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

Was Brandon correct when he rebelled against spending money on recording gear?
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Buy it and they will come.

I use low cost mics and Reaper. No wonder rappers haven’t been beating a path to my door; that and I live in a tiny town in the middle of Wisconsin…


No offense taken :smiley: New forum. Fresh start…right?


This has kind of been the issue all along. Breaking into the industry from either side of the desk has always been a “who do you know” kind of thing that is geared towards exclusivity. The few guys you do hear about are very good at what they do, but they do not have some unapproachable level of skill that can’t be attained. They all got good at what they do by doing it, and someone helped to get them started, and they took it upon themselves to get to the point where people are looking for their signature “sound” to lend credibility to their recordings.

Brandon obviously wasn’t directing his comments at guys who have either the cash or connections to have access to anything they want to use. His market was/is people trying to figure out how to get started, and he did a good job of prioritizing what you really need to get good enough to start making decisions on what to do next. In other words, at least to me, Brandon was saying that investing $2k on a mic preamp when you have lousy monitors and no room treatment was not the way to go. I’m pretty sure if someone gave him the opportunity to get comfortable behind a Neve console with all the hardware he wanted that he wouldn’t turn it down.

I’ll never be in that situation. I buy mostly budget stuff and make do, with an occasional splurge. I record only myself, and most of the time let someone else do the mixing if I feel that the work warrants more than I can deliver with my gear and skill set, mostly because I don’t have the time or patience to do it justice. As far as insecurity goes, that pretty much solves my problem. I don’t mind recording hundreds of takes to get something right, but owning a U87 would not alter that process for me. For me to get serious about what I was recording with would require an investment of time and money I don’t have, so Brandon’s approach fits better, and RR has given me access to people who have taken their skills many levels beyond mine.


Absolutely. Doing my damndest to be a reformed character.


Atta boys! The new group is an opportunity for renewal. Hats off to ya!


RR was a great site for me at the time when I started and Brandon seemed to be facing a lot of the same issues and questions I had at the same time, and the weird part was I was buying a lot of the same equipment right at the same time. He had a way of helping me decide what was important to me in my workflow and what happened when I took things away. I think he was more motivated by quality gear, which in my eyes was priced effectively for what you were getting and would withstand the vigor of studio life. I think he had an angst against high end gear because of the hype of marketing and the trending and he had a lot of failures with the gear itself. There is also the quandary of how an SM57 is considered relevant but another microphone for at the same price was garbage. I guess I understood exactly what he was going through even when I didn’t agree.
One thing I felt he never really mentioned is that when you have high end equipment or even just outboard, and use it, you understand how it works and what it is supposed to sound like and makes the transition from going to all ITB or even using lower quality gear easier (at least it was for me). Once I got better gear I started to understand the sonic differences and why I was getting better results and now when I use something of lesser quality I know what it is missing. The difference is now I know how to compensate for that or know what I’m missing and what I need for correction. A lot of that comes with time and practice, but I think he just didn’t really identify what, why, and how the higher end equipment does and how to really achieve close to those tones ITB or with another piece of equipment.
I agreed and disagreed with him on preamps. I use the x32 live on a regular basis and have zero issues with that and in most cases find it perfectly acceptable, but when you compare it next to a high end preamp there are things that he never really tested. Pushing a 1073 into distortion is not the same as an x32 preamp being pushed and the sonics you get from better preamps are just that, better, but when comparing them at -12db or whatever they might sound close enough not to matter. I understood his scientific test methods to try to rule out subjectivity but that’s not what art, music or mixing is about ever. Its the thing the artist or engineer hears and wants to hear that make them make moves in their craft and that is all subjective.
I don’t think Brandon failed at all, but like most I love gear, even if I cant afford or will never use, I still like reading about it looking at it, talking about it, etc. just like guys that can never afford a Ferrari we still watch and read in awe, and for me that was definitely a negative for me. I mean I would rather talk about Ferraris not Honda civics, and I would much rather be driving a Ferrari if I could.


Paul, thats a great rant. Thunderhouse thats kind of where I was, at least it was a familiar situation where I was wondering should I spend $2500 on that preamp? will it really make my track turn into a EMI sound? if I bought a U87 and a Neve and a 1176 would my tracks be turned into Gold? This is like the hiend pros (and includes nonPros who have a bunch of money to spend and the gearhead obsession.)

Then comes sticker shock. So a lot of us have to do more homework (brandons articles were great for this and his money!!!) damn Brandon spent a lot of cash for awhile.

To me theres the non-embarrassed level. this level is in my mind the working, serious level but affordable. Shure SM7, ISA’s …good tools, and non-embarrassing gear. It costs some money but its well built and a person cant blame the tools anymore.

gearhead-lusty wants the U87/Neve/1176…is ok with a ISA and SM7 and not embarrassed.

I never saw Brandon as really bashing hiend gear, he just gave it a sanity check…or himself a sanity check, and put the HYPE to the fire…

Brandons final setup was the X32. The Outboard world channel strip was
Rane Mic pre
Ashly EQ
and I think that was it? maybe a comp? LA3A or something? anyone remember?
ADK mics…and SM57’s Bullet Awards… Focals and NS10’s…

not a bad set of gear, I dont know about the X32 but that Toft was having problems and wasnt even 5yrs old! wtf? He wasnt ever impressed with preamps much.
damn he spent a bunch of money and wrote a lot of articles, amazing…haha…like a short lived Jimi Hendrix, 3 albums and gone.


I think you just hit an important point. It is ok to look at/talking about a Ferrari even you likely won’t own one. And there’s value in the dialogue between people that do own them. Why? Because to some (though not all) people, the technology might is fascinating, and a healthy curiosity about landmark/flagship technological achievement is just worth knowing about.

I’d he was was MOST motivated by the returns on the gear and what he felt it did for him. Not sure if he was motivated by the quality as much as the value and the functionality. Those are actually different things. You can have a super high quality car that doesn’t give you 10x the transportation value of a honda civic (though it might pick up more sexy ladies en-route) :smiley: And that’s precisely the point. Brandon didn’t care about his gear as a status symbol. I know that for a fact lol.


Warm warm warm warm.


Hot hot hot. Oh, no: wait. I get it.



I was wondering how long it would be before someone realized they could say warm again.


Let’s censor the word “[S]glue[/S]”. That word gets thrown around a bit too much.


I do agree with a lot of what Brandon was saying.

I’m a songwriter and not an engineer. I can’t tell the difference between mid level and high end on what I’ve seen.

I’m extremely happy with what I have.

What we have in our bedrooms is like $100k worth of stuff in the 60’s, maybe.


I don’t know, friend. I find it sticks in the mind!

(And as the first person on the site to mention glue … in a heading, no less … I object)


Yep, we’re all over the warm thing… posted a thread called “Because I Can” in the Backstage area right after I joined! :nerd:

  1. Mic pre’s do make a difference

Yes. …and no. Are you doing a bunch of songs/live shows and need reliable stuff that is easy to work with? You want quality stuff that works well with minimal fuss. I suspect there’s often even a correlation between quality and price! :slight_smile: But “a difference” doesn’t mean anything about objective quality of the end product. With my personal experience recording, the Grace m103 is really more about convenience than anything. I don’t have to fight with it or worry about some mystical inferiority. In a home recording situation you should have patience, commitment, and a refusal to settle for less just because you have a low budget. This will get you much better results than fantasizing about fancy gear that “makes a difference” but the difference is minimal doesn’t guarantee and objectively better end product.

In simple terms - the gear doesn’t matter, even though there is a difference. People waste too much time on magic, which is why Brandon took up the religious cause of proselytizing this.


the other side of this is that so many plugins are emulated from high end gear, I wanted to know how the engineers with the actual hardware are using them. as a beginner it gives insight on to how things operate, make certain sounds, understand techniques with particular equipment. I still have yet to see anyone break down differences in compressors and theorize why a tube compressor is better than a fet for X, or even how different all the different compression styles they operate. without ever going into a studio how is one supposed to figure out that 1176 attack/release controls are opposite of how you think and how a fixed threshold vs variable threshold works. These are the things that are interesting to me on a high end level because the guys using most of the high end gear have experience and understanding of the equipment and the sonic blueprint that is achievable with them.


hey m24p, I agree there is a difference, mainly in build quality, sound can be subjective.

re-mentioning that “removing mystical inferiority”. thats something real but not always discussed much, i think because we are told we arent supposed to think in those terms.
Truth is theres a confidence vibe when you reach for a tool you have confidence in.
Thats on the person though.

I find two main groups of people, one group get really attached to thier gear, maybe have the guitar 50yrs …its part of them, familiarity. The other looks at gear like spoons to eat with and dont care. They swap and chop and randomly use the tools. Neither way is right or wrong but its interesting because it removes the “hindering factor”, or in short makes it more enjoyable and interesting.

Quality- yes, there is a difference.
Seems to me the guys who do real engineering build great gear, tank tough and all that over-the top stuff engineers do known that does cost extra money in parts and homework. The quality is often on the inside unseen.

This stuff is QC’d, dropped kicked screamed at, left outside and inside and still works.
It costs money. I did QC and saw the Military Grade QC vs Consumer Testers… different markets. But it is real, stuff built to military specs are for the harsh environments and not always anything to do with military gear. Its cold to hot maximums, vibration testing etc…and its real. Engineers go back to the drawing board and make it better and that usually costs more in labor or materials.

Quality vs Price…getting the Bullet Proof stuff and not the Fancy…
I like the comment “refusal to settle for less”, it makes me think of the good stuff for a working man salary and no need to go into collecting relic old gear for mega bucks of collectors who can smell the magic dust.

Getting a ISA or a Grace a person doesnt even need to keep looking, if theres a confidence needed ? go get a damn SM7 or RE20…you have $350, …Metallica,LosLobos, SherlyCrow,Jackson,Stevie Wonder, McCartney all did fine with those priced mics.
Just get out of the Hello Kitty section of Wal Mart, and no need for the $1200 bottle of wine either.

mystical inferiority…haha thats a great term…


The best compressor to use in any situation is pretty simple. It’s the best one you actually have in the room! Sounds stupidly obvious, but in analogue studios you’re limited by what’s there. The Beatles drums went through a Fairchild vari-mu valve limiter because that’s what they had in the room. They had a job to do, and they made it work. Likewise, if you’re in a high end studio and you’ve got one SSL bus compressor, four 1176s, two La2a, two DBX160s and a Fairchild… you’ll use them where you think they need to be used, and that’s just based on experience to wield the tools at your disposal to do the tasks you need of them.

The La2a will be too slow for some jobs, the 1176s will be too fast for others. The SSL won’t be coloured enough for some things. The DBX160 will be too aggressive for others. The only way to know that is to use them lots and through trial and error learn what works for you. There’s no other way!

In the box it’s harder because if you have emulations of those above compressors, you could use any of them on any channel. But the principle is the same. You don’t decide to compress something until you decide it needs compression, and when you decide it needs compression you decide what you want the compressor to actually do to the sound. Then you pick the best tool for the job. In a way, talking about compressors in isolation is folly because until you’re making music you don’t have any context to make a judgement.


This exactly what I mean though. why is the 1176 too fast vs an La2a? knowing the differences in how compressors operate made a huge difference for me and made things easier once I started learning the differences. Its just one of those things that nobody has really gotten into, even if its theorizing why you would choose one type over another. I’m not necessarily talking about coloring signal either as that’s more about the manufacturer/type and less about how the compressor actually works, although some of the operation and how its being used may impart some color.

In the box it’s harder because if you have emulations of those above compressors, you could use any of them on any channel. But the principle is the same. You don’t decide to compress something until you decide it needs compression, and when you decide it needs compression you decide what you want the compressor to actually do to the sound. Then you pick the best tool for the job. In a way, talking about compressors in isolation is folly because until you’re making music you don’t have any context to make a judgement.

This is exactly what I was asking for when I started. ok ive never mixed anything, I know the dynamics need to be tamed, what do I use? why would I use that? how do I know that the La2a wont work for what i want it to do and I need to use an 1176? if someone would have told me that an 1176 is fast and better at grabbing on to initial transients compared to an La2a optical type which has a slower response, oh and whats a Fairchild? why is the dbx 160 too aggressive, what makes it that way vs another? how do you know what the best tool for the job is if you cant tell the difference between the tools? its like realizing you need a screwdriver then looking at a wall with 1000 screwdrivers. you know you need a flathead but do you use the small one the big one, the short handle etc? That is what I was getting at. I understood how compression works and I think its fairly easy to understand the concept, but what are the different types and how do they work differently and where they are used most often is where I was missing out. finding that out for myself took a lot of time and research and while I’m glad I did all of that, there is still a bunch that I don’t know.

My personal opinion on talking about compression isn’t folly, its a realization, perhaps, of what you are doing. what makes one optical compressor better than another is more about the experimenting, but even that has worth. if it is discovered that one may better with high frequency the other grabs on to lower you have just learned about the detection circuit. And while all of this is theory there is useful information in the understanding of the component. I think the reason that classic compressors get used so much is because they are understood and that knowledge has been passed down. the difference now is that there are more people questing for that knowledge. I know Brandon had a quest for why things work and why would one piece of gear work better than another. sometimes you get an easy answer like a detection circuit sometimes you get something more subjective like the transformer type.