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  • Can Music Gear Lose Its Mojo?

    By Phil O'Keefe |

    Can Gear Lose Its Mojo?

    Where did the magic go? Can you get it back if it goes away?

     

    By Phil O'Keefe

     

     

     

    harmonycentralmusicmojoleader-4b26c3ef.jpg.ae0aa74f809cf1df00d7124ad9d62bd9.jpgThe question is - why does this happen? Can we identify the reason(s) for it? And can lost mojo be restored once it's lost? I've tried to figure out why, and I've identified a few possible culprits.

    • In some cases it could be due to poor workmanship on the part of the repair facility or tech. A bad mod or repair job can cause an item to perform worse than it once did, but that's usually easy to spot.

       

    • In other cases maybe some "mojo parts" were replaced with parts with less mojo (carbon comp vs. metal film resistors,  op amp substitutions, etc.).

       

    • Electronic tolerances are something that could also have an effect on the way a repaired amp or effect sounds, but usually the tolerances are pretty tight these days, and you don't find a lot of gear that uses +/-10% tolerance resistors anymore. But that certainly could add up and account for some audible variation if enough parts are replaced, and those replacement parts are at the far end of the tolerance limit while the original parts were at the other end of it.

       

    • It's all in your head, and the sound of the gear hasn't really changed… which is certainly possible, but if that's the case, then why is this phenomenon so prevalent?

     

    I'll readily admit to believing that some things can't be fully measured with our current technology. I think it's possible to hear something that we might not be able to quantify with our electronic test instruments… but I'm not talking about not being able to back up such a claim. If you can really hear it, you should be able to identify when it's there or isn't there in a double-blind listening test a statistically significant percentage of the time. The problem is, there's no easy way to do those direct A/B comparisons after a piece of gear has been repaired. About the only way to do so is if you happen to have another identical item that hasn't been repaired and that also has that certain je ne sais quoi that we call "mojo" - and how often does that happen?  

     

     

    So what do you think? Is there some kind of unexplained mojo - some indescribable essence that makes some individual pieces of equipment superior to similar pieces of gear made in the same way by the same company? Can that mojo be lost? It seems to me that it can, but I'd really like to hear what the music community thinks. Have you had the "missing mojo" experience? Have you ever managed to figure out the cause of lost or missing mojo and found a way to restore it? If you have any ideas or theories, or general comments on this subject please stop by this thread and tell us about them!

     

     

     

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    phil-3eaec998.jpg.e512484e8a8a9d6626a7149227c06e37.jpg

    Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  



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    I think you'll find that this is largely psychological, and for quite a concrete reason.

    The reason is that when you get your gear back... you are _listening_  to it.   It has your attention.

    Before that, before it broke, it was just part of the whole sound you were making.

    Listening, like seeing, is a very psychological thing.  Your brain even makes things up and fills gaps.   

    After you get your gear back, your attention focusses on it, and you will start to hear things you simply filtered out before.

    I had this just the other day purely from changing where I stand at rehearsal.  For some reason I went over and stood by the bass player.   It turns out the beam of my app was directed right there, and I thought, "whoa, I didn't know I was sounding like that".   Then I went back to where I usually stand, and suddenly I was noticing things about the sound I didn't like even right back there in the same spot, without changing anything.   All that changed was my attention...

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