Home Recording: It Ain’t the Gear

Hi Folks,

I’ll be dedicating the next couple blog posts to the improvement of my home studio. I recently got some acoustic foam corner panels, and will be putting them up tomorrow. I am curious to see how much of a difference it makes. I am borrowing these from William Bajzek while he moves. He got them from Foam By Mail.

I’ll post more specs on my studio/music room later, but right now I want to talk briefly about a topic we all dearly love, Gear. The music recording world is full of gear. Mics, preamps, monitors, software, plug ins, etc. The list goes on and on. There are pages and pages of discussions on recording forums about mic X vs mic Z, which software package should I get, with such and such a preamp make my sound better. I’ll come out and say if your recorded sound is not what you wish, its probably not the gear.

Assuming you have a servicable mic (these can be found for $100), a decent preamp that delivers enough quiet gain (a few hundred bucks), and a medium to record to (computer or stand alone system) then you are good to go.

The largest factors initially are the quality of the performance, mic placement, and an often overlooked detail, room treatment. Unfortunately the rooms in most homes are poorly suited to recording, with parralell walls and corners that can cause bass buildup, among other things. Folks, myself included, will spend a decent amount of money on some gear, set it up in the room, and then wonder why sounds bassy, muddy, and tubby. They jump online, read the forums, determine it must be the mic or preamp, do their research and buy something else. That time and money would be been better spent on some acoustic treatment.

Check out this thread on the Acoustic Guitar Forum where Doug Young compares a $79 AT2020 to a Brauner tube mic costing many times more. Listen to the audio clip. Does one sound much more horrible than the other? Doug recorded these in his professional level studio at home. Here is a good blog post at Homebrewed Music comparing some expensive and affordable mics. I think you’ll be surprised at how suble the differences are.

This is not all to say that expensive mics, preamps, and converters don’t have their place. They can add that last 10% of audio quality that cheaper gear can’t bring. But until you have your room acoustics under control you probably won’t hear a big difference adding in a pricy mic or preamp. I have borrowed some expensive pieces of gear and tried them out in my own space in the past, and things still sounded pretty much the same.

Once you get some decent enough recording gear spend the rest of your time and money on room treatment, or practicing.

I’ll be posting some samples pre and post room treatment soon. Stay tuned.



Leave a Reply