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

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


I’ve been using an AT4040 and Rode NT1-A for years and I don’t hear any appreciable difference between the two.


Starting from Brandon’s premise – which was Killer HOME Recording – I think he was on the right track.

Let me explain myself in terms of hunting, because that’s something I’ve done before.

In general, high power competitors are ranked as Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert, Master and High Master.

To shoot an Expert level score, you need to keep your shots within 2 MOA – translating to 2" at 100 yards and proportionate to that out to 600 yards.

A person can be a perfectly effecting hunter shooting 6 moa or even worse on game at 100 yards or less. Because the vital area of a deer is about 6".

Pretty much any rifle that doesn’t have a barrel bent sideways will do that. If my rifle is capable of 0.5 moa accuracy, it is utterly indistinguishable from a rifle capable of 2 moa accuracy at hunting distances out to 100 yards in terms of effect. Even a 3 moa rifle is fine.

Where this DOES make a difference is if I leave the ranks of short range deer Hunting and run of the mill Marksman competitors, and set my eyes on being an Expert in competition at 600 yards or doing head shots on squirrels at 50 yards. NOW I need a rifle where that 1 moa or better accuracy is present.

For Killer Home Recording, you can get a lot further understanding the ideas and principles with a cheap mic than you will with a very expensive mike. I am doing home recording – hunting deer at 100 yards or less. Until I am ready to contend as an Expert marksman, having a $1000 mic or a rifle that will shoot 0.5 moa is pointless.

Or let me phrase it differently.

There is a much greater increase in performance between a $25 mic and a $200 mic than there is between a $200 mic and a $1000 mic. The $200 mic gets you 95% there. It gets you close enough that with proper principles and technique, your results could overlap with those of the $1000 mic.

As an electrical engineer, I think a LOT of electronics stuff for the recording market is overpriced.


Hi Brutus…I know there was a lot of a garble in this thread, and its perfectly sensible that you didn’t read it all (I wouldn’t have either).

The first thing to note that it was unclear which audience Brandon was addressing. Though the book was titled killer ‘home’ recording, he seemed to think that diminishing returns (beyond a price point he never specified) applied laterally to career audio engineers, even at the top levels. I tend to side with you on the debate, in that the experts and high masters do indeed need the better gun. Even if they theoretically could the target with a normal rifle (because they’re that fucking awesome), there’s no compelling reason NOT to use the better gun if they are able to afford it and would get adequate use out of it if they had it.


I think Brandon’s point was always that spending money on gear wouldn’t get you a better result if you were still making the same mistakes with it as you were with cheap gear.
He’s right in the sense that the industry knows how to sucker us into believing our greatest sonic hurdle is the lack of top shelf equipment when it’s usually the muscle between our ears.


Hi @Attack_Puppy David, we’ll probably never know exactly what Brandon thought.

Saying expensive gear won’t compensate for lack of user knowledge, is very different than claiming that expensive gear is a complete marketing scam altogether.

Saying that the benefit of high end gear (vs quality inexpensive gear) to a home studio guy may not be justified by the difference in price, is different altogether than purporting the same for a pro engineer.

I think thats what a lot of people took from it, but the conversations in various threads led me to believe he was taking it a little further than that. Either way, the point you make is valid. Don’t get me wrong there.


Rubbish. If you believe that, you’re better off spending your time with the Fairies at the bottom of the garden or the Little People in the glen.
Brandon’s point was utterly clear. Over priced “professional” gear was a rip off and the same results can be achieved in the main, with free or cheaper stuff.


Is it? Both assertions are exactly the same to my reasoning. Why do you say they are different?


I still think the main benefit to “high end” gear lies more in the workflow than the sound quality. What works in my home studio would be a logistical nightmare if I was trying run sound in a large venue, or track an orchestra, or do any number of things that large studios are expected to be able to do.

Part of my job entails really getting to know pieces of expensive analog gear. When you have to replicate a piece of hardware, you learn its sounds really really well. I’ve seen expensive hardware do things that are very strange. People call it character, but if Behringer were to do it, they’d call it cutting corners.


Even disregarding the scale, scope and workflow of a project, I always thought Brandon took it too far. To some extent I agreed with him on the hardware processors, especially when the argument staged largely in the context of cost-to-return. But to say that so far as room design, monitoring, and instruments was absurd (in my opinion of course).

Then we started to see: ‘cheap (insert gear here)_ works for me, therefore pro’s don’t need it either’. That’s provably, and demonstrably fallacious reasoning. Its a one-size-fits-all presumption. The other one was ‘if you can’t pick if out of a blind test it doesn’t matter’. Completely disregards the context and application. Had he simply stated “I can’t hear the difference between my API and my Rane MS1b”, we probably wouldn’t even be talking about this. But when he compared it to a Neve, then told us he didn’t think Skywalker sound really need their 88R in their tracking facility, I almost fell over laughing. That was until I found out he was serious.

I have nothing against inexpensive gear. I use a Behringer P16m system for playback. I strongly favor the X-32 as a live mixer over its pricier Yamaha, QSC, and Presonus counterparts.

Boz, I don’t really know if people even drool over hardware like they did 5-10 years ago. Seems this forum has gotten over it. I certainly have. All I’m saying is that I would urge against dissuading a serious recording guy from looking at expensive monitors or a flagship plugin bundle if they have the budget to do so.


I think I agree, but it’s hard to tell. I don’t know if it’s just that I don’t hang around in circles where people drool over hardware, or if the trend is actually finally starting to die down. On top of that, I’ve lightened up on my own attitude about expensive gear, so the things that used to bug me about expensive gear worship doesn’t bug me as much as it used to.


How so, and like what?


I just don’t really care anymore. If I want to help people become financially savvy, I don’t think talking about spending less on recording gear is the most effective way to do it.

I personally hate spending money. Buying things just doesn’t excite me. I still drive a 2001 Hyundai Elantra that I bought for $4000 12 years ago. Seeing people driving newer better cars just doesn’t tickle my jealousy bone in the least bit. Same thing with studio gear. Expensive gear just doesn’t excite me in the least bit.

I used to treat expensive gear as if it was an objectively stupid thing to buy, but I’ve stepped back and realized that that was an equally dumb position to take. So now I stand pretty firmly in the “I don’t care” territory.

I used to also think it was human nature to figure out how things work. I love learning about how things work. Well, some things. I used to think it was strange that other people didn’t care about the inner workings of their gear, and thought it was somehow wrong to buy something if you didn’t know exactly what it was doing.

Again, I’ve realized that that was a pretty naive position to take, being that I use plenty of items that I don’t fully understand on a daily basis, and I manage to use them just fine, so why shouldn’t people be able to buy high end gear even if they have no clue how it works? Doesn’t really matter.


The good news is that soon you’ll be able to manage your sound from your fridge… these fridges also have cameras inside them, so you can use your smartphone at the supermarket to check what u need to buy…


I’m half way there myself. API’s and Neve’s are amazing to work on if you ever get the chance. I wouldn’t want to own one. I could get far more excited about using one for a couple days than I would about having to mortgage one of my houses to own one.

I was pretty excited about getting to hear some hardware compressors a while back. Then I heard them. And they weren’t exciting anymore. lol.

I might have to disagree, and assert that people should care. Maybe depending on how inner the inner workings are.

The more you spend, the more ‘risk’ there is in any purchase…right? Proper education is risk mitigation in an investment. If I’m buying a something super super expensive, I want to know exactly what I’m paying for. Maybe not how it works down to a science, but two things: what does x do better than y, and is the difference obvious to ME.

But everyone is different. I really want operational knowledge, and conceptual knowledge. I don’t care about mechanical electronic knowledge. Sometimes I have to ask about the electronics to understand the concept though. The Crane Song converter was a good example. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Dave Hill and the guys at Antelope before concluding that Dave makes a much better converter. I talked to Bricasti quite a bit for the same reasons, then concluded I didn’t need an S4. So I dunno. I guess there’s a balance to be had. A wide grey area between total ignorance and know-every-detail overkill.

Interesting to think about.


Right, there’s a balance to be had, but the gray area is very very wide. To a person who just turns knobs on a compressor until they get the right sound, I probably look like I know everything there is to know about compressors. To a guy who dopes silicon, I look like an idiot. I think the acceptable range of intimacy is pretty wide. Much wider than I used to think.


I was attracted as a low budget hobbyist to RR because of the way Brandon framed the question and the way he answered it. He dangled a hope I could successfully make decent recordings without spending a fortune on hardware and software by practicing some good mixing habits and listening to what was going on semi-professionally- at least to my own level of expectation of good/bad.

In my opinion he was absolutely right about that. Expert recording engineers and virtuoso musicians with high end toys have a definitive edge over amateur hobbyists, but the cheap toys today are in many cases amazing compared to the olden days. RR was a good place to hear a wide range of points of view on all this.

My conclusion was I did not need to buy my way to a great recording before I learned to make the best of the great low end products. I used Cubase SX2 with XP for many years before switching to Reaper with Windows 7, which is the cheapest DAW I believe, and I do not regret it at all. It took some time to adjust to it, and I am sure after years I’m still just scratching the surface, but I now can produce a decent recording without too much effort.

I see plugins and hardware I am tempted to buy, but I feel I’m still underutilizing what I already have, so maybe I need to focus on that before splurging on new stuff.

But it was there and is here now that I can comparison window shop so to speak, decide where I want to go. I am still on Windows 7 with a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 running on a Sony Vaio with an old i7 processor and 8GB RAM, and that means I resist recording at 24/96 because it stresses my system and many of my VST instruments that are what they are, but my ears cannot justify upgrading to all that. Perhaps one day I will find a compelling reason to change, but for now I am stable and happy making minor changes to my setup and workflow. And when and if you guys listen to my current music, you can bash it and let me know how I’m doing!

If, however, I were a pro, I recognize the need to tout high end tools to attract clients, even though I think it is your expertise that gets the job done so well.



…together with this…

is a very healthy and balanced perspective.

Its very true that high end facilities rent to top producers with top budgets because of the gear. And its good to understand why. I don’t hesitate to steer my clients toward expensive tracking rooms for drums, orchestral, and large ensemble groups with Neve consoles, Vintage Pultecs, and $200K mic lockers. Those facilities exist exactly for guys like myself that have the budget for it, understand the benefit of it, and have a legitimate need to track or mixing in multi million dollar facilities. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a studio touting its gear.

Meh, for a home studio or smaller local facility, maybe best not to tout your gear. Touting a motu and a pair of HS-8s looks kind of silly in many cases. I mean, sure, be proud of your tools, and live-or-die by your portfolio. But understand your market and realize THOSE clients are paying more for your expertise than your technology.


So can you hear the difference? Would you be able to identify a recording that was made using the facilities described above vs. ‘budget’ facilities?


I don’t have a $2m facility. But I’m smart enough to know that I’m not gonna get drums tracks that go head-to-head with A-list tracking facilities in Nashville and Atlanta. So for the few days out of the year you actually need them, just rent the damn thing. But yeah, you rent it for its acoustics, its floorpan, and its gear. That is all part of the facility. On top of that, the professionalism of the staff, and their ability to understand the needs of the project your producing. But the latter two don’t even matter if any of the first 3 are insufficient for your needs.

So for some of the projects I’m occasionally involved in, I absolutely can tell the difference. Try me. If you want. Find a recording made by someone who crammed an orchestra in a living room, then hit me with a blind test of an orchestra sample recorded at Abbey road. Find a movie that was dubbed on a pair of cans, then blind test me against one came out of Sony or Skywalker. Lets find raw drums and percussion tracks that were recorded in a run-of-the-mill $100,000-$200,000 diy shack, then lets hear them next to samples from $2m+ professionally designed live room.


I should have been more specific. I didn’t mean recordings in isolation, I meant mastered two-track recordings.