Was Brandon correct when he rebelled against spending money on recording gear?

Was Brandon correct when he rebelled against spending money on recording gear?
0

#1

One of the things that I saw really drag recording review down was when Brandon “declared” that buying “fancy” gear was a waste of time and expense. It meant that subjects about new gear coming out tanked and frankly gave us much less to talk about. To be clear I do not think Brandon was completely wrong. I am also not wanting to start a “Bash Brandon Thread”. I am just wanting to say a few things that I felt alienated me in later years at the RR forum. I certainly have wasted my fair share of cash on high priced gear and this is my opinion. I do not declare what I am about to say as fact.

Here is where I thought Brandon was correct.

  1. Daw plugins are much more powerful then they are often given credit for. Any Daw eq can be the heart of your mixing tool belt.

  2. People should be encouraged to record with whatever gear they have.

  3. A person doesn’t need a rack full of Neve’s to make a radio quality record.

  4. Room treatment is paramount

  5. Monitors are important.

  6. There are plenty of low budget mics, pres and convertors that are fantastic.

  7. Analog summing is a scam. Daws sum as accurately as is possible.

The following is where I disagree with what I perceived to be Brandon’s hard line approach.

  1. Mic pre’s do make a difference. I have had the pleasure to use pres from all over the specturm, API, Shadowhills, Audient, Mackie, behringer, presonus, soundcraft, midas, focusrite, etc, etc, etc. What I found was that you can get pres that work and not spend a ton of cash. My D&R pres stand up just fine to API’s for example. Also needing a million different types of pres is just not necessary. Brandon seemed to think the behringer pres stood up as well as the high priced pres and maybe they did for him I can tell you that they don’t for me. I have had to mix a few live shows done on x32’s. They make me work so hard when I mix they just aren’t up to the standard that I would consider for a pro studio. He loved a particular Rane mic pre. I never tried it. I hope it is awesome. The biggest difference I’ve found with quality mic pres is that when you mic up a source you get what is in the room in your monitors. Those micro mic moves that drastically change the sound are lessened and they become more sideways moves as opposed to good and bad decisions. There are plenty of “budget options” that are lateral moves from API, Neve etc. Having a quality pre matters. Spending a reasonable amount to get them is the game to win.

  2. A DAW has all the plugins you need. Im not actually sure that Brandon believed this but the push was on to make this a reality. Most DAWS have very useful plugins and a lot can be done with them. I certainly have experimented with this and it didn’t take long to see that mixing with only ITB DAW plugs would be very time consuming. I am sure Boz is not creating plugins with the mindset that they are all useless and can be recreated with DAW plugins. I will state that given enough time DAW plugs can get you really far.

  3. Convertors - Brandon and I were farily close on this one. I think far too much time is spent on debating the importance of convertors. I did an experiment shooting out an Orion 32 against presonus convertors. Clearly it was harder to get the clarity out of the presonus then the Orion. The transients on guitar picking was 1000% better. Like mic pre’s I have found plenty of budget convertors that “play with the big boys” well enough.

In general I found that Brandon was on the hunt to convince himself that you can record a blockbuster album for a few grand. Not that it has never been done or couldn’t be done. Factoring in work flow, time and quality this is certainly not how I would like to function.

Can an under $200 mic get you “THAT” vocal sound? Sure. Will it take a bunch more time? Most likely. Can you get the top quality stellar sound that is sometimes needed. That is debatable. If you are recording metal screaming vocals or vocals that are always in dense mixes you have much more leeway. If you need to get a beautiful robust vocal with only one other instrument I would say not unless you have the worlds best vocalist in front of you.

Okay rant over! To balance out this rant I was feeling like it was not acceptable to talk about liking outboard gear and the advantages I find with it. On the other hand I have no interest in having members feeling inadequate for not having the latest greatest gear. I admire many mixes that people do purely ITB. If there is any real advantage of hardware it is about how we get the sounds to the DAW. I think we can all agree that tracking well is paramount.


#2

I think Brandon ended up fighting the hyperbole with hyperbole in the opposite direction. I was definitely with him for the most part of it.

I think it was absolutely true that there was way too much emphasis on high end gear around the internet. I think the shaming of low end gear is dumb, but it got to the point where high end gear was being shamed, which is also dumb.

I think a lot of the difference came down to not nailing down the target audience. If you are just a hobbiest, and you aren’t doing this stuff for a living, it makes no sense to spend tons of money on gear, and all the pushback against high end gear was great for that crowd.

The problem comes up when you are trying to work with people who do this for a living. If you do this for a living, buying a $2000 compressor can pay itself back in a week if it speeds up your workflow. Regardless of why it speeds up your workflow, if you do a better job because of it, it’s a good investment. Spending an hour getting your DAWs compressor to sound like the hardware isn’t a good use of time for someone working on the clock. It’s a great use of time for someone who is trying to figure things out.

At some point, you stop fussing over what gear is cool and what isn’t, and you create a workflow for yourself that works for you. That also seems to be about the point where people stop hanging out on forums and start spending their time cranking out music.


#3

I took it to the mat with Brandon a number of times over the validity of high end gear, and I continue to stand by position. Though after spending the time I did reading and understanding his perspective, I’m convinced his perception of value was microsituational. In other words, he recognized that his position on expensive gear applied to him only and his business model only. He recognized that what he believed was truth to him, and not everyone. I am guilty of misreading him in that regard. At times, I too mistook his cheerleading for the underdog interface/mic/preamp as a protest against value. When I understood him better, I noted that he always said “it doesn’t work for ME”, or “I’M not impressed”. Or " ‘I’ don’t see the value". Never that there ‘isn’t’ value, or that you ‘shouldn’t’ buy x/y/z.

Now he did rail against marketing hype. When companies use smoke and mirrors to sell an inferior toy. I don’t blame him for that, though at time Brando and I disagreed on what had legit value and what didn’t.

What this comes down to, and I think @bholst would agree, is that this forum is a place for anyone. Newbies, hobbyists, semi-pros, mix meisters. All discussions about cheap gear vs off the charts break-your-bank gear. Because the common strand here is a love for the creative artistry of what we do.


#4

Well put!. Brandon was always really good taking ownership of his opinion. Other members that drank the kool-aid were not so good at this.

Nicely said!


#5

Great thread guys! Really good points expressed with clarity here.

As a hobbyist who will never own a bunch of outboard gear, I find this community so incredibly valuable, because of all the different perspectives we have here. I have never felt for a moment as if I were being looked down upon because I’m solely ITB, and all you folks who do have the hardware experience have been so generous with sharing the expertise you’ve gained. Because in the end, whether you use an outboard compressor or a plugin, one has to know why one is doing it, and that comes through from this group.

When I first got to RR, reading the Brandon position that hey, you can make great music for not a ton of money if you know your tools was a big deal for me. Basically gave me the positive reinforcement that what I wanted to do was in fact possible. And I’ve learned a TON from reading about hardware that I will never own, so it’s win-win for me!


#6

Agree with you everything except the analog summing.

[quote=“Paul999, post:1, topic:322”]
Mic pre’s do make a difference.
[/quote] Agree with you, disagree with Brandon by large. I think he underestimated the importance of a preamp. But even after all our bantering, I’m still not completely sure I fully understood his position.

[quote=“Paul999, post:1, topic:322”]
A DAW has all the plugins you need.
[/quote] I interpreted Brandon’s position on that to only apply to newcomers and hobbyists. I don’t think he believed this statement to apply to top echelon mix engineers.

It seemed you and I agreed on this one. They’re not equal. But they’re pretty far down on the priority list of upgrades.

A good quality home recording album or any album?

Thats what I thought until I got a $12k mic and started using it.

Imo a top quality stellar sound is ALWAYS needed.

Or you not record metal music :smiley:

I ignored and talked about it anyway :wink:


#7

i think the ethics brandon held were good and his dedication to the low budget can trump the high end was commendable.
but realistically, if you take a step back i dont think he has ever worked in a high end studio. its ok buying high end gear and saying that a $30 piece of hardware can do the same... but im pretty sure if a seasoned engineer was sat with a choice between say a $2000 preamp and a $40 pre amp that he would choose the preamp suited to the job, not the cost.
i believe brandons ideal was to try and convince home recording enthusiasts that you can make a million dollar record with cubase, a cheap interface and a half decent mic.
this is a lovely theory in principle but maybe you need the skills to go with it.
if you gave me a $5000 puluso mic, a $30,000 recording console, $100,000 worth of outboard gear, and the latest pc and plugins and a treated room i`m still sure that people like butch vig, massorati, chris lord alge, abbey road, whoever else, fhumble, paul999 would all kick the shit out of my mixes on a $200 pc with $50 of plugins and a few budget mics. why?
because gear does not make records.
expensive gear is no better to budget producers than budget gear is to expensive producers.
i do not have the recording ability to make use of a $4000 mic or a$30,000 console. but a seasoned engineer can use those colored sounds and amps to make a HUGE difference to their sound.

brandon was trying to do a good thing, but by slagging the big boys off and turning people away from buying recording gear he only served to slay his own website.lets face it, which gear provider is going to advertise in a place where buying expensive gear is frowned upon?

i think he had it right trying to get rid of the snake oil salesman who says you need this mic, and you need this pre who are just trying to get money off people who want to make music. and i think in that respect he was correct.
but when he started saying that a professional engineer in a multi million dollar studio has no more wollop than a kid with an interface and a few plugins then he lost the plot.

high end gear is high end gear for a reason. yes you can make a highly polished record on a low budget. but if you say wow that vocal on the latest so n so record sounds awesome, i need that…
yes its probably a $20,000 signal chain before it even hits the mixing desk, plus you have a dude that has worked in that room 24/7 and has credentials to rival anyone.

so yes brandon had a good idea, but in theory it was probably only meant to sell his killer home recording which to be honest i own and when you get more into audio recording you realize it was written by a novice.


#8

please dont get me wrong, i really have a lot of respect for brandon. and his views.
but i am just pointing a finger to the fact that some of them were a little to embelished.
he was an awesome site runner, and a funny dude…hell, i miss the guy.
he should come here and be made an honory moderator with no pressure, id like to see if hes still recording and hear his views.
anyway. paul has a valid and important point so sorry for going off topic, just didnt want people to think i was anti brandon lol


#9

I think some low end gear deserves to get shamed. As long as you’re careful to shame the gear, not the person (which can get complicated at times).

If the gear was really high end gear, that doesn’t even make sense. Thats like attempting to shame a dude because his dick is too big. Isn’t it?

I think the biggest problem was actually semantics. Saying “high end gear is an abomination of satan”, is different than saying “it is possible to obtain a meaningful result from some mid-level gear”. Either way, both sides actually acknowledge that junk is junk, so they aren’t necessarily mutual exclusives. In other words, someone doesn’t have to be anti-high end to also be pro-low end (or mid level).

I’ll state my position, because I, like @paul999 took some flack for buying expensive stuff (though some of it I deserved for just being an idiot). Here ya go:

A hobbyist ought to strive to make the best recordings possible with the best gear they can afford. A pro ought to make the best recordings possible with the best gear they can afford (within reason and within the context of their business model).


#10

I doubt anyone here is ‘anti-brandon’. Lol. :smiley:


#11

I’d love to hear you thoughts on this.

Yes. Low end convertors smear to much for what I am trying to achieve. I find much of the mid range convertors to be more then acceptable. The motu stuff stands up perfectly beside the rme and apoggee stuff I had for ever. I put the rme and apogee against the API and waves convertors that everyone raves about. They were just fine. [quote=“Jonathan, post:6, topic:322”]
A good quality home recording album or any album?
[/quote]

It seemed like he was saying any album[quote=“Jonathan, post:6, topic:322”]
Thats what I thought until I got a $12k mic and started using it.
[/quote]

:slight_smile: Yeah. I don’t have a $12,000 mic but my Wunder CM7 stands out in its own regard. The U87 I used to have was great as well.[quote=“Jonathan, post:6, topic:322”]
Or you not record metal music :smiley:
[/quote]

LOL. [quote=“Jonathan, post:6, topic:322”]
I ignored and talked about it anyway :wink:
[/quote]

Go JK


#12

@electriclight has mentioned one of Brandons reasons for launching the forum was to have a platform to sell some books (which is perfectly reasonable imo). But even as a pro, I’d probably give more credit than ‘novice’. Wikipedia: Novice = a person new to or inexperienced in a field or situation. The book has value…I make interns read it, and they seem to learn a thing or two from it. I’m glad it bought it. I learned a thing or two from it myself. And he did have a good working knowledge of electronics, wiring, signal flow etc…he had good research skills.


#13

Just to add to this, I think Brandon was in the very small minority of people who really wanted to understand what was physically going on with the gear he used. When you have two identical mics in different housings, and one gets great reviews and the other gets terrible reviews, you start to question everything.

A vast majority of people who record just want to make music that sounds good. They don’t care how microphones work. They don’t want to know how EQs work. They just want to turn the knobs and know that their music will sound better. Brandon wanted to know the “why” which is great if you want to design gear, not so great if you want to make music.

Recording requires quite a bit of faith and trust in gear manufacturers. It’s pretty much impossible to do a valid shootout between everything and still have time to actually make music. It comes down to a sort of a “whether you think it is good or bad, you are correct” type of thing. It’s the nature of trying to mix technical stuff with stuff that is inherently non-technical.

I’ve heard great people give great reviews on things that I’ve thought were absolutely terrible. But if they can find a way to make that thing work for them, then that terrible thing is valid for them (either that, or they are just being paid to right the review).

People are generally insecure about the decisions they make, and they need assurance from someone else that what they are doing is ok. This is especially the case for audio engineers. Whether that assurance comes from the money they make, or other engineers or the advertisements doesn’t really matter, so long as it’s provided by someone.


#14

This Brandon guy is perhaps the greatest cult leader of all time. I am in awe of this spell he cast over all of you.


#15

Here Greg, have some Kool-Aid! :smile:


#16

I don’t think its a scam. Equipment matters. If you sum into a Tannoy, Carvin, or Allen Heath, then throw your hands in the air, and say ‘summing doesn’t work for me’, then we’re not even talking about the same thing. Which is a lot of times what seems to happen. And its also something you have to play around with a lot. You can’t rent a summing mixer for 2 days, shoot stems into it and draw a conclusion. I worked with the Dangerous for 6 months before I really understood it (even as simple as that thing is).

It changes three major things for me.
1- the way stuff sits in the mix. Mono/stereo relationships change.
2- you’re less concerned about headroom (which isn’t a sonics thing as much as it a workflow luxury)
3- adding distortion - the dangerous (to me) has a really pleasant way of adding a touch of glue as you overdrive the master

…and its also nice for signal flow. I can patch a 500 series compressor right into the kick chain on the way out of the DAW. Or I can stick the Vari-mu on the BGV group. It gives you another insert point if your i/o happens to be running tight. Usually they live on the back of a patchbay. I took mine off though because now that I have 256 i/o with 96 busses, I can just leave everything hooked to the mixer and do my patching digitally.

I mix right into it. But I also have top notch converters. The dangerous does a little better when strapped to the avid converters then it does hooked up to the motu converters. But at $5K a shot, they ought to be better.


#17

Lol. No thanks. I see what it’s done!


#18

What are you considering mid range? (just out of curiosity).

I’ve never worked with a Prism or RME. I have limited experience with UAD and apogee.

The Crane Song 2A was brutally expensive at $6000 onsale, pre-ordered with a discount, but it has been worth every penny.


#19

Well, I didn’t pay anywhere near that for it if it helps level the playing field for the sake of conversation. And the only reason its so expensive is because you can change the capsule and make 10 different variations of the same thing. On its own with its stock capsule its closer to 6K. Is it ‘better’ than a Manley Gold or a Bock? Probably not if you take away the other 9 capsules. What you’re really paying for is versatility.

That Wunder is no kiddie mic!! I heard one of those things in Atlanta last year and was pretty amazed. I think it was a CM7.


#20

Interesting conversation, fellas!

Like anything, when you do this long enough, you eventually manage to cut through all the hyperbole, extremes of view and misinformation to collect a set of opinions that you just end up keeping to yourself, because you’d rather make music than argue endlessly and pointlessly on the Internet.

That’s basically the view I took quite a while ago. When I realised that discussing what does and doesn’t “make a difference” is by and large context dependent.

As Boz so eloquently put it:

and this:

I remember Brandon using the term “political quantization” when describing the way that people who express a certain view on one thing are then automatically assumed to hold certain views on a whole range of other things. I’ve seen the gear debate descend into that type of “taking sides” mentality time and again. Personally, when I see a poster act that way, it’s a signal to me to take what they say with a grain of salt.

If you watch/read/listen to interviews with vastly experienced individuals in the audio industry (and I do this at every opportunity) you quickly realize that even the snobbiest gear hounds are basically pragmatic in their approach to this subject. The general sense you get is that, if you have the high end gear and it suits the project and the other time & monetary constraints, then why not use it? On the other hand they are doing this for a living, they have deadlines and unexpected situations popping up all the time, but lack of the ideal situation or gear never holds them back from completing a top notch sounding end result. SO many great engineers/producers/mixers never let lack of ideal gear hold them back from making music.

One big realization I had that there is value in high end gear was in the infamous analogue summing debate. My curiosity was aroused by how hotly it was debated here, and by reading Mixerman’s book, so I decided to explore it in the only way I could afford - by trying it out with Slate’s then-new VCC plugin. I immediately knew this was what I was looking for to take my mixes to the next step. I even posted a blind test on RR - to confirm to myself, mainly - that I was not just swallowing the hype. The responses made it clear that other people could hear the difference very clearly too. It was easily incorporated into my workflow, so to this day, I use VTM and VCC on all my mixes.

Other people may not like it, think it’s too subtle and/or a waste of time, but I’m secure enough at this point in time to not really care - it works for me… and since VCC/VTM are modelling the behavior of big format consoles/tape, then I am satisfied to conclude in my own mind that there is veracity to the views of those who espouse analogue summing and/or the value of subtle euphonic saturation.

On balance, is it “night & day”? No. Could I do a great sounding mix without it? Most definitely yes!

Personally, I’ve reached a point where I have all the gear I want/need to get the results I want/need. Still, I want to be informed about things that are coming out. I’m interested in different views on gear. I refuse to hold to the “quantized” views of one “side” or the other. I just refuse to let those views stop me from making music.