Do you know the reason we rave over those “vintage” recordings?


40 years ago, they didn’t use tubes, transformers, and tape by choice. Nope, it was all that was available to them at the time.

The “sound” of so many of our favorite recordings from that era came from running the audio through gear that couldn’t faithfully and accurately reproduce the signal. Each piece of gear added something to the sound — warmth, low end, smoothness, punchy-ness, even noise.

In short, it was near impossible to get a clean, accurate recording. The gear added to the sound.

Our recording heros aren’t heroes because of the tools they used. They’re heroes because of how they USED the tools.

They took this “imperfect gear,” with all its pros and cons, and they made great music with it.

I really believe we have a huge advantage today.

We have access to affordable equipment that will give us nice, clean, accurate recordings. AND we can also get the “vintage” gear sound if we want, too.

The key difference between now and then? We have a CHOICE.

Do those “vintage” albums sound great? Sure.

Does that mean we need to make our recordings today sound just like those? Heck no.

Here’s what I think.

I vote that we constantly push the envelope, and use the technology available to us RIGHT NOW to make great-sounding music, even if it doesn’t sound like the hallowed vintage recordings we hold so dear.

Don’t get stuck in the past. You don’t need a $3,000 tube compressor to get great recordings. Heck, you might even find that the big fancy comp doesn’t even give you the sound you really wanted anyway.

Use whatcha got. That’s what the old-school folks did, and it worked well for them.

For example, I’m still amazed at the different tones I can get with a simple, run-of-the-mill compressor plugin.

You can too. Find out more here:

Joe Gilder

9 Responses to “Stuck in the Past – Going for that “Vintage” Sound”

  1. christiancoriolis

    Call me sentimental or whatever, but some things just sound better when they sound old. Or – when they are recorded the way they were forced to back then.

    Old-school blues or rock ‘n’ roll recorded live with one mic, for instance – to me it sounds so much better than hifi-ing the crap out of everything with DPA mics and such. Save those for the Decca tree!

  2. Eric Jean

    There was some good stuff going on back in the day, but some people overly idealize the whole analog thing. Fact is, some of the stuff from the 70s sounded muddy and sloppy. There’s nothing wrong with digital, and you can always add in some of that analog color if you want.

    • Joe Gilder

      I totally agree. You can always add more warmth, punch, noise, etc. to a sound, but you can’t really remove that from the sound once it’s there.

  3. Xan

    Let’s see 40 years ago…it would have been 1972. Well at that point the TRANSISTOR was over two decades old, and integrated circuits were beginning to hit the scene. So they did not have to *RELY* on tubes per se.

    The main advantage ov DAW based recording techniques over older analogue (and for that matter tape based digital such as A-DAT) techniques, is CONTROL. You all know what I am talking about…control & ov course the ability to save exactly where you are and come back later.

    However, the fact is that analogue gear, when it’s used properly just sounds better. The sound is simply PHATTER! 🙂

    Conversely, digital is a lot cleaner (apart from the nasty 30KHz odd switching harmonics!) but in that cleanness & especially with software processing and virtual instruments, it tends to sound plastic.

    But the real reason why records from these periods and gear from these periods sounds better is because LIFE was better then. It was better to be a musician in the 70’s, you could have a lot more fun. 🙂

  4. Craig

    People tend to look back with either rose-colored glasses or, perhaps more often, equate the great recording with the gear, not the people involved.

    Get 10 or more top musicians, writers, singers, engineers and producers involved in a project, which wasn’t at all uncommon “back in the day” and see what kind of record you can make.

    I’d bet it kicks ass, moreso because of the people involved than anything to do with the gear.

    To address Joe directly, we live in an age where the palette of tools we have is extraordinary compared to those available even a decade ago. It’s the music goes through those tools that really counts imho.


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