Whether you’re incredible happy with how your recordings and mixes sound or completely frustrated, if you’re like any warm-blooded audio lover, you regularly consider upgrading your equipment.

If your stuff sounds great, you want to “take it to the next level.”

If it sounds bad, you hope that upgrading your gear will bring up the quality level.

One of the great things about running a website about music and audio is that I get to connect with some really incredible people with really good opinions. Sometimes their opinions match up with mine. Sometimes they differ.

And sometimes (gasp!) my opinions on things change.

But rather than giving you my opinion today, I want to share two slightly different but powerful takes on the whole idea of “upgrading.”

They both use the Tiger Woods/golf analogy, but each has a different spin on it.

Check out both videos below, then leave a comment and answer the question:

Who do you agree with and WHY?

First up, Graham Cochrane from TheRecordingRevolutions.com:

And Ronan Chris Murphy of RecordingBootCamp.com:

  • le_deiv

    I think they are both saying the same, they are just explaining differently, but, in both videos, bottom line is: of course gear makes a difference and it is always good to upgrade your game but it’s not gonna do any good if you don’t know YOUR game (thus being: your skills) so:
    1.- sharp your skills
    2.- Then upgrade your gear

    If I were Tony Montana I’d say something like: first you get the music, then you get the skills, THEN you get the gear (good music, engineering skills, THEN high end gear)

    • Julio Gomez

      I completely agree with you, for example, using Ronan’s analogy: you put a pro golfer with the cheapest set of cloves vs an amateur golfer with the best cloves: the pro golfer wins, but, put the pro golfer with the same set of cheap cloves vs another pro golfer with the best set of cloves available: the second one is going to win… here it’s when I would ask a third question: put the pro golfer with the best set of cloves available vs another pro golfer with the same set of high end cloves, who wins? The one with better skills, so it all comes back to the “skills” part, so I guess it’s not either or, it’s both: it’s the gear that enhances your skills AND it’s the engineer’s skills that put the gear to real use, you cannot separate them, it’s not a war or debate between those 2…STILL if you have to choose between record with high end gear with a bad engineer or record with cheap gar with a really experienced and skilled engineer, I think most people choose the second one. So i guess first you learn how to record and mix properly (or learn how to play golf), then use that knowledge with good high end equipment: boom! the magic happens, still, it is a long process, you don’t become great golfer over night, you learn how to play and then you progressively become better and better. You don’t just buy high end gear and become Rick Rubin overnight (or whoever you prefer), you slowly upgrade something here and there while becoming better engineer in the meantime, until one day you are a great, experienced and skilled engineer with a fully equipped high end recording studio…so I thinks both videos are saying the same thing, my opinion of course.

  • Giorgio Gobbo

    Both are right, true that before having expensive gear as engineers we must develop our skills if we can make something sound great in crappy equipment then with better equipment we are going to get the same results faster. But its better to start from the fundamentals and having not high end expensive gear and construct our solid base, then as we are progressing in our skill development as engineers we will hear the difference in gear and express our personal choices and maybe purchase what we want.
    I find useless buying expensive gear if cannot even notice a difference. when we notice the difference if its in better means that our ear its training up becoming better and sharper and we can hear things more in detail, the details do make a difference and do add up at the end of the day. but we dont need high end stuff to make great stuff, human factor makes way more difference than a machine.

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

      The whole buying nice gear and not hearing a difference is definitely a huge bummer. :)


  • PFRfan

    I’ve followed both of these guys pretty closely for several years (and you, too, Mr. Guilder). The fundamental difference between Ronan and Graham is their target audiences. Graham primarily speaks to people without many developed skills who are fairly early in their journey (although his tips apply to everyone, and his message is grounding even for pros). Ronan is more narrowly focused on those who have their skills fairly honed, but are taking the next step into pro work.

    I think that point is illustrated by Ronan mentioning that Charlie Wi could beat Tiger if Tiger’s was using Wal-Mart clubs. Well, Charlie is a 20 year pro who even now has made $83,000 in 15 events this year (PGA & Web.com) and is creeping up on $10 MILLION for his career (just on the PGA side, not counting international stuff). So, Charlie is a HIGHLY skilled professional. Graham isn’t preaching cheap to mixers who have made the audio industry equivalent of that over 20 years. He’s talking to guys who are at the high school golf team level, etc. Those guys don’t need $6,000 custom clubs. They need to work on their swing, reading greens, developing their bunker game, etc.

    As a side note, at this point, I have no confidence that Charlie couldn’t beat Tiger at this point even if Tiger had his Nike’s!

    Another difference is than Ronan came up in an analog world, mixing on consoles, tracking with outboard gear to DAT (if I remember right). Ronan likes to mention Behringer as his model of all things garbage, and the last time he probably tried anything made by Uli’s brand was all the way back then. His prejudice has stuck, and he’s quick to paint most cheap gear with the same brush. That said, he’s always happy to report on something inexpensive that turns out to be good. I think that because of his lack of experience with recently designed and manufactured low-end gear, that he doesn’t realize how much of it is actually pretty good. Once he’s heard an MXL 990’s brittle high-end, he assumes that most cheap condensers have that hyped-but-not-useful sound. A bunch do, but there’s a BUNCH that don’t!

    Graham, on the other hand, came up with a SoundBlaster card and GuitarTracks. He was young and broke – not working in a studio, but in his bedroom at the time that his “Revolution” was just beginning. By then, Ronan was entrenched in more traditional ways of thinking. Graham had to make do with what he had and what he could afford. That led him to realize that a lot of the cheap stuff could produce really good results. I think if you stripped away all of Ronan’s cool stuff and made him use only interface preamps and sub-$200 mics, he’d realize how much he could get out of them. A month or two in, he’d be turned out great mixes in not much more time than he does now. That’s my belief.

    Once I understood their points of view, I feel like I can glean something useful from pretty much everything either one of them produce. They’re a couple of the really good content producers.

    Also – there’s no doubt that Ronan’s video was brought on by the tear Graham has been on recently about budget gear.

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

      Great points. Really awesome comment. I think you’re right about the target audience stuff. And it’s always helpful to know where each guy is coming from. Thanks for the comment!


  • Danny

    I always find that to correct a slice in my vocal compressor it is important to open the club face and relax the wrists.
    Wait a minute I think I am taking this golf analogy too far.
    Both videos are right, just different club choice (there I go again).
    It is great to have quality gear. It does make a difference, although I believe there is a “law of diminishing returns” where you can blow a great deal of cash getting only a miniscule improvement. Everybody needs to do the best they can with their available budget, but it is certainly true that we are way better off than 20 years ago in terms of the quality of gear for the money we need to expend. That is brilliant. We are fortunate to be alive to record now!!!
    But it is vital to remember, and both videos make the point, that skill, musical inspiration, motivation, dedication, effort and art are what it is all about.
    Bon Iver made “For Emma, Forever Ago” on a 4 track, Bruce Springsteen recorded “Nebraska” on a cassette tape portastudio. I recorded an EP on one of those horrid things in the 80’s. We used to call them “4 track nasties”. We haven’t got much to complain about these days I can tell you.
    My point is that we must each work on our craft, our songs, our playing, recording and mixing skills because that is what really counts. This is where Joe, Graham and similar blogs are of the greatest value to us all. Thanks for everything Joe!!.
    Anybody can turn out mediocre music with tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear, but it takes an artist to make a great piece of music, and people who are moved by it won’t discuss or be concerned a hoot about what kind of plugins were used and how much they cost, how clever the chord sequence is or what string gauge is on the guitar either.
    I think art is a better analogy than golf. Look at a Rembrandt, and in your awe and wonder are you concerned about how much he paid for and what kind of paint he used?
    Get to it, Cheers and best wished to all trying to make great music, Danny, Tasmania, Australia

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

      You put a LOT of analogies in one post. Well played, Danny. :)