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How do you justify buying expensive gear on the business and artistic point of view
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soundfly
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#1
2nd December 2010
Old 2nd December 2010
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How do you justify buying expensive gear on the business and artistic point of view

Hi, this is my first post. How do you justify buying high end gear on a business and on an artistic point of view? What I mean is that most listener listen to music in less than optimal conditions (MP3, headphones, noisy surroundings...). At the end will your high end equipment make a difference? The sonic difference between good gear and very good gear is small for the ipod listener, but the difference of cost between good gear and very good is great. Can you justify the expense on a business point of view?
I would like to know your feelings regarding the artistic point of you. In general we want to do our best. But even here, most of the time music is highly compressed during tracking/mixing/mastering stages (Bob Katz says that in the last 20 years the average level of a CD increased by 20db). Can you still justify your high end preamps...?
I am playing the devil advocate here...
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2nd December 2010
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Bob Katz also talks about "The reliable source rule," wherein he states that due to the amount of degradation an audio file will go through from original recording to final consumer format, that it's essential to start out with the highest quality recording on the best equipment.
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2nd December 2010
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Being a studio owner/engineer to me is like being a race car driver. I want the best car I can afford. I don't care if someone is watching me race on an iphone screen or a 61" LED 3-D TV or a 8 inch black and white TV from 1973. I'm the one driving the car and experiencing the reality, so I want to enjoy what I'm doing to the fullest extent.
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2nd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
Being a studio owner/engineer to me is like being a race car driver. I want the best car I can afford. I don't care if someone is watching me race on an iphone screen or a 61" LED 3-D TV or a 8 inch black and white TV from 1973. I'm the one driving the car and experiencing the reality, so I want to enjoy what I'm doing to the fullest extent.
yep yep
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Sorry to poke in here (Low End forum guy here)

This is a great question. I think the answer would change greatly between engineers doing this as thier sole or primary source of income and those doing it as a hobby/ some extra cash on the side (not sure if most people on High End are doing it full time?).
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I want to record and mix on expensive gear, because then it's more FUN to ME. And if I have fun doing it, the listener will somehow feel it. Maybe I'll just put more work or more heart into the mix and the result will be better? I don't know. I just know that when people touch something made with love, they can sense it.

It's the same on stage. If I have fun on stage (e.g. in some part due to my great new Pearl Eliminator Demon Drive pedal), the audience is bound to hear it and feel it. My fun on stage, I mean, not the pedal

PS. Look at my avatar. Don't I look like I'm having fun...? :-)
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2nd December 2010
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Plus if you start at a lower quality, by the time you get to mp3, it'll sound even worse.
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2nd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
Being a studio owner/engineer to me is like being a race car driver. I want the best car I can afford. I don't care if someone is watching me race on an iphone screen or a 61" LED 3-D TV or a 8 inch black and white TV from 1973. I'm the one driving the car and experiencing the reality, so I want to enjoy what I'm doing to the fullest extent.
AGREE!!
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2nd December 2010
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From a business perspective, high-end purchases indicate to clients a number of things, not the least of which are past success and a commitment to what you do. They justify, in some ways, what you charge. If you're a professional, invest in professional tools.

From an Artistic perspective, Nathan pretty much nailed it...you want to be able to enjoy what you're doing.

There's enough stuff out on the market at varying price points and their associated (and perceived) levels of quality to strike a balance for your endeavors. Good luck and godspeed!
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2nd December 2010
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How do you justify buying expensive gear on the business and artistic point of view

You can hear the difference between a high quality and a low quality recording on an average mp3-player.
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Sure, I love hi-end gear. the knobs the meters the whole works. After a while though, you look at each piece of gear as a tool. Nothing more. When I'm in session I want the tools that are going to help me achieve the sound I hear in my head. With the least fuss and twiddling. it just makes my job easier, so I can focus on the music. Sadly, you generally have to pay for that performance. Particularly with mics and equalizers, but also for pres and comps. Nothing speeds workflow like a 47 or 67, 10xx series, 1176, LA2, 550A, Freq, pcm42, etc etc.
These have become established tools for a reason.
So yes, even though the kids are listening to my productions on their iPhones and Droids, it's very important for me to use the best tools in the process. Maybe it'll sound a little better coming out of those little speakers as well. (you can only hope the trend will reverse eventually and people will start listening to their stereos again)
Best of luck with it,
David
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2nd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gajdzin View Post
PS. Look at my avatar. Don't I look like I'm having fun...? :-)
Haha, yes, you sure do!! LOL
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2nd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundfly View Post
. Can you justify the expense on a business point of view?
...I would like to know your feelings regarding the artistic point of you. .
In this business, the artistic point of view and the business point of view are linked. Art is our business. Many of my clients come to me to record (as opposed to Some Other Guy) because they perceive me as an Artist, like them.

They want to be recorded by someone who puts the same art into recording as they put into their songwriting and performances. Nobody wants to be recorded by a jaded, cynical technician who says, bah, no one will hear the difference.

The people who work here are going to be inspired by what they hear in my control room as each take goes down, or not. Better to have them be inspired - from both an artistic point of view AND a business point of view! Preamps? You betcha.



I also have to totally agree about the "reliable source rule". It really does make a difference to start with the best gear possible. Even at the end mp3, you can hear what the original quality level was. Maybe not what you wanted to hear, if you are struggling to afford things.

Quote:
I am playing the devil advocate here...
Only the Devil would recommend giving up before you even started.
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2nd December 2010
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I agree with the general sentiment in here so far. However, I feel like it is important to evaluate x piece of gear to see A: is this piece of gear bringing me or my clients value, and B: would I be better off with unlocking the money I have invested in this piece and move onto something else.

I'm at a point where I own so much stuff, and my rate has flattened out, that I'm trying to make my purchases as budget neutral as possible by selling lesser used stuff when getting a new toy. I think many do this which is why there are so many people on this board at any one time. Also, not trying to flock to the latest and greatest all of the time helps as well.

And yeah I do think the formula is different for musican's personal studios vs. professional studios like the one I run where I can't justify my rate if I work on the cheapest stuff possible.

Another point to make is that some of my most expensive purchases are still worth close to what I paid for them, The cheap stuff: not so much.
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2nd December 2010
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It's true, most people's playback systems not to mention their acoustic environment is less than optimal for any kind of critical listening. Will the difference between a Gefell, Neumann, Rode etc. be detectable or even relevant to them, probably not.

However, most people in this business feel passionate about what they do and even when it can and does become a grind at times there is still strong desire to produce the best product possible. Few industries have such dedicated master artisans who constantly strive for perfection.
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I agree with all above, that great gear inspires both the engineer and the client. Remember that our customer/client isn't the person who buys the album, but the person that has often put in months or years of work writing, arranging and perhaps recording, and wants the best for his music.

Regarding the race car driver analogy, I'm getting more and more mix gigs, and I prefer the midwife analogy You want a good one, proper gear and nice ambience when it's time to deliver a new baby
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Another thought: if I were a photographer, I would want to use the best SLR camera, even if I knew that most people will watch my paintings on a poorly calibrated laptop screens :-)

And if I were a painter, I would use quality canvas and strive to mix the exact color I envisioned, despite the fact that everyone except the original painting's owner will watch it in a reproduction album, where colors depend on the day of the week (I'm not kidding: the worst colors come up in books prepared for print on Mondays, when everyone in the print shop has a heavy hangover).

I could go on, but I'm sure you don't want me to :-)
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2nd December 2010
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Go to your favorite music store. Pick up Les Paul Gold Top (or something US made over $1000). Shred it for 5 minutes. Pick up a fake 'Paul import copy or something less than $300. Shred it for 5 minutes.
Which do you like more? Which inspired you? Which would you sell your soul to own? Which would you rather stand up and play in public? And finally, which would cause you to say, wherever you are, "I've got to have that sound!"? It's the same with audio gear.
If you answered the 'Gold Top', then take comfort in the fact that you know how to pick the proper tool for the job. And they are just tools, no single one can do it all, but collectively they can create great things when you are inspired and truly enjoy the process. If you want/need it bad enough, you'll find a way to pay for it.
And yes, the public will notice, they may not know why, but they will notice.
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2nd December 2010
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From an artistic perspective, I want to always be upgrading to more and better gear. Downgrades are bad! Side-grades can be good or bad--they depend on the capability or tone-color you are trying to acheive, but lots of times, saving a little more and buying on the high-end is much more satisfying! As an artist, I'm on a quest for the best--best gear for my money! I'm still learning about what constitues upgrades, side-grades, and downgrades, but I have lots of experience to draw from, to acheive the results I'm after, with the gear I have, in the here and now!

Today, my gear is good, but so are my ears! It took me a long time to realize what good sound and good performing gear was all about! With my ears tuned up properly, I can determine if something can be categorized as an upgrade/side-grade/downgrade, for my situation as an artist, and I can make good and informed purchases.

From a business perspective, downgrading might be the ticket . . . do you pay the electricity bill or hold on to a high-ticket compressor? On the other hand, upgrading to a single, big mic might be the draw your studio needs to compete! Upgrading the coffee or coffee maker or painting the walls a new color might be a great way to keep clients! In business, there are lots more to think about than just the gear!

For business, side-grades or downgrades are for increasing capability and for continuing the business until you can upgrade to better sound/performance/capability, assuming you want/need to upgrade. Whatever it takes to sustain the business is more important than using the best gear! So, for business, downgrades and side-grades can be just as important as upgrades!

For me and my business, since I didn't get paid for a couple of recent jobs I did, I'm just going to upgrade my gear, and charge more the next time! If they can't pay, screw 'em--they don't get to play! I think I'll upgrade the coffee, too--and more lava lamps! Eventually, I'll find clients that can pay! As I upgrade to better gear, my artist side will be pleased! I will learn about new gear and my skills will increase!

Hopefully, as an engineer, you are trying to improve your skills! Better gear really does make the job of tracking/mixing/mastering/whatever easier and much more enjoyable! Some low priced gear could be considered "better"! Only you can determine the definition of better gear!
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Quote:
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Eventually, I'll find clients that can pay!
one would hope!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundfly View Post
Hi, this is my first post. How do you justify buying high end gear on a business and on an artistic point of view? What I mean is that most listener listen to music in less than optimal conditions (MP3, headphones, noisy surroundings...). At the end will your high end equipment make a difference? The sonic difference between good gear and very good gear is small for the ipod listener, but the difference of cost between good gear and very good is great. Can you justify the expense on a business point of view?
I would like to know your feelings regarding the artistic point of you. In general we want to do our best. But even here, most of the time music is highly compressed during tracking/mixing/mastering stages (Bob Katz says that in the last 20 years the average level of a CD increased by 20db). Can you still justify your high end preamps...?
I am playing the devil advocate here...
not everyone listens to mp3 and not everyone slams a mix +20db w/ an L1
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2nd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundfly View Post
Hi, this is my first post. How do you justify buying high end gear on a business and on an artistic point of view? What I mean is that most listener listen to music in less than optimal conditions (MP3, headphones, noisy surroundings...). At the end will your high end equipment make a difference? The sonic difference between good gear and very good gear is small for the ipod listener, but the difference of cost between good gear and very good is great. Can you justify the expense on a business point of view?
I would like to know your feelings regarding the artistic point of you. In general we want to do our best. But even here, most of the time music is highly compressed during tracking/mixing/mastering stages (Bob Katz says that in the last 20 years the average level of a CD increased by 20db). Can you still justify your high end preamps...?
I am playing the devil advocate here...
From the artistic point of view, I do it for me and if others like it, good for them (and me) but as the artist, I use what it takes to get what I want.

From a business point of view, good gear has been a bargain as the good gear purchased for the studio did not ever need to be replaced. You buy a $200 preamp and you are likely to buy 10 or 15 more of them over the next several years, selling one for another in a constant search for better at a low price. But if you buy a quality preamp in the $1500 to $2500 range (which for me was the sweet spot between cost and performance, but which may vary for others) you'll probably keep it forever. The same holds true for mics and other gear. Years ago I bought Mytek converters and I see no reason to switch anytime soon. Korby, Neumann, AKG, Telefunken mics. Over the life of my studio these thing paid for themselves many times over and have been pretty much problem free. The bargain stuff shuffled through kinda quickly. So from a business standpoint the 'expensive' gear was cheap. Also it is a time-saver as you buy a good piece and you never worry about it again.

Something that is NEVER in my thought processes either is what system someone else may use to listen. -I- listen either to the Dunlavy/Cello/Mytek system in my studio (or I did before I retired...) or on the Dunlavy/Velodyne surround system in my living room. I really don't give a flying f%$k about what someone else uses for playback, as I don't make the music for them, I make it for me.
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3rd December 2010
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A piece of hi-end gear is a tool that you don't have to worry about anymore. You know that hundreds of experienced engineers have used that tool to get the end result that you are after and that its been used on thousands of tracks. You don't have to worry whether it's going to work, just whether you are up to using it. It removes an area of concern - that's what professional tools do.

Plus - it'll last for ever, keep it's value and impress your clients.
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3rd December 2010
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He who dies with the most gear wins.

WHAT you win, has never been fully explained.

SM.
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3rd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill@AudioVision View Post
Go to your favorite music store. Pick up Les Paul Gold Top (or something US made over $1000). Shred it for 5 minutes. Pick up a fake 'Paul import copy or something less than $300. Shred it for 5 minutes....
If you answered the 'Gold Top', then take comfort in the fact that you know how to pick the proper tool for the job.
LOL, that's everything wrong about the "High End" right there in a nutshell. The LP is always the "proper tool for the job" simply because it's more expensive? There are tons of $300 imports I would play over a new Gibson any day of the week. Someone who truly knows how to choose the proper tool for the job will play them all and respond to something more than just the price tag and brand name.
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3rd December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slipperman View Post
He who dies with the most gear wins.

WHAT you win, has never been fully explained.

SM.

We'll win the hearts of family members as they start copy and pasting gear descriptions from musicians friend onto ebay.
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Professional recording equipment was never designed nor adressed to musicians, but rather to pro recording studios, that would be booked by bands/labels to make a project called album.

Only after DAWs made possible home recording, gear obssession started.

Don't waste your time and money. Pro SSL/Neve studios are available for peanuts. Get an mbox with some shures and do all the writing, composition and arranging. Over and over. And over again. Once you're done with it, practice the songs. Over and over. After that, do book an SSL studio for two weeks.

You'll get the most professional result and it will cost you a fraction. Really.
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I owe it to the art that I love to capture it in the most beautiful and pleasing ways possible.

I owe it to anyone who might listen.

I owe it to myself.

I owe it to posterity.

I owe my pro audio dealer a lot of money.

`

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This is a hobby/obsession with me....a lot of people have a bass boat or an rv or second home in the country.....I have gear.....and NEED more....not everything.......just one or two of everything.....
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3rd December 2010
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If you can buy your high end pieces secondhand or negotiate a good deal, they will always be worth what you paid for them, so essentially they become assets and not consumables. You also get the benefit of claiming depreciation on the item in your tax for a number of years. So its a win win!

Oh yeah...they also sound much better, make recording easier and you use less processing when mixing.
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