analog gear.jpeg

As you may already know, I’m in the process of doing a few upgrades in my studio. I’ll be posting more specifics here on HSC, but I’ve been talking about them a bit on my Facebook page.

[Sidenote: I'm focusing more on Facebook than Twitter lately. It seems to be more conversational. If you haven't joined me yet, go here: www.facebook.com/homestudiocorner.]

Whenever I’m looking to buy a new piece of equipment or upgrade an existing piece of equipment, I try to ask one simple question: What will help me make better recordings?

My goal isn’t to marginally improve the recordings. I’m looking for holes in my system. I’m looking for weak links. For example, I don’t currently own an actual guitar amp (I’ve been using a pretty killer amp simulator pedal, but still don’t have an actual amp). A good amp would definitely improve my guitar recordings.

Also, I’m working on upgrading my cabling. It’s not a sexy upgrade, but it makes a noticeable difference. (More on that in a future article.)

Another deciding factor when I’m buying gear is whether or not the gear is “digital” or “analog.” Buying software, plug-ins, computers, is a lot of fun, and I have nothing against those things, but software inevitably has to be updated. Computers will eventually be too slow…or will simply die.

You know what lasts a lot longer and will work with ANY recording system? Good, analog equipment.

Examples of good analog equipment:

  • microphones
  • preamps/channel strips
  • compressors
  • EQs
  • summing mixers
  • acoustic treatment
  • studio monitors, monitor controllers, headphones
  • cables/stands
  • guitar pedals/direct boxes
  • guitars (and other instruments), amps

The following don’t qualify:

  • audio interfaces
  • AD/DA converters
  • DAW software
  • plugins/virtual instruments
  • MIDI controllers

You’ll find that the list of analog gear can easily outnumber the list of digital gear. But aren’t we all guilty of drooling over the latest piece of software? The latest audio interface? Again, there’s nothing wrong with these things, but I’ve put together a small list of reasons why you should (as much as it makes sense) invest in good, analog equipment.

1. Analog gear can last decades.

A lot of major studios around the world still use the same outboard gear they used thirty years ago. Sure, they might need to be repaired occasionally, or you might need to swap out tubes, etc.

But these studios have gone from analog tape to digital tape to full-on Pro Tools HD systems. All these systems can easily use the same analog equipment.

A good piece of analog hardware is timeless.

2. Analog gear is HOW you “get it right at the source.”

You hear it all over the place. When recording, you must “get it right at the source.” The idea of “fixing it in the mix” is absurd, if you aren’t diligent about first capturing the audio properly.

Analog gear will always be the only way to properly capture an analog source.

3. Analog gear never has compatibility issues.

Have you ever purchased a new computer, only to find you needed to upgrade a few pieces of software to get them to work? Yeah, me too.

I’ve never heard of somebody needing to upgrade his LA-610 when he updated his operating system, have you? Me neither. Analog gear will always be relevant and useful.

4. Analog gear (for the most part) maintains its value.

If at some point in the next 10 years you decide you want to sell your nice solid-state preamp for a high-end tube pre, you’ll get a lot more money for a good preamp than you will for a good audio interface. ESPECIALLY if the piece in question is over 5 years old.

Imagine buying a $1,000 interface and a $1,000 microphone today. In ten years, you could get a lot of money out of that microphone. You might not even be able to GIVE the audio interface away. It would probably be obsolete. A good mic is never obsolete.

Your Turn

Where are the weak links in your ANALOG chain? Leave a comment below.

[Photo by soundweavers]

  • http://www.facebook.com/stef.lo9292 Stef Lo

    What do you need to record analog? A mixer, and a tape recorder? that’s the very basic right? I know about pre-amps, effects, etc, but my question is, are those 2 things(Mixer – Tape Recorder) the very basic to recording analog?

    Thanks :)

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      It depends on what you mean by “analog.” If you want the actual recording medium to be analog, then you’ll have to record to actual analog tape.
      What I’m talking about in this article is investing in analog equipment on the front end (preamps, etc.) and back end (monitors, acoustic treatment)…surrounding a digital-based system.

      • Ari Sdotnerd Jordan

        yes but analog tape cost $400 a roll and require special care and a controlled temperature room

        • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

          Yep. Not for me. :)

          • mariehalan

            So, under this approach, what would be the maximum amount of $ one should spend on an interface? What would you recommend?

            • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

              It really depends on how many inputs you need. But especially if you’re starting out, a $500 interface will be more than adequate.

              • mariehalan

                thank you man. right now im getting the steinberg ur22 (or the roland duo capture) because i wanna learn to do it right with little resources before moving to bigger stuff (at least at home) also because im just overdubbing all by myself now… and im getting monitors (choosing between the jbl lsr305 vs krk rokit 6 vs yamaha hs7)

  • Matt

    what do i need in order to hook up an analog compressor oustide rack gear into my daw? how can i do that? i know how to do that while recording, but i want to be able to use this stuff as like an external insert and use it like a plugin, after recording is done, do i need a converter other then my mic pre amps? i dont have a clue on how to do this, i have some great rack gear and i want to start using it at the end of my mixing and mastering sessions, but i dont know what i need, please help!

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      Best thing is to read the manual for your interface. It’ll explain all that.

  • Rene Diaz

    Do i need a direct box if my pre amp has a instrument input? its a presonus studio channel

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      Nope! Just plug your instrument right into the preamp.

  • Simplengog

    Great article Joe. One thing though:

    Why are AD/DA converters don’t count in your opinion? In Ronan Chris Murphy’s ebook, he emphasizes having a REALLY strong front end, and he includes getting really good AD/DA converters as part of having a strong front end.

    Aren’t AD/DA converters like the Apogee Rosetta 800 analog gear anyway?

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      Well they’re not analog by definition because they’re digital.

      A preamp will ALWAYS have a place to go in a studio. A particular converter could be out-dated at some point. That’s all I meant.
      Converters are wonderful things. I would encourage you to upgrade everything else before upgrading the converters, though. You’ll hear a bigger difference with a nice mic than you will with a nice converter and a mediocre mic.

  • bonestar studio

    You make a very good point on digital and analog systems. The worst downside to analog products especially mixers is the fact that they have cross talk of buzzing. either from op amps or from to thin of grounds running through the wiring. digital on the other hand can sound produced and won’t get that warm fat sound everyones in search of. but a good mixture of both is my motto (definitely more analog of course) and will be for years to come.

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      Thanks Bonestar. When I say “analog” I’m usually referring to front end rack-mount gear and microphones, etc. Mixers definitely have a lot of opportunities for noise, and most home studio folks don’t really want or need to mix through a console.

  • Charlie

    I decided to abandon making music on a computer for exactly this reason. I don’t have any genuine analog equipment yet, it’s analogue modelling synth gear, but still very useful for my purposes and funds. I much favour the feel of hardware. Plus, as an electronic musician, nothing looks lazier to me than seeing 2 macbooks on stage.

  • http://twitter.com/gowildchild Freaking Wildchild

    it’s not only a matter of quality, but also the experience by itself. I would never have known that much if I would only stick with computers. Delivering quality through fun while gaining knowledge of all details of a machine is by itself a great way to understand its workings and sometimes to get G.A.S. ;) My background & studies, involving electronics, embedded devices and its possibilities has probably set the true switch inside me long ago about the true (and often hidden) value of raw hardware.

    To me, a PC is rather a limitation than a convenience. Don’t get me wrong, because I’ve used PC’s even more than I was in the studio through my life to program, design and a lot lot more but, to me, it is and stays an emulated world through an array of processors. This with the ever same audioprint, hardware-and-software bound limits in a global way.

    Not even the “software” version of many tools match the true sound and capacities of the true analog edition. For example, the software edition of the Korg Electribe never matches the real punch of the true Electribe with tubes kicking into it. A software edition of the MC-909 (essentially a mouse-friendly image template) does not offer the same experience and learning cycle as when using a true MC-909 with 10 fingers at once and there are many more examples of tools, filters & plugins which will never match their true analog edition, because they are often created to work cross-platform with a total different system and/or architecture its original was designed for. It “sounds” and looks like an emulation ; but it misses often a lot more (in matters of components) to get the true same sound which is typical to that one machine.

    I guess it’s the entire experience, together with the hunger to learn how to work with it all is not the same (to me atleast) as using software on a PC while it is unthinkable with the newer (embedded) hardware to update and configurate through usb. It also learned me through trial and lots of errors, Apple is a lot friendlier to the mv-8800 (filesystem) instead of its desctruct-happy sister Windows .. growls, already more discriminative than its older MC808 without any problem to just transfer its files …

    I am truely sure there are advantages to go (fully) digital ; I have been playing 15 years non-stop every weekend by using vinyl only (well, now and then a CD too). Since the Denon HD2500 series came out; the size, speed vs quality to deliver music to the crowd has not been better before through this digital age and there is *no way* I would take such many vinyl (crates) with me as stored on hard drives with that machine; my back would definitely kill me ;)

    on the contrary; there is now a physical link missing of the bi-weekly visits to the local record store; which got traded for a virtual link which I can download and put with the rest on the machine. A record store here in Antwerpen called USA Import has closed its doors; one of the major reasons was because the shift with mass-virtualization of a musical to digital culture which is also a bit of a shame. The networking super-changed from real events toward social sites in no time by accepting the digital counterpart as granted.

    Storage is cheap, but remembering the covers, buying the vinyl and handling the records to feel and mix ‘m in is nothing more than nostalgy; I will keep vinyl definitely as my favorite with its unique character which is not possible through the use of cd-players which is its deep warm sound and often great art surrounding it… There are always trade-offs by going bit-wise ..

    I guess I could never accept the losses of those small details the real thing could offer only because of its architecture, components or design and of’course the full tactical control and view in full size and color where applicable. That challenge is part of my addiction around music and part of my history..

    I’m not anti-PC but sure not pro-PC either; I know how to use it and what it can. I’m not convinced it has the same value and experience of which I had for over 15 years with hardware and often in the past much steeper learning path by endless complexity. Try to operate an akai S2000 or Fostex D-160 for example -vs- the machines of today..

    Maybe I am getting old .. or it’s just the ADHD not wanting to be boxed in ;) who knows ..

  • http://twitter.com/gowildchild Freaking Wildchild

    Analog gear offers tactical feedback and to me a better oversight of control than using a computer. I am saving my analog gear already for over 18 years and banned a computer as primary machine (with exception to my mv-8800) in the studio.

    Never had the same experience through a PC – except as programmer/system administrator.

    I’m only using PC as backup medium, do quick changes to a file and to convert formats; program and occasionally play a game but do all producing through hardware .. I’ve got a small machine running a spectrum analyzer, FFT and a phasescope for convenience.

    This also prevents single points of failure and maintenance issues which do never end. Getting analog is a challenge by itself to know and learn new things by combining gear. If something breaks; you can fix it yourself; get a new one or find another model to become friends with ;)

  • http://twitter.com/Jim_Bond_ JIM BOND

    Great post, great points

  • http://twitter.com/Jim_Bond_ JIM BOND

    This is a great post man. Great point.

  • Solitro

    Good point. Resale value is an important question for home studio owners.

  • Adams4350

    i take it that more expensive gear is just better like from an LA 610 compared to an avalon pre amp
    a good friend of yours at sweetwater had told me some pre amps are not hot enough to carry some mic s i use an LA 610 with a shure sm7b he said i need something hotter is that right

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      It’s right if you’re not getting enough gain in your recordings. Are you?

  • http://twitter.com/chris_winter_ Chris Winter

    I would love to use some more analogue equipment but when your on my sort of budget opportunity’s to use them are rare

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      I think you guys are forgetting what “analog” equipment is. Studio monitors, microphones, cables, preamps, acoustic treatment.

      I’m doing a cable shoot-out soon. Just investing a few bucks in better cables improved my ANALOG signal path.

      • http://twitter.com/chris_winter_ Chris Winter

        yeah I get it, my comment meant that buying any sort of audio equipment on by budget is an opportunity that dosen’t come by too often and that chances to use new/other equipment are rare.

        looking back at my comment, I should have been a lot more clearer.

  • Bouben

    The only analogue gear I really want is a good tape recorder and EQ.

  • Kevin Hilman

    I am also looking for a quality tube amp for recording my electric guitar. Up until now I have been recording my electric direct using the Amplitube plug-in to get a variety of sounds. While I am impressed with what Amplitube can do, there’s not quite anything that can duplicate the sound of a guitar recorded through an amp and mic.
    Along those same lines, my recordings would also improve if I invested in a higher quality microphone. Good discussion.

  • Todd R

    Great post, Joe.
    Analog gear has definitely crept its way up on my list of additions to my studio. It seems at first blush with my music adventure everything looked cool in a rack so therefore I wanted it. As time has gone by and the more session that I play, in other studio’s and my own, it is becoming more obvious what I “need” vs “what would be cool to have”. I’m such a sucker for eye candy! I do mostly guitar tracking with some light production and the biggest analog angle for me is a real amp signal chain vs “name your favorite plugin”. Don’t misunderstand me. I really dig my Amplitube plugin and its great to dial in for a quick overdub or that little extra in a mix. That stated, there’s just something about the beef of a mic’d cab.
    With that stated here is my purchase list for the next few months.

    Blackstar HT-20 Head
    ISO-Cab
    Cascade Fathead Ribbon
    Presonus Studio Channel
    Cascade Fathead Ribbon
    Presonus Studio Channel Pre

  • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

    Hey Steve – Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you don’t NEED digital equipment. Computers, interfaces, software, etc. – they’re all necessary. I’m just saying that we need to be careful that we’re using good analog gear on the front and back ends of our digital systems.

  • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

    Great points, Matt. The one thing I didn’t cover very well in the article is that regardless of how digital technology advances, a human voice (or guitar or drum kit) will ALWAYS be an analog signal. You can have the best plug-ins in the world, but if you’re not using a good mic and good preamp, those plug-ins won’t amount to much.

    • Adam
      • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

        Oh dear…

        • http://twitter.com/chris_winter_ Chris Winter

          you aint seen nothing yet joe, there using this type of technology in robots now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcZJqiUrbnI

          I wonder when Disney will realise this sort of stuff exists and turn it into the next “tween thing” with no need to use actual kids with actual thinking power…. (stopping myself now before I go on a rant)

          • Matt

            Well, Joe, you’re right : a voice, a guitar or any other ‘analog’ instrument will always be an analog source to be recorded.

            And watching all these computer-based robot things here I scratch my head and the following thoughts come into my mind :

            Back in the 90s we had hard-disk recorders which were recording 8 tracks simultaneously at 48 kHz with a depth of 24 Bit.
            And – now listen up – this was done with a 386SX-25 Intel processor with a 24-Bit data bus running at 25 MHz (Mega !!!).
            Today we have 100+ times the speed of this processor, multiple cores and a data bus with 64 Bit width (and even more to that).
            But where is the main medium that we are buying, the CD ? At 16 Bit, 44.1 kHz

            Well, did the whole computer development miss the audio path ?

            I mean, we could have much higher sample rates with much higher Bit-depth ……. bringing us to a much better replication of i.e. a sinus wave.
            My thinking is, that the better we are able to reproduce an analog signal with numbers, the better should the quality be.

            On the other hand, there are voices that say it is not possible for us humans to ‘hear’ better than 48 / 24-Bit (don’t know exactly if it were these numbers but I guess, I’m close).

            This could lead to the conclusion that the developers of audio programs don’t have to care about signal quality and so they concentrate on ‘what can I possibly do to change the signal (good or bad – whatever this is …….)’.

            Again, the only thing, that really makes sense to me, personally, is the maximum recallable control over and automation of my (analog) signal path(s).

            In addition to that, there’s nothing more helpful as having a good musician, well placed mikes that fit the situation and a really good pair of speakers (of course, you want to know your room and your ears).

            ok – now I’m in the digital/analog thing again – no, it’s just my opinion and I have made my choices based on what I know and experienced so far.

            Two things reman to be said :
            - if it sounds great it IS great
            - analog gear is so fu****ng sexy

            Matt

            • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

              I disagree that audio software developers don’t care about sound quality. Just listen to them. They sound great. Just because you COULD record at 64-bit doesn’t mean it will sound any better. THAT is why I focus on analog equipment if I’m looking to improve my sound.

  • http://twitter.com/theaudiogeek Jon Tidey

    Great post Joe. Most recently I added a “Really Nice Compressor” to my setup and I think it’ll come in handy.
    The funny thing is this is one of those few pieces of gear that you do have compatibility issues. The inputs are wired to work with mixer input jacks so you need a balanced to unbalanced cable in and unbalanced to balanced cable out or you can’t use it with a standard external mic pre. I made my own cables in a few minutes and felt real manly. haha Anyway, I don’t know if anyone noticed but I used it on the last podcast, sounds good to me.

    My Roland Space Echo is my favorite piece of analog gear I own. It has a character and authenticity that can’t be matched by software. So much fun to play into or bounce tracks through. I’d love to get a few more tape delays and spring reverbs and other fun toys.

  • Skippydelic

    And while we’re at it, why not just throw a couple loops and beats together, get somebody who can *kinda* sing, Auto-Tune them, and make ‘world class music’ *that* way?

    It’s a *lot* easier that way, you know… ;-)

    When you’re working with analog, you *will* get generational loss; that’s one of the inherent drawbacks. At the same time, though, if you grew up with analog, you’ll appreciate all the subtle things about analog that digital – even as advanced as it’s gotten in recent years – doesn’t have. Ask yourself: Why are there so many ‘analog-sounding’ plug-ins for DAWs now?

    Making the process easier isn’t necessarily a bad thing; when it becomes *too* easy, though, you wind up losing what makes it special…

  • http://twitter.com/RonanCMurphy Ronan Chris Murphy

    Your own conclusion are certainly valid as mine, but as a guy that has worked on several hundred albums and been working with both analog and digital for close to 20 years, I have come to the exact opposite conclusions as you.

  • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

    When I talk about using analog outboard gear, I’m generally talking about using it for capturing the audio on the front end. THAT’s where you’ll see the biggest difference. When it comes to mixing, a lot of the hardware plug-ins actually get REALLY close to the originals.

    • Clgrant

      What type of analog rack mount gear have you been the happiest with? I play guitar ( gibson les paul) and really lean towards rock. I wouldnt even know where to begin when purchasing something like a rack mount compressor or eq.

      • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

        As far as rack gear, you would want to focus on preamps and/or channel strips and also different microphones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Colesby/500914917 Scott Colesby

    I think that any piece of analog equipment would be a vast improvement in my setup. When setting up my home studio, I fell into the digital will make it easier camp and went all digital. I even play a Line 6 Variax into a Pod X3 Live.

    It has had its benefits in the sense it did what I wanted it to and has fit into my limited space and budget. The analog sound was something I was willing to sacrifice for that.

  • Julian West

    Ah the endless discussion analog vs digital can provide. Convenience of workflow w/ Digital is awesome, I agree… but with decent converters you do often see recording engineers employing analog signal chain prior to DAW, and then during mixing you may see effect bussed back out to analog equipment. It’s all sound, w/ good converters and justification for it the analog workflow can dovetail w/ ITB just fine. It’s just up to the preference of the engineer and the artist/producer’s ears. There’s no “strict” reason to embrace/dislike either pure method. I agree the recording chain can be entirely digital (well the Mic/cable/pre are analog up to the converters, of course), and the mixing itself can be entirely ITB with fantastic world-class results….but I’ve heard some interesting A/B comparisons to summed mixes in terms of color & headroom and appear to compromise very little. But, again: it’s subjective and up to the listener. No technology or workflow is “better” or “worse” in my opinion, it’s all preference of the engineers & artists. The average listener doesn’t hum or sing the preamps or the AD/DA converters, they hum the song and could care less about the nuances of which domain ITB vs OTB.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t sell analog short. You might want to consider this Grammy award winner using analog equipment:

    http://www.prosoundweb.com/article/arcade_fire_engineer_mark_lawson_chooses_universal_audio_hardware_for_the_s/

  • Larry

    I have a tube preamp and compressor that are great. I also have a guitar amp. I find it much harder to record good sound directly from the amp than using an amp plug in. Also, an amp will always sound more or less the same. So you would need lots of amps. Guitar amps are the last thing I will buy.

  • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

    Mostly outboard gear would be used for recording on the way INTO the interface, but if you wanted to use it while mixing, you’d have to simply route a signal out of one of your interface outputs into the equipment, then bring the signal back in and record it on another track.

  • Anonymous

    I can look at my gear acquisitions and see that easily most of my money is invested in the analog half of the equation. Mics seem expensive, but as you say, they hold their value and if you don’t capture the sound cleanly and pleasantly, digital “fixing” doesn’t cut it. Also, monitor speakers (more than one pair for variety and context, if possible). This can make or break a mix. The better you can hear it, the better you can mix it.

    I’ve heard before, and I follow the axiom, that the most important part of your recording and mixing chain is at either end, where you’re dealing with capturing and reproducing the real sound energy. Furthest out, the room (both tracking and mixing). Then the mics (tracking) and the speakers (mixing). Then importance of gear gets less and less as you progress into the mic-pre and AD converter (tracking), and the DA converter and amp (mixing). Finally, you get into the center of the system, the DAW (or formerly the tape machine) where it hardly makes a difference, sonically, which system you use. Protools is fine, if you want that. I use Reaper, which I’m much more comfortable with, and it’s much less expensive and can do everything most any engineer could need it to do….and there is no –zero– sonic compromises.

    Put your money where the sound is.

    • Anonymous

      Forgot to include cabling in the chain. I haven’t spent a bunch on cabling. Probably should look at what I’m doing there that is hurting the sound. I’ll be looking forward to your post about it.

  • fearfeasog

    hmmm, i just got a Tascam US-1641. (USB 2.0 8 mic pre interface) to upgrade from my Laxi Lambda. I wanted to be able to record a full band/drumset. I felt like that was a gap in my recording sound. I also got a midi controller, went from a Yamaha basic keyboard thing with a bunch of hit-or-miss sounds (midi yes but touch sensitive, no) to an M-Audio Axiom 25. Now, i felt that having the added ability to be more expressive on the keys would be better for the sound. and finally, i’m thinking of getting a multi-pattern LDC (CAD M179) OR another Nady SCM 900 to “match” the one i record with now.

    What do you think? I’m leaning toward the CAD. or maybe neither. maybe a headphone distribution amp, and definitely better cabling.

    great post as always, Joe!

  • http://twitter.com/travisWhitmore Travis Whitmore

    Nice one Joe.. Great points. My next step is probably an upgrade to a couple of nice sounding preamps, compressor and EQ. Not overnight, but that’s the plan.

  • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Julian

    Great article Joe!
    Over the past few months I set up more for more sane cabling — annnnd a summing mixer…annnd a patchbay. My Sweetwater rep told me, quote: “you can literally spend as much on cables as you do preamps & audio interfaces, even more…” He was right, though I bided my time sourced my cabling project from eBay & Craigslist to reduce my cost footprint.
    Having analog pre-wired paths into channel strips & interface pres & mixer makes life very easy if you’re old and don’t want to mess with the backs of equipment often like me. It wasn’t essential, but dang I love sitting there and being able to route something elsewhere with less effort. It leans you more toward experimenting with signal paths — I’ve already toyed w/ sending a vocal out to my ART Pro Channel and back in — sure, it’s not a Eureka or Avalon VTExpensive gear but wow what an interesting sound I could get. And w/ the patchbay, using outboard paths become almost as easy as slapping a plug-in on the track…so while the patchbay isn’t needed for my small potatoes hobby, it did reduce the effort needed to experiment like that.
    And if trying summing it’s a no-brainer to use a patchbay…but getting all the cables and everything “pre-staged” can get expensive and ridiculous. It’s a time drain to look on eBay or drive to look at some Craigslist seller’s cables to see if they’re in good condition, but it can save $.
    The neat freak side of me also loves that I can break down my mic stands & cable runs and leave the room clean when on a break….and then get right back after it without a ton of extra effort. But, again, none of the above is necessary or even remotely relevant to making good home recordings. It’s all a “wants” thing unless you’re going to have sessions there other than your own, which I plan to do.
    Sorry I got on a soapbox about patchbays. Totally nonessential to most home studios, but very fun. The patchbay journey is one of those moments where, as a hobbyist, you get to have that familiar conversation with yourself about wants/needs and if it’s worth the expense just for a hobby. YMMV

    I know, the above is all crazy and nonessential…but I’m crazy so it’s fine.
    Again, great post Joe!

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a nice patchbay setup. It’s a lot of fun, even if you don’t use it much. :-)

      • http://www.themactechmusic.com Clayton Lewis

        Patchbays are the most sexiest thing you’ll rarely touch in a studio. Once they’re setup they just sit there. But when I want to route a vocal track out of my computer.. out of my interface… into… my Presonus Eureka or my big ugly Behringer T1953 then a simply patch cable is all it takes. And routing my interface outs into different headphone amps is a breeze too. Patchbays are the bomb!!

  • Anonymous

    Microphones and preamps for sure are my weakest links. I have pretty good cabling. In fact, I’m waiting for a UPS delivery of some Monster patch cables (pre-amp to interface, interface to mixer, mixer to monitors). I thought I had bought ProCo cables. but it turns out that they are Hosas. I’m looking forward to that change. I still do the majority of my tracking with an AT-2020. As I compare it to other mics, it seems really muddy in the low-midrange. Compared to my buddy’s Neumann TLM 103 that he graciously lets me borrow from time to time, it’s like putting cotton in my ears. I’m certain I could get more transparency without breaking the bank on a Neumann. Any suggestions?

    A guitar amp would be great, but I end up farming out the really critical stuff to a player who is light years better than I am. He mics up his amp and makes magic for me.

    Maybe a grand piano and a Hammond B3 with a Leslie Cab are in my future! :)

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      Have you seen the new Neumann TLM 102? Sounds awesome, from what I’ve heard. And it’s around $600 I think.

      • Anonymous

        I haven’t seen it. I’ll check it out.

      • Anonymous

        I’m probably looking in the Rode NT1A range. Maybe a Bluebird or a Blue Spark.

      • Mason

        Hi all,

        I recently came across this site http://transom.org/?p=7517
        A blindfold test of mics in the middle to top class category (~ NT1 – U87).
        I recommend to *everyone* to do the test blindly, and i’ll promise there will be some surprises. :) (Joe, maybe we can setup a page on your site where we compare our findings/preferences ? I would love to see what the others think)

        Regarding Ronans comment, when i did the test i found some of the Sures also to sound best to my ears, definitely better than the Neumanns, but maybe something’s wrong with my ear.

        Regarding the analog/digital discussion i can see the point of both worlds. If you want any sort of “character” in your sound i’d go with analogue any time (i recently outgrew my trusty old DMP3 preamp and went on to a proper 737sp :) And i also bought a couple of the old analogue Boss guitar effects (analogue delay, the flanger is great, and an absolutely incredible chorus (CE3) Again, plenty of character.

        On the other hand, while it might be true that the digital stuff loses its value much quicker, i mainly consider it as tools that get the job done – fast and clean. If i just want to reduce the dynamic range of the drums a few dB, i don’t need UA comps, a simple comp-plug (even the free ones work great these days) will do the job.

        So in summary, digital is the swiss army knife for me, and analogue the icing on the cake.

    • http://twitter.com/RonanCMurphy Ronan Chris Murphy

      Toby, The Shure KSM32 is a lot less money than the Neuman TLM103 and in my opinion a far better mic. The KSM32 often beats out mics costing many times the price.

  • http://skonrokk.blogspot.com/ Siggidori

    After reading this article then I’m more convinced than ever that I need to buy this soon http://youtu.be/9Un2VHR-3XE?hd=1 :)

  • http://skonrokk.blogspot.com/ Siggidori

    After reading this article then I’m more convinced than ever that I need to buy this soon http://youtu.be/9Un2VHR-3XE?hd=1 :)

  • Letzter Geist

    I need a new large diaphragm condenser for sure! I have a Samson C01, and while not horrible, I am certain the quality of my vocals would improve if I had slightly better quality mic. Even some MXL mics dont seem that bad and they are in the 100-200 dollar range. I just purchased the ART Pro Channel Tube Pre/Comp/EQ and such an upgrade to my existing set up deserves a more respectable and better sounding microphone.

    Great post Joe!

    • http://www.homestudiocorner.com Joe Gilder

      I had the C01 for years. Great starter mic.

  • Letzter Geist

    I need a new large diaphragm condenser for sure! I have a Samson C01, and while not horrible, I am certain the quality of my vocals would improve if I had slightly better quality mic. Even some MXL mics dont seem that bad and they are in the 100-200 dollar range. I just purchased the ART Pro Channel Tube Pre/Comp/EQ and such an upgrade to my existing set up deserves a more respectable and better sounding microphone.

    Great post Joe!