October 12


Change is not always for the better….

Its no secret that I am a sound engineer (live). And I have been for the last 11 years or so….

I have listened to various mics on very different instruments, some because we could, and others because that was what the budget depicted for us. So we are always comparing and trying to get the best sound possible for everything.

Which causes many people to tout their mic as the latest greatest piece of equipment this side of the globe, and we should drop everything and buy this new one. And lets say we actually test the mic, and find it does sound “better”.

Which is where I want to pause for a bit today, its not always better, sometimes its just different.

Most times that turns out to be the case and just ends up a huge distraction or simply people who have no idea but have a say (management) ending up accepting the marketing of the products.

Sometimes its shiny object syndrome (I confess to having that ha ha ha). We always after the latest greatest toy.

So the question is….. And I do not mean for us to discard all new things or to improve on the current.
The reason I mention this, is when things come up, we can then evaluate it, rather than just accept it because its the new way.

We always hear clamour from marketing gurus that this is the way to go, forget the way you are doing it.

Even in sound recording we seem to be chasing our tails sometimes. Early days everyone used valve microphones (because there was no other way), but then the transistor came out and made it cheaper and “better” as they put it.

Well, today we buy valve and ribbon mics at top dollar because we know them now to be the better mic. Only now its not cheap. It was a long and expensive road to end up where we were before.

Change that is made just for change’s sake is not always for the better….
I hope we do not do this in life…..



better, change, Choices, Different

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  1. This blog made me think of what happened in Australia (the country and people that you so dearly love) earlier this year at the critical care congress. One of the guys said: “just because we can, does not mean we should.” Made me think…it almost looks like we constantly trying to prove something. What, I do not always know.

    I like it when you said evaluate…

    There is some people, not always fitting our idea as someone that could have a valid opinion, around us. These people could potentially have a very good opinion. You however need to allow them to speak and you need to be willing to listen (without preconceived ideas) so that you can evaluate properly. I just think allowing that could potentially save you a lot of heartsore and unnecessary stress. I found that to be true in life as well.

    Sorry think my reply is maybe not going in the direction that you hoped for, but that is what it made me think of.

  2. It’s the same for children’s toys, actually. When you’re in childcare, everyone wants to sell you something new – especially if it’s branded as “educational” or “developmentally appropriate”. Interesting to note that right now the hottest developmental toys are wooden blocks and similarly straightforward building toys. And they’re expensive!

  3. You touched on another side of the issue that comes with being a sound engineer, that I’m not certain happens in other fields: vintage gear.

    A disclaimer: I’m a hobbyist. I aspired to be professional and decided that the business side of music makes me incredibly unhappy, so many of my opinions are shaped by this thought.

    I understand the power of analog and the power of tubes. There are only a few times that I have liked the sound of my own recorded singing voice, the favorite time being a background vocal I sang into a Blue Baby Bottle and some tube pre/compressor that I did not recognize, but boy did it sound huge! Melodyne didn’t hurt that sound either.

    Another was a vocal I sang in a $200ish Beyer through an optical compressor, and another was a vocal I sang in a $180 Sennheiser dynamic through an Alesis compressor.

    Nowadays, at home, I have a $20 Nady mic and … that’s about it. I can put it through all manner of virtual EQ, gate, and compression, and with some wise doubling and phase cancelling tricks I can get a good enough sound… for a guy that gives most of his music up for free anyway.

    It’s all about the sound you’re looking for. A corollary to the fetish of vintage gear is that all your stuff has to “match” and be equally vintage/hi-fi/expensive or else the weak link will stick out. It works the other way too- if I buy an expensive guitar and plug it into digital effects it will sound weak and cheap though the instrument is neither, however, a cheap basswood guitar with ceramic pickups plugged into an amp with digital virtual modelling may not sound like Pete Townshend in the day, but it certainly sounds good on an indie record.

    Short version of the above is, I agree. 😉

    Best wishes

  4. I agree with you in the sense that if it sounds good (who cares how we got there) and what we used). But I work with some painfully difficult people most of who “can hear the difference” between and cheap mic and an expensive mic.

    Granted we do use high end PA systems so that might add to it. But I can say there is a noticeable difference in quality between a normal mic and a decent tube mic. Even if it is the fact like with the sm57(shure mic) where people are so used to hearing the tones it produces on a snare drum that they struggle to use another mic simply because it never sounds “better” with another mic.

    Then again sound is a very subjective industry, just be glad you do not have to work with technically challenged directors. That can drive a sane person to multiple levels of insanity ha ha ha

    1. eg. the technically challenged: been there, done that, part of why I quit.

      Oddly, I like teaching people who are interested in learning about the subjects (engineering, synths, etc.) so maybe there’s a future career in there somewhere.

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