How Much Gear Do We REALLY Need?

    So you’ve been eyeballing that beautiful Neumann U87 and that killer Neve mic pre. You say, “Man that’s what I’m missing in my recordings. If I had that I’d have commercial sounding records.” Wrong! In the industry today it’s as simple as having a decent laptop, a 100 mic, pro tools express, and a 100 interface. But there’s two missing links that can make even the cheapest of situations worthy of cutting a pretty great sounding track. In this post I’d like to talk a bit about how (with some focus and effort) we can take a budget setup and make something you can (and should) be proud of in your home studio.

    We all dream of a massive mic locker and having 2352 UREI 1176’s from Chris Lord-Alge’s rack, but the fact of the matter is you don’t have to have them to cut and mix a great record. It’s utilizing what you have. There’s no replacement for taking the time to get the right mic placement. Getting it right from the source makes and breaks a well recorded track. We have all these amazing tools at our fingertips, so we get lazy & say “I’ll fix that in the mix”… Again.. Wrong! Move that mic around! Angle it.. Bring it up.. Down… Behind the player. There’s no rules! There are great guidelines that we will cover on a later post (and teach each and every week on MixCoach Member as well as a number of other great sites like this one). But the moral of this is experiment is don’t always cop out to “I’ll fix it in the mix”. Those are some famous last words. Over my time as a professional engineer I’ve had to use many 100 and 200 mic setups running into an mbox 2 and the results weren’t changing the sound of modern music, but with some extra time and care I had a happy client, despite the predicament.

    Next let’s talk a about a somewhat “mystical” subject. The art of acoustic treatment. It’s far too often overlooked. You’d simply be amazed at what a basic kit can do for a room. Now, I’m not saying go run out and buy a $1000 Auralex kit. I have Auralex, but I also have a great product you can get at www.foambymail.com. You can find very affordable kits there. The typical setup for us “common” fellas is a spare room with parallel, painted walls with flutter echoes galore. I’d gladly bet if you invested just a small amount in a basic setup with some room analysis help for free at Auralex you’d be coming and thanking me! There’s no microphone, pre, compressor, or plug-in that will make a bad room sound good. You can take that to the bank.

    With all of that said it sure would be nice to have that beautiful Neumann or Avalon tube pre, but it’s not the end all be all for magic commercial sounding success. I guarantee with a small investment of time & money working on proper mic placement coupled with some simple acoustic treatment your music will go up to the next level that you’ve been looking for.

    This post was inspired by a new MixCoach Member that had a question. Thanks to Jimmy Petterec for the great question. Never hesitate to ask us questions here at MixCoach. We absolutely love to hear from you guys! And though we didn’t cover anything earth shattering this week, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the often overlooked fundamentals. Try not to be blinded with all the eye candy. Great recordings are more than the top level gear. It takes skill, and time, and patience to learn that skill. And that’s what we try to do here at MixCoach and in the Membership site, MixCoach Member.

What are your thoughts? Is gear a prerequisite to good sounding mixes? Or is it just a well trained ear that knows what’s important? Let us know in the comments below.

 

About The Author

MattButler

Matt is a tracking and mixing engineer at Backporch Studios and Pathway Studios in Tennessee. He and his father run a music business called Butler Music Group in Nashville, TN where Backporch Studios is located. He is also a talented multi-instrumentalist who gives private lessons from home. He prides himself in being a technical geek and has a passion to help the community of MixCoach in any way he can.