Part 3: Geaar Myth, cheap or expensive?
In this post I will look at my experiences with cheap and expensive gear.
So, to begin, lets look at what is meant by cheap or expensive.
Well, I would say that it really depends on your budget and your perception of what is cheap.
From my own perspective, I have a Behringer eq that cost me £40. This would be cheap by anyones standard but next to my SPL Qure, It is really cheap! The Qure cost £1300 but that is nowhere near a Sontec. I've heard these beasts can go for £20,000 a time so yeah, perspective.
I love both of these units and won't be getting rid of them but they may be moved to other duties as I upgrade and purchase other units. This for me is one of the great things about using analogue gear, you get to know your gear, experiment and find its best use, and build a collection you can watch grow and when you've finished, retire on it! Can you say that about software?
As I mentioned above, you get to know your gear and it finds a place in your mix process and you come to rely upon each individual piece to provide the sound and processing you want.
Now, this can lead you down the path of getting stuck in a rut, or assuming that only a certain compressor will sound good on a mix buss, more on this later. I find this dangerous as whilst you can rely on gear, you can forget that most gear is not a one trick pony, and the only person that really cares about the tricks of said pony, is you! The listener doesn't, the artist probably only cares that you deliver the best results, so if you get the best results, who cares what gear you use, or how much it costs?
Spending too much time on the internet can lead to thinking that gear can only be used for certain things. It is a superb resource fo quick fact finding but other peoples experiences are not law. Just imagine if no one ever found out an SSL's talkback limiter could sound so good, or playing two tape machines back at different speeds would produce a flange affect, if the opinions on the internet had influenced the engineers at the time.
I mention this because it's a trap I fell into. I had, and still, lust after a Rupert Neve Designs Master Buss Compressor, to the point that I didn't consider any other compressor good enough for the mix buss because of the price tag, name and the fact it is a VCA compressor. That is, untill I decided to patch in my Drawmer 1978.
I thought, wrongly, because the RND MBP was a VCA compressor and the 1978 is a FET compressor, that the 1978 would not be able to add the punch I wanted.
Oh how wrong was I.
It was not the compressor that was the issue, it was my unwillingness to try it, because I'd read that a VCA compressor gives more punch. And this may be true but I achieved the sound I wanted, I got the ammount of punch I was after from the 1978 and from all the other processing I did to the individual tracks.
So, would it be nice to have a RND MBP?
Of course it would but not having one does not mean that I can't get the results I want without it. The price difference is approximately £2,700 depending on where you look but will anyone who listens know, or even care? I highly doubt it.
One day, I fully intend to own a RND MBP but in the meantime, I'm more than happy with my 1978. It fits my workflow, gives me the sounds I want and is easy to use with some bells and whistles thrown in for good measure.
Whilst I don't own an MBP, I have used one and they are amazing! I can't do a side by side comparrison, yet but I can attest to how good they are. That doesn't mean for a second that my 1978 will stop being my main buss compressor, it just means I have to think a little differently when creating the characteristics of the mix i'm working on.
I like to remind myself of the compressor story and my cheap as chips Behringer eq when I'm surfing Reverb or ebay looking at all the gear for sale. I have nice gear, It works, and it doesn't let me down. They remind me to keep experimenting with my gear and trying it on different tracks. Only the other day I ran some mono vocal and bass tracks through my SPL Vitalizer and it sounded amazing! Its usual use is on the synth buss but I loved how it transformed these tracks with ease.
GAS, (Gear Aquisition Syndrome), is a terrible thing, so just remember that your gear, what ever it is and however much it costs, can sound wonderful with time spent learning how to use it.