Sure, we love a great-sounding recording - but we key in to the message, not the medium
Are you a gear snob? Do you think only analog gear gives the rich, warm sound people crave, or conversely, believe that a fully decked-out DAW leaves analog in the dust? Are you a Mac fanatic who feels nothing of merit can be created on a PC, or a PC enthusiast who thinks Macs are overpriced, élitist machines?
A lot of the conversation in the forums revolves around gear, and people are plenty passionate about their favorite equipment. But ultimately, the bottom line isn’t gear; it’s music. Honestly, can you listen to a CD and tell whether it was made on a Mac or Windows machine? Probably not. It’s not even that easy to know for sure whether a recording was made with a digital audio workstation or tape, because tape can sound really clean if that’s what you want, and there are some pretty convincing “tape sound” plug-ins for digital gear. And has anyone reading this ever received a call from a radio station saying “Hello, we were going to play your song, but we noticed that you failed to use a custom tube mic preamp on the lead vocal. Sorry. Until you upgrade your preamp, we’re simply not interested”? If you attend a songwriter’s critique panel, the issue is seldom about the sound; it’s about the emotional impact of the lyrics, the chorus, the strength of the hook, and similar considerations.
Granted, new gear can certainly improve the sound quality of your live gigs or studio recordings, and some of it is downright inspiring by offering new sounds and new possibilities—so none of this is a diss of great music gear. Some gear even helps with the songwriting process, where all music begins. It’s just important to keep the technology in perspective: the listener doesn’t listen to mic preamps, but vocals. Nor does a listener pay attention to the recording medium, but to how the music is arranged on that recording medium.
So whether you have a state-of-the-art studio or are scraping by with a budget all-in-one recorder, always remember that the technology is there to serve the art, not the other way around. If you have something that needs to be said, people will want to hear it—and they won’t necessarily care how you say it.
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