productions, or should you be more of a sonic chameleon and vary your approach and sound on every record?
|Entry-Level Bass Recommendations
What are some of the best available bass guitars for someone who's just getting started? What should you look for in an entry-level bass, and how much is it going to cost? Who better to ask than the knowledgeable folks on HC's very own bass forum—they have the answers!
|What Were The Highlights of Your Musical Year?
For some it was scoring that cool new piece of gear, for others it was completing a musical project, picking up a new instrument, or connecting with other musicians. How about you? Stop in and share some of the highlights of your past year.
|Guitar Neck Widths
The feel of a guitar neck—its thickness, width, shape and profile—can have a profound effect on the way it feels in a player's hands. Most players have specific preferences too. What type of neck shape and profile do you prefer?
|Waves Audio Introduces Element Synthesizer
Element is an analog-style polyphonic instrument engineered to deliver the fat, gritty sound of the classics, with all the precision, flexibility and control of contemporary digital synths.
|VOX Announces “Try a DelayLab, Get a Pitchclip” Promotion
During this consumer promotion that runs through February 28, 2013, guitarists in the U.S. who try VOX's DelayLab multi-delay pedal at their local VOX dealer are eligible to receive a free Korg Pitchclip clip-on guitar tuner.
|RainSong Introduces the Parlor Guitar
The Parlor body combines the traditional compact shape with a modern venetian cutaway for a perfectly proportioned intimate guitar with excellent access to the upper frets. A lower bout of 13-1/3" and depth of 4-1/8" makes it RainSong’s smallest body.
|Ueberschall's New Elastik Soundbank: Prog Rock
This cutting-edge construction kit library, the latest release from the Vodovoz series, is inspired by the great progressive rock bands of the 70s and 80s.
|Hal Leonard Publishes The Worship Vocal Book
The Worship Vocal Book addresses the needs of the modern worship singer; it covers style, confidence, singing technique, stage presence, and more.
|KORG and SoundCloud Team Up for Master iPolysix Remix Contest
The contest, which runs through January 31, 2013, invites musicians to create a remixed track on iPolysix from a selection provided on the contest page, then upload the remix track directly from iPolysix via “Polyshare powered by SoundCloud.”
At Harmony Central, we are committed to protecting the privacy
© 1995—2012 Harmony Central®.
Advertise with HC
HarmonyCentral.com is the leading Internet resource for musicians, supplying valuable information from news and product reviews, to classified ads and chat rooms.