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Crappy gear that made you a better engineer Dynamic Microphones
Old 26th December 2007
  #1
Gear Head
 

Crappy gear that made you a better engineer

I was reminiscing about all the gear I had in years past and have long since gotten rid of. One of those pieces of gear was an Avalon 737 I bought a few years ago. When I first remembered it, my knee-jerk reaction was, "man, that was one of the worst gear purchases I ever made. I'm so glad I got rid of that thing." But then I started thinking about how I approached engineering before and after having that thing, and began to realize that maybe it wasn't such a bad purchase after all (although I'm still glad I got rid of it .

Like so many others, I bought this thing for my home studio with naive expectations that it would make me sound better. When I was still in the "this pre can do no wrong" mindset, the fact that I wasn't getting sounds I liked when recording with this thing led me to focus much more attention on stuff upstream from the pre--the musician, the instrument, the mic placement, the room, etc. It was the rude awakening that made me realize I wasn't developing or applying sufficient critical listening skills in those areas, and ever since then I've been focusing more and more of my efforts on getting things right at the source.

Then once the honeymoon was over and I began to realize that the 737 wasn't all puppies and rainbows, I learned a bunch of other important things. When recording lots of tracks on a song through the same pre, I learned to take the cumulative effect into account and recognize when things aren't stacking well. I learned to be more careful with my instrument-mic-pre combinations and not be afraid to try out lots of different permutations in pursuit of the best one. I learned that the most expensive item in your arsenal will oftentimes not be the best one for the job--sometimes it's the worst! And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I learned to beware the "I paid lots of money for this thing so I have no choice but to think it sounds awesome" trap. I'm sure I would have learned all these things eventually, but in hindsight I'm pretty amazed at all the different things I learned in a very short period just by fighting with one piece of gear.

I bought this thing thinking it would make me sound better. I didn't get that, but it did teach me a lot of lessons the hard way and made me a better engineer. So in a roundabout sort of way I guess it did make me sound better, and I do have to give it credit for that.

Anyone else have that special piece of gear that you wouldn't use again but which helped you significantly improve as an engineer?
Old 26th December 2007
  #2
Lives for gear
 
juicylime's Avatar
 

I'm sure Avalon's marketing dept are cringing when they read that post!

I can't think of any peice of gear that through it's failings improved me. Although I do think that having gotten into recording through old analouge set ups with no more than a 4 track, a SM58, a compressor & a reverb pedal I learnt the basics in a more thorough way than I would have with todays all singing all dancing PC set ups. There are guys I know with amazing set ups who still can't use a compressor even though they have 3 or 4 different plug ins to do the job.
Old 26th December 2007
  #3
Lives for gear
 
rackdude's Avatar
 

An old BC Rich guitar for $100 was the only one I had to track with at first, also my dad's ibenez. The problem was, the pickup switch on both of them didn't work. I learned how to solder after doing it so many times wrong and I learned how instruments and such actually worked. Gave me a lot more insight that I thought it would, I mean, just knowing how things are plugged in and pick up the sound. Also, that same guitar made me use crappy DI's and stupid amp sims, so I learned how to EQ, and EQ some more, and EQ one more time, etc. It never sounded good... but it was fun.

I still like just knowing where to put a mic infront of a cab and throwing some pre on there and making it atleast ok. Now matter how hard I tried, its never even turned out as well as a 57 with mackie preamps on a real amp *and thats not so good either...* but, I learned how to listen, and most of all, keep trying!

It was all that tweaking that got me into recording in the first place. Started out as joe cool guitarist... didn't like my sound... bought pedals... eq'ed... more eq... compression... better mixers and preamps... better monitors so I could hear it better... and suddenly everyone wanted me to record them...

Now, I have a Gibson SG! Mesa Amp!
Old 26th December 2007
  #4
Gear Addict
 
UnDeFiNeD's Avatar
 

My first soundblaster 64 gold with a free version of Cubasis audio with it, coming from 2 tapedecks-with-DJ-mixer-bouncing to DAW opened up this world to me and decided my profession up till now.
Suddenly I was able to digitally multitrack, mix and at the same time sequence my midi keyboards on my little pentium, for only 200$!
Talking 'bout an investment

Pzz
Old 26th December 2007
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Believe it or not the thing that's made me better is a Behringer ADA8000. Due to unfortunate circumstances involving my day job I had to sell some really fantastic gear and resort to using my "crappy" Behringer pres and a handful of sm57's and mxl mics. In the past I always thought my preamps and expensive mics would solve all my problems and I was almost blinded by them. Now I work harder to get the right sound and the right cheap mic on the right source and it's lead to some truly eye opening experiences. In fact the last band that recorded with me just recently called to tell me they thought what I did for them far surpassed anything they had recorded before and they had recorded in some very nice studios with great gear. So in a way my ADA8000 has tought me to get the most from every source.
Old 26th December 2007
  #6
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonboy79 View Post
Believe it or not the thing that's made me better is a Behringer ADA8000. Due to unfortunate circumstances involving my day job I had to sell some really fantastic gear and resort to using my "crappy" Behringer pres and a handful of sm57's and mxl mics. In the past I always thought my preamps and expensive mics would solve all my problems and I was almost blinded by them. Now I work harder to get the right sound and the right cheap mic on the right source and it's lead to some truly eye opening experiences. In fact the last band that recorded with me just recently called to tell me they thought what I did for them far surpassed anything they had recorded before and they had recorded in some very nice studios with great gear. So in a way my ADA8000 has tought me to get the most from every source.
I've been thinking it would be fun to roll back the clock, track down some of the gear I had when I was just starting out, and see what kind of recordings I could make today using only that stuff. It could present some similarly interesting challenges.
Old 26th December 2007
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Crash's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by detached23 View Post
I've been thinking it would be fun to roll back the clock, track down some of the gear I had when I was just starting out, and see what kind of recordings I could make today using only that stuff. It could present some similarly interesting challenges.
I think that if you kept your current knowledge base on your trek back in time, you would find it is the Indian and not the arrow that makes the most difference.
Old 26th December 2007
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Watersound's Avatar
 

Good post, I think for me it was back in the day when working on blackface ADATs and a Tascam M2600 24 channel board with some of the worst pre's and eq's. Miraculously I learned how to get pretty decent sounds out of that setup. Like you it really made me focus on performance/mic technique/arrangements. I know it is said over and over again here, but performance is the nuts and bolts- the way the musician plays the instrument will dictate the final quality of the sound much more than the gear.
Old 26th December 2007
  #9
Lives for gear
 
8th_note's Avatar
 

Mackie 1642 VLZ.

When I started out it was the only preamps I had. They don't sound horrible, really, they are just flat and one-dimensional. I kept working to try to get my recordings to sound like commercial CDs and I experimented with things like adding compression or just a little bit of reverb or delay track by track to get a fuller sound. Looking back on it, I spent hours tweaking reverb and delay settings. When I got an EH12AY7 and heard the 3 dimensional sound it rendered it was a huge revelation. But that early experience with those Mackie pres made me work very hard to get depth and soundstaging in my recordings. I learned a lot from that piece of gear.
Old 26th December 2007
  #10
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

The biggest thing I'm always trying to overcome is half-assed musicians and half-assed recording spaces. As far as gear, the single 58 knockoff mic that Fostex included in my first 4 track cassette recorder was all I had for a long time and it taught me to milk it for placement etc.

War
Old 26th December 2007
  #11
11413
Guest
probably the biggest one is my spirit of philanthropy (lycanthropy?) which causes me to take stuff off cassette 4-tracks & ****ty digital workstations and try to make it sound like music.

struggle with that one for awhile........ yeee

i did find a few things that worked tho.. surprisingly
Old 26th December 2007
  #12
Lives for gear
 

crappy gear that made me a better engineer: Ground Control, One on One, Sound City, Scream, The Village Recorder, OceanWay/Record One, Conway.... lots and lots of crappy gear
heh
Old 27th December 2007
  #13
Lives for gear
 
DeathMonkey's Avatar
 

I am in the middle of the opposite. All of a sudden I have good gear, and no more excuses for sounding like a hack. People use my exact setup to record major label stuff all damn day, so if my stuff sounds less than stellar, I have no one to blame but myself.

Honestly, a lot of the tricks I used over the last few decades on cheap crap no longer apply. Mic placement that compensates for my old interface's lack of low end and shrill highs now yields woofy, indistinct garbage. Tricks that worked on forgiving consumer gear just exacerbate my problems on my pro stuff.

I've had my current rig for a year now, and I've had to throw most of what I know out the window and start again. I'm sure I'll say the same thing in a year.

But having limited gear - 4 good pres, only a few good mics - that certainly forces me to learn my stuff. I know what is possible. I have limited choices, but the quality is still there.
Old 27th December 2007
  #14
Lives for gear
 
BudgetMC's Avatar
If my stuff is still pretty crappy does that mean I'm getting better faster than other people? Woohoo!
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