What is G.A.S.?

If you’ve ever worked in music retail, you’ve heard of Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It’s this phenomenon that happens once somebody gets hooked on music equipment. Suddenly having one guitar isn’t enough — they need seventeen. Owning one good vocal microphone isn’t enough — they need a closet-full.

Now this certainly can be an awesome thing (especially for the music store you buy from). Having a home studio decked out from floor to ceiling with all sorts of gear is pretty satisfying.

However, I want to raise a concern I have with Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I see it in myself, and I see it in most home studio owners that I meet (and I’ve met a lot). My concern is that we can get so caught up in buying new equipment that we lose sight of the music.

My last few years of college are a perfect example of this. My freshman year I had a cheap little audio

interface, a cheap mixer, and a cheap microphone, but I recorded a ton of music. Even back in high school, when I had even worse equipment, I recorded an album.

Then something changed. I was studying a lot of recording techniques and doing a lot of recording in the big studios at school, but I wasn’t doing much of anything at home. I had saved up and bought a Pro Tools LE system, which I used to work on projects for school. However, since I finally had some semi-decent equipment, I thought I would wait until I had just a little bit more to get started on my next album.

I would say to myself, “You’ll just have to re-record everything if you use that $80 microphone.” Or “Once I have a nice preamp I’ll get started on that album.”

What happened? You guessed it. I never completed another album.

I was so caught up in this must-have-more-gear spiral that it froze me creatively. I felt that my music deserved better equipment, and my only solution was to stop recording music until I got better gear. How ridiculous! Gear Acquisition Syndrome 1. Joe 0.

Just because your recordings could sound better doesn’t mean they can’t sound great today. If you’ve got songs that haven’t been recorded, and you’re waiting around for the perfect signal chain before you play the first note, you’ll wait a long time. And chances are you’ll become rusty or, even worse, lose interest in your music altogether.

Unless you’re planning to buy that magical new piece of equipment today, don’t wait around to start making music. You could have all the gear in the world, but it’s just be a pile of junk if it hinders or delays you from being creative. Yes, you should always be looking for ways to improve your home studio setup, but not at the expense of your music.

Do something musical this weekend. If you don’t have any recording equipment, buy something. If you’re not in a place to do that, write a song. If you’ve got both recording equipment and a song, what are you waiting for?

  • W2Best

    Youtube makes us all GAS:ers…

  • Benjamin Hennessy

    I don’t have G.A.S. I’m just starting out and making sure I’ve got the gear I need to make a complete song. I swear. Oh what’s this? Moog has a new modular synth?

    • ha ha ha ha. I’ve had many a moment where one second I’m convinced I don’t need anything else, and the next second I”m trying to convince myself I need this new guitar. 😉

  • Joe

    I’m starting to suffer from G.A.S. and I don’t even have any recording gear. I’m getting an audio interface, mic and DAW in a couple of months, but before I’ve even started I’m already thinking in incredible detail about all the upgrades (rackmount gear, particularly) I want to get D:

  • nachoga

    Hum, I only had the guitar modality of G.A.S (well, a bit of guitar pedal too). :-D. This is some kind of (expensive) medicine to avoid the frustration of not be able to play on a/my band. X-( X-(

  • Shawn

    When I first started recording I invested in a high-end mic and and a really high end preamp, only to find that my recordings sounded just as crappy as they did before. I eventually realized that the gear wasn’t the problem. It was me…

    http://ehomerecordingstudio.com/recording-studio-equipment-list/

  • Hunter

    I’m feel like I’ve got G.A.S.. I’m on an extremely low budget. But I think I will actually wait until I get a new computer, unless I’m wrong. It glitches after about 30 seconds. Based on the CPU meter, it maxes out and leaves out up to 3 seconds of recorded audio causing extreme frustration and many many takes that are split up many times. It’s very disappointing when I’m recording my friends or my own stuff and it’s a perfect take ruined. I have a Tascam US-1800 interface. My processor is a Pentium at 2.1 GHz. I have 3 GB of RAM. Am I right? Is this due to my computers performance? Or is it something else I’m overlooking. Help is greatly appreciated.

    • You should increase your buffer setting. That gives your computer more time to processing the audio, which can really help keep it from glitching up all the time. Might not solve the problem, but it’s worth a shot.

      • Hunter

        Helped a lot. Hasn’t completely solved it, but definitely has a lower tendency to glitch. I love all your stuff Joe! I’ve learned a lot in the past week. I just found this website and I’m glad that I did!

    • James Wykoff

      Check your sample resolution and frequency. If it’s maxed out (maybe say 42/92000Hz or anything above), change that. A regular CD quality recording is 16/48000Hz = 16 Bits Per Sample (sample resolution) for 48000 Samples per Second (Sampling Frequency) I believe an old Alesis ADAT used same Freq, but only a bit higher resolution (24/48000 Hz). YOU DONT NEED A HIGHER SETTING! Why push your chips to the limit and risk damage? Looking for that old vinyl/tape ‘grittiness’? Set it to 12 Bit res / 16000 Hz and you’ve got a sort of built in tape emulation effect. Im willing to bet you’ll see a difference in your hardware’s performance instantly…

  • Pingback: I’ve got G.A.S. | Battleshy Youths()

  • G.A.S, of course I have that too.

    But usually I’m more fired up to start rather than wait to save up. In more desperate case, I run around the town to borrow other people equipment. But sometimes, I used alternative solution as long as they still do the job.

  • Angel

    Hey joe when u worked as a sales engineer at Sweetwater did u guys get commission off sales?? Im from Cali and most of my set-up has been bought from SW. but the thing is, everytime i look into getting a new piece of gear i research it at different places then i ask my sales engineer and he ALWAYS recommends something else thats at least double the price if not more..lol

    • Hey Angel. Yes, we were paid completely off commission. That said, I can’t speak for your sales guy, but the only time I recommended something more expensive was so the customer KNEW it existed. If someone asked me about the sound quality of a $30 microphone, I would tell them about the more popular (and better-sounding) $200-300 microphones…because they most likely wouldn’t be happy with the cheap $30 mic.

  • Josh Gamble

    When reading this i think about lord of the flies whichi read for school.

    The boys spend so much time hunting for food and learning about the island, they lose sight of working to get rescued, which is the ultimate purpose.

  • Bminor

    This is a typical syndrome in all kinds of gear needing hobbies/professions.. My father started fishing some years ago and was really exited about the hobby but now he goes fishing just a few times in the summer but he just keeps buying new lures and fishing equipment 😀

  • Only buy racks after you have the gear to fill them. Having unfilled racks in the studio will tempt you to get gear you don’t need or to get cheap gear you won’t like.

    Also beware of the music bundles that you don’t need, i/o disasters, and hidden costs of expansion gear.

    Only buy software and hardware if you know what it does exactly.

    Work on your skills and gear you have , only then when you are ready purchase new gear!!

  • MysteriousViscoelasticFluid

    Shining in as a slightly different instance of G.A.S.

    I’m a (hobby for now) DSP developer and inventor, and I keep postponing all my actual audio projects until I finish implementing that kicka$$ new processor that will make everything sound better.
    Of course, when I finish my rough implementation of said processor, I come up with a new revolutionary idea for yet another processor and the rest is history…
    At least the physical gear is not a problem, first because I truly believe software can exceed the quality of hardware (I don’t do recording, so mics/pres and gang are not a problem),
    and second because I have no money anyway (crappy dayjob just enough to eat).

    Thanks for pulling my feet back to the ground for a couple minutes, I needed it 🙂

    • Ha ha. I’m glad I’m not that smart. 😉

  • There are some fairly classic indie releases by (now) well-known names that were recorded on boom boxes or hand held recorders. Don't succumb to G.A.S. my friend.

  • Steve

    Hmm..
    I think suffering a little from G.A.S. is OK.. If you didn’t you would never get better gear or never buy something the really surprises & even inspires you.

    The secret is to know how to control G.A.S. .. Hmm Or at least have some form of “alkaseltzer” handy to help one settle.

    Sure music first & formost but we all could do with a touch of G.A.S occasionally.

    Ok.. Now to go back to my room and enjoy a little F.A.R.T…. 😉

    (F.A.R.T. = Freaking Awesome Recording Technology)

    Steve

  • Stu

    Hello,

    I will admit to suffering from a mild case of G.A.S! It comes with the hobby.

    The price of all the gear is what keeps me from exercising my G.A.S. habit :-).

    I don’t let the desire for more gear (such as it is) prevent me from recording. Having played live music for some years, where I went from using a mixer with wires and knobs and dials all over the place (to feed my G.A.S habit), to a humble Bose L1 (without all the knobs and wires and dials…but sounds fantastic!). I did away with all the peripheral gear and took the less-is-more approach. The result was that I spent less time ‘teaking’ the sound system and more time playing, etc.

    With studio gear there are several pieces of equipment I want to add to my studio ‘gear list’ but not having them isn’t stopping me from recording, etc.

    Stu

  • Wit

    Joe, you hit me hard with this article. I like it, G.A.S. is what I’ve had for years. It ruins both creativity and productivity. I won’t stop thinking of or buying new gear anyway, but I should use what I have efficiently and effectively.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to share this idea of GAS on my blog in Thai and I’ll put the link back to this page in it.

    • Hi Wit! Sure, go ahead and post it in Thai. That could be my first Thai article. 😉

  • Bobby

    When you are never satisfied of your gear and you keep searching for better gear at the sake of creativity and musicality improvement, you are in danger

    Solution is, prioritize to buy the minimum things u need to work on ur music . After that, then only buy the things you’ve been G.A.S-ing !
    Means buy the things you need, then buy the things you want!

    C’mon no matter how hard people say (or yourself said) that you don’t need that gear, there is a satisfaction in buying that new gear for the sake of buying, because it’s fun! Man’s toy are more expensive than Boy’s toy.

    You’ll be okay with G.A.S as long as you met your priority

  • auramac

    I confess: I’m guilty. I’m continuously reading reviews, perusing catalogs and websites, gathering equipment like a squirrel storing nuts in the winter, and spending less and less time making music. When I had a simple Fostex 4-track cassette spending money was out of the question, so I just kept writing and recording songs. Now, everything’s on hold till I’m an expert in my head- not only getting the gear but knowing in advance how to record my music perfectly.
    Guess I should just take a break and play the guitar and sing for awhile into one of my field recorders, just having fun.
    (But I want to upgrade to Logic 9, though I’ve yet to get my feet wet with Logic 8!)

  • Darrin

    Im in a nightmare of disasterous proprtions…I have more gear than I have room to house it…I live close to the Musicians friend distribution center and Im a tech so I have 14 guitars…Im a craigslist addict…and Ive bought some pretty cool stuff for cheap. (2 dbx 160s and a fostex 3070…vintage tube and spring reverb…etc.) …and Im into video too so Ive just upgraded HD camcorders and added Liquid7 to my Daw computer….and I saw a cool deal on a new AT4047 I want to buy.

    HELP ME!!!

  • Eric

    Dangit, Dude…!!!
    I had 90 days sober until I read you article “10 Ways to Improve Your Home Studio for $50 or Less”. It “made me” go to Sweetwater and get those Auralex MoPads!!!!
    YOU ENABLER..!!!! 🙂

    Psych up!!! I needed some monitor iso pads anyway.
    Besides, from what I read from your review and the other reviews, it’s $39 bucks well spent!!!!

  • Eric

    OMG, Dude…!!!!
    U nailed that one on the mark!!!!
    I’m also a self diagnosed sufferer of G.A.S. in recovery!!! lol
    My thing was mics and plug-ins………….I’m 90 days “sober” now!!! (I just have to stay away from Zzounds, Sweetwater or those darn enticing product demo review videos that the software companies dangle out there!!! 🙂

    Seemed so much simpler to create back when was just knocking around with a little Roland VS-880.

    Who could’ve dreamed 15 years ago that one would have so many professional options in a reasonably affordable home studio.

    We’ve come a long way…!!!
    Gotta love it……..it’s a really great time to be a musician!!!

    Thanks for the great website, Joe!!!
    Appreciate all the work put in to give the valuable info that you provide!!!!
    …keep the good stuff coming!!!!

    Eric

  • RoFavilla

    Well, you´re right, G.A.S may really become an eatin´money monster that leaves you without any actual music tracking done. We are used to deal down here in Brazil with the precarious situation of getting updated gears, so we´ve developed some experience (after many experiments and brainstorms, believe me!) in using the most weird combos of old and new stuff, and having some very good surprises. Altogether the G.A.S may be followed (or preceded) by the Highest Utopic Quality Recording Syndrom. Thanks for the article, always good to remind us to learn to take the best with we have now and work to move to a next level. As we say here, to learn how to squeeze water out of a stone.

    Hugs.
    RoFavilla.

  • I spent 3 years buying and renting mics and preamps and not committing anything to disk because I didn’t want to waste the real take on bad gear. Spent countless hours reading reviews on the net. None of the gear lived up to my expectations and the hype. I finally settled on good workhorse gear that gets used in lots of studios, like an SM7b and an SM81. There are “better” mics out there, but I now have a reliable set of tools that I can depend on. If the tracks don’t sound good now, it is not the gear.

    • I agree. The gear is just one small piece of the puzzle.

  • rick

    Another great post Joe! I am a textbook case of buying beyond my music needs. I am actually downsizing now, and have still yet to encounter any limitations.

  • Jakub

    Nice article! And I absolutely agree! I record with really under-low-end gear (mic about $20 from local supermarket plugged to my retired Technics tape deck dated 1988 serving as a preamp – as I do not use cassettes anymore, it is nice to still have some use for it – connected to built-in Audio in on my iMac), and of course I know I should get some proper mic and audio, but I remember two things:
    1- I (and we all, I think) saw many great gigs by bands who just plugged their guitars and played f*** great rockandroll and never heard about things like compression etc.
    2 – I believe that some things are better to leave to professionals – when I will feel that my songs worth it, I will just buy some hours in studio, where they have all the gear and engineer who understands soundmaking way better then me. So I really do not worry about my vocal recordings – I will just pay someone who knows how to make it sound great.
    And I enjoy it!

  • WILLIAM JONES

    As you know Joe, I still have this disease. But I’m trying to deal with it. LOL. I actually get more work done if I have to set stuff up and tear it down(Another LOL). If I actually had a dream studio, I’d probably get lazy. I made a cd about 10 years ago(and not a great one at that). Very Lo-Fidelity. But I had a great time doing it. Some of my friends still comment on how much they enjoy that(I like it. But I always said I could do better) I made a cd recently just using two track recordings from a Zoom H2.
    It’s not how great your gear is, It’s the heart and soul you put into making music. You can wait til you get the magic box that makes everything sound perfect or you can just make due(which is usually the best course of action). Having said all this, I’ve bought some great stuff from you at Sweetwater.LOL.

    • Thanks William. Let me know when your next CD is finished!

  • Jonathan

    Heh, I remember recording something when I got my Mac, using nothing but GarageBand’s built-in amp modeling (back in 2004) and singing into the mic in the front of the computer! I listen to it again today with a whole heap of new gear and think… you know, I don’t think I’d change anything…

  • Dan H.

    Hi Joe,

    Excellent article about the G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) that many people have including me. Everyone gets so wrapped up in the gear that they forget about the music. Sometimes the man with the most toys does not win. Recording the music is more important that how perfect it might sound.

    Excellent website, I am proud of you! I am sure it will be very helpful for many people. Talk with you soon Joe!

    Dan H.

  • WILLIAM JONES

    Joe,
    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been guilty of that G.A.S. myself. You buy all that killer stuff and in some cases you eventually end up selling some of it because you realize you didn’t need it to begin with. In my case, I’ve found that having a lot can be counter-productive. That less is actually more.

    • Hey William! I totally agree. Thanks for checking out the site!

  • Dale L

    GAS….I was wondering if anyone else had this problem…guess not. Great article Joe!!

  • Ken

    This is so true. I eventually self-diagnosed my problem with always wanting to buy one more mic or upgrade one more soft synth before getting down n dirty with laying some tracks, so I started putting restrictions on myself: I can’t buy that new mic until I record demos for those 3 songs I was working on, or I can’t upgrade my DAW software until I finish that mix. By using gear purchases as a reward for creative milestones, it helps keep projects moving but also satisfies the little gearhead devil inside 🙂

  • joe, what a great site you have here — and what a good first article for me to read. while i think i have my “gear acquisition syndrome” somewhat under control now, i continue to suffer from “plugin acquisition syndrome” — which is scary, because that NEVER ends! this is a great reminder to me to learn to use what i already have, and learn it thoroughly, not just pile more bells & whistles onto it, which will likely just end me up in confusion. luckily, my music output hasn’t suffered from wait-until-the-next thing yet. and, as i just got laid off from my dayjob, i’m going to have a LOT of time to record and not a whole lot of extra money for gear. you told me about this site of yours at the absolutely perfect time, and this was the perfect first article for me to read. i’m subscribing right now — thanks!

    • I’m sorry to hear about the job, Jackie! Enjoy that extra studio time, though, and shoot me an mp3 or two.

    • I got out of control with software too…at one point, I was playing with almost everything NI made, and juggling two DAWs as well as Reason and a bunch of free plugins…I found out quickly that this does more harm than good, so I started looking for all in one solutions. I am now down to Ableton Live as my DAW, Reason as my software instruments, and Guitar Rig for a wide option of guitar sounds. Now to get my gear under control…I need new pickups on my guitar and I’ll need to call it quits for a while, but with the APC40 out and the Novation Launchpad on the horizon, I can’t help but think how awesome a controller like that would be…and my Oxygen8 is so limiting, I really need an Oxygen61…yeah, it’s a tough habit to kick. Great article :).

  • Michael Ogden

    Ha!!! First, regarding Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Perfect. I’d also suggest people (like me) stricken with GAS should subject themselves to an honest reality check. 🙂

    • I agree, Mike. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard awful recordings that were made using amazing equipment.

  • Cran

    Too true. Shopping can become an addiction.

  • IL Duce

    Wow Joe, you hit this topic right on the nose! I guess you and i both know i became of victim of this syndrome…lol..great article!!! I’ll be recording again this weekend. I was waiting till i got my voxbox back from sweetwater repair…i guess the mic pre on the Digi 003 will have to do the job!

    Thanks

    Carlos a.k.a IL Duce

    • Hopefully that VoxBox will be back home soon! I’ve found my 003 pre’s work just fine, though. Now I just need a U87…

      • Steve Simpson

        Now that I work at Vanderbilt, we have 2 U87s I can use as i like…. it’s pretty nice, I’m not gonna lie. not to mention a 600 seat Ingram Hall makes a nice live room :o)

        • Vandy, eh? Nice. Two U87s? Nicer. : )