I was watching a YouTube video the other day of a guy comparing the stock microphone input of his audio interface with a 2000 dollar plus tube mic preamp.
You see it all the time, microphones, speakers, headphones etc. All pitting a inexpensive (affordable?) something with a much more expensive version of that same thing.
I appreciate the idea that there are people that really sweat the small stuff.
But to be honest, when I listen to most of those comparisons, the sound is so close that I feel it is a waste of time to even compare them. Especially when there is a $2K price for the minuscule difference.
I like good stuff.
Stuff that works, is reliable and sounds good.
I do know the argument, recording at the highest sample rate and word length, using the very best microphones, preamps, converters, instruments and acoustic area, even using the best wire and cords all add up to music that, as it passes through the storms of radio processors, streaming servers and mp3 converters, will ultimately sound better because the source was so much more hi fidelity.
Now, there are times that 2000 dollars does make a difference. Take a $125 dollar acoustic guitar and compare it to a $2000 Martin.
You can really hear that difference.
Somewhere out there in the millions of bedrooms across the globe, there are folks who have cheap mic’s, a little two channel interface, headphones and a laptop with some inexpensive recording software and have little or no experience in recording making some truly interesting music.
And that is neat.
There is, I believe, an area where the musical gear you choose can be classified as ‘perfectly good transportation’.
It’s not the best, might not be fancy, but it works. It will get you to the place where the spirit of music lives.
If your budget is large enough to go for the best of everything, that is fantastic.
If it is very limited, choose where to spend your dollars wisely.
Spending time comparing or buying things that cost wads of Ben Franklin’s but only give you a very slight advantage in audio quality has never resonated with me. And I would say it’s okay to think like that.
May Mr. Neve forgive me.
When I acquired my first eight track studio equipment, it was considered ‘pro-sumer gear’ and the term was meant to distinguish someone who spent eight to ten thousand on studio gear verses someone who spends eighty to one hundred thousand. A distinction was made. I chalked it up to marketing guru’s and the ‘only the best will do’ audio elite.
Today with a realistic investment of about eight hundred to one thousand dollars, (assuming you have a decent computer) you can have a set up that can do things none of the equipment of that era could do.
Studio tools (i.e. recording studio gear) give you the ability to create. Good tools make your life a bit easier.
If you think about western culture music, it centers around 12 notes. And the octives.
A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G and G#.
The notes are grouped together to form scales and chords. And the notes can be of different duration’s.
Now think about all the songs (loose term for musical pieces) from the past, all the songs you know, all of the songs you don’t know and all the songs yet to come.
I can’t come up with a number. And they all use the same twelve notes.
That is truly amazing.
Incredible is how many songs can use the same four chords and sound completely different.
Think about Classical, Hip Hop, Jazz, Country music all using the same twelve notes.
I’ve been listening to many mp3’s in my car as I have them on a player and can fit hours of music on one little device. I do admit that I can here the difference between a mp3 and a 16/44.1 CD but it doesn’t take away from the spirit of the song in my opinion.
The way people listen to music today seems to me to be different than twenty years ago.
Mp3 players, music on our phone, Spotify, SiriusXM etc. Even AM and FM radio.
Much of our listening is on the move. In the car, jogging or working out, while at work doing other tasks. Folks in commercial kitchens and laundry facilities streaming music through their smart phone speaker!
Much of the time, the music listened to in those situations can be of a slightly lower data rate or have some musical compressing of the data to make the size of a song smaller to use up less data space.
But the song file is still within three to ten percent of the original recording’s fidelity. And when whatever you happen to be doing at the time makes it so you can’t even hear the difference, it becomes a mute point. Or even if there is a large quality drop due to the device you are listening through…
The ‘spirit’ of the music shines through.
Even in some of today’s finer automobiles, while you are driving down the road there still is some road/environmental noise.
Sure, if you turn it up loud enough, the noise is effectively ‘masked’ (see my masking post) and to be sure, many modern cars do have very nice sounding music systems.
The fact remains that most of us listen to much of our music in less than ideal environments usually while performing another task.
Every one of us would agree that listening to something that moves you, even if the audio quality is diminished, is preferable to listening to something that you have no interest in but is of outstanding audio quality. We may, appreciate the quality for what it is, but we usually won’t invest a large amount of time listening.
We say, ‘oh that sounds great’ and move on.
The spirit of music is about feelings. It’s about moods. It’s about goose bump, hair raising, clenched fist pumping in the air, cry your eyes out emotion.
The spirit of music is about soul. The musicians soul and the listeners soul.
A part of the soul is tapped, and the result is magic.
Yes there is real magic in the world. Not slight of hand or tricks. Real magic.
And it comes from all of the musicians that use those same 12 notes and not only keep coming up with something completely different than anyone else, but they keep coming up with emotionally relevant music.
As one song writer put it, ‘all these songs are just floating around out there, I just need to grab one’.
And that is the spirit of music.