Got two very different comments last week from two of my readers.

The first is from John.

In response to the email I wrote about running my overhead mics through my Presonus ADL600 preamp, he wrote:

“Mr Firm believer of affordable gear and needs vs wants has a $2100 tube pre-amp lol”

See, John’s implying that I’m a hypocrite.

The overall message of Home Studio Corner is that improving your skill level is the only guaranteed way to improve your recordings. No amount of gear will make YOU better.

But that doesn’t mean good gear doesn’t have its place.

Just because Eric Clapton could make a $99 Strat sound like a million bucks doesn’t mean Eric plays $99 Strats on tour.

Why?

Because he invested the time in becoming a phenomenal guitarist, thereby making him one of the most qualified people to play really nice, high-end guitars.

Want to play guitar like Clapton? You don’t start by buying a $15,000 guitar. You start by playing the crap out of your $99 one.

Okay, so here’s the other comment I got. It’s from Kevin:

“I saw this at the bottom of a web page this morning and thought you’d get a kick out of it. It’s a little harsh, but hits the nail on the head of learning to use the gear you have.

‘If you had better tools, you could more effectively demonstrate your total incompetence.’”

If you buy better equipment without first becoming better yourself, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Good gear isn’t the devil.

It’s also not the savior.

If you can’t get a good-sounding recording with basic gear, you won’t be able to get a good-sounding recording with high-end gear.

But if you master the gear you own, you open the door to nicer, higher-end pieces.

In a sense, you EARN the right to use the high-end stuff.

Because I know how to place microphones, and I know how important it is to hire a really good drummer with really great-sounding drums, I’m able to get a really cool sound with a really nice preamp.

Remove the last 5 words from that previous sentence, and it’s still true. The preamp is just one piece of the puzzle.

To me, things like guitars, drums, mics, and preamps make the biggest impact on the sound of my recordings AND my mixes.

Focus on skills, and you’ll get better.

It applies to mixing, too, tiger.

That’s why Dueling Mixes exists. To make YOU better, thereby making your mixes better.

It’s time you joined the fun:

www.DuelingMixes.com

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner

  • Caleb Hawkins

    The way I see it… Preamps are a good way to chase another elusive tone but are only worth chasing after having taken the time to really get the most out of stock preamps on interfaces or low end mixers. I have been using a Mackie Onyx interface for a while now and recently upgraded to something nicer but still affordable. This time I bought used and kept to a budget I could afford. The tonal and sonic difference? I’d say it put another 15% more fidelity into my songs…. I did gain some better low end and flatter sounding high end. I also got a better noise floor than I have had before. So what did I get? I bought a used $60 M-Audio DMP3. While I want a Neve Portico this unit is working great and I can afford to feed my family right now. What will a higher end preamp offer over what I just bought? I’m hoping another 5% at best.

    I agree that Clapton on a well set up Squire Strat through a Line6 Pod would sound better than a no talent hack with a Custom Shop Strat into a point to point wired tube amp. For me I am an acoustic musician, and I have been playing for a long time. I started out with thrift store guitars and flea market bargains until I could bang out more than just the basic chords. Now I have hand crafted guitars that cost a lot of money. They simply SING! Not because of the french polish hand rubbed finish or the walrus ivory saddles. But because I have the technique in my right and left hands. On other side of that coin I play Squire Classic Vibes telecasters. I am not a great electric guitar player and most of my living is playing in situations where a custom electric guitar wouldn’t really be noticed. Sure street cred might be had if I owned a nicer electric but for now I don’t owe Sweetwater any money on the gear I own.

    I’m sure that Joe owns his PreSonus Preamp and either worked out a deal with PreSonus for it or else was a good steward and saved his money. Sure that fantastic preamp costs money but from what his post suggested it was money well spent.

    • Love this, Caleb. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  • John

    Oh sureeee you respond to a post when it sounds like I’m almost being condescending lol but when I email you something positive you don’t respond. I wasn’t implying you’re a hypocrite by any stretch. I def understand what you teach and why you teach it because I’ve been following you for quite some time. However, if someone who just stumbled upon your page happens to catch that post and knows how much that preamp is, they may be a little skeptical and go ” gee no wonder hes getting great sounding recordings”. I get the whole learn the skill master your craft thing for sure but in the same token, Eric Clapton being able to make any guitar sound great is not the same as being able to make any preamp sound great, they either sound good or they don’t. I’m sure your knowledge of mic placement for sure has something to do with capturing the great sounding recordings, but if the gear had nothing to do with it, you wouldn’t spend 2k on a preamp when you can get one for $99. Maybe a little audio shoot out between some cheap preamps and the 2k one, same mic placement and everything?

    • Sure, I think a shootout would be awesome. And my apologies for not responding to your email. I get hundreds and I try to reply to all of them. Perhaps I haven’t gotten to it yet.

      “However, if someone who just stumbled upon your page happens to catch that post and knows how much that preamp is, they may be a little skeptical and go ” gee no wonder hes getting great sounding recordings”.”

      I’m okay with that. If people want to make an assumption like that based on one blog post out of thousands, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

      “Eric Clapton being able to make any guitar sound great is not the same as being able to make any preamp sound great, they either sound good or they don’t. I’m sure your knowled ge of mi c placement for sure has something to do with capturing the great sounding recordings, but if the gear had nothing to do with it, you wouldn’t spend 2k on a preamp when you can get one for $99.”

      I disagree. If “they either sound good or they don’t” was true, then no one would ever make a bad-sounding recording with great gear. You also mentioned that “the gear had nothing to do with it.” I never said that. I said that if you know what you’re doing, of course it can make sense to have the higher-end gear.

      If you re-read this article, you’ll see I said that gear is not the devil, but it’s also not the savior. Yes, a $2000 preamp sounds better than stock ones, IF you already know how to get good recordings with the stock ones. If your technique is awful, the high-end gear will still sound awful.

      Y’know?

      • John

        Yeah for sure I definitely agree with that. I can almost guarantee I can make a $5000 piece of equipment sound awful lol

        • We should have a competition. Worst-sounding recording on the best-sounding gear. 🙂