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Thread: Open Discussion - Consumer gear vs. Pro gear

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gtoboy
    While this is probably true it does not IMHO mean it's in some way pointless to aspire to better fidelity or usability or whatever just because one is recording at home.
    Depends on the goal. If you're making something you intend to release as a finished product, I agree. If inspiration strikes and you just want to get an idea down, I usually like to just plug in and hit record as quickly as possible while it's fresh. Futzing with minutiae could be counter to that goal. A rough demo doesn't need to be an elaborate production in many cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by famous beagle View Post
    ... people stress the "recording quality" a little too much on this site and in other home recording circles.

    In my opinion, I don't think the recorder is usually as much to blame for someone's subpar results as many people would have you believe. In other words, I think many pieces of gear get an undeservedly bad rap.

    ... a real pro engineer/producer could record a live in-studio performance onto a consumer-grade pro reel machine (like my old Sony TC-530) and get phenomenal results.
    Well...if you're hearing them stress recording quality a lot on home rec sites...then maybe it matters enough.

    AFA a pro getting *better* results than you or me using the same equipment, I'm sure that's more to do with their WIDE experience than all of us put together...rather than that consumer equipment suddenly performing beyond its specs, just because a pro is using it. A 4-track cassette portastudio is going to have the exact same sound quality in your hands as in a pro's...all other things being equal...but that's just it, in a pro production, all other things are NOT going to be equal, because a pro knows more about recording production, so maybe they can make that lower grade gear appear to sound better than you or I will, just by how they place mics, or how much this-n-that they use, and it's not that the consumer gear is actually sounding better...but put some pro gear in their hands, and all bets are off...there's no comparison, which is why pros generally use pro gear, not consumer gear.

    I also think it's incorrect to consider what gear quality you are going to go with...by how well someone is going to recognize the gear you used and then pass judgment.
    I just think that if you're buying a piece of gear and you're thinking "Hmm, I know this isn't considered a high quality, pro item...but will anyone really notice or care?"...well then, you're already answering the questions in your head about the gear.

    Also...if you want to talk about things people stress on home rec sites that are somewhat bothersome...one of them for me is how whatever gear they are using, it's somehow as good as it needs to be....and I don't mean "for them", where they acknowledge that it's not the greatest, but they don't care...but rather where they feel it's as good as it needs to be for the same pro results that pros can get with pro gear...and that it's only a matter of them overcoming their gear limitations by learning how to use it better...as though the underlying specs and build quality will simply yield to their improved skills.

    I know home rec means different things to a lot of people...and probably these days, the majority of people with a home studio have some fairly modest setup, for most it's 90% a software studio, and it's good enough "for them".
    That said...I also know that many pros have stepped into a home recording setup...many artists who have involved home studios...and also those serious hobbyists who have invested deeper into their home studios, not much different than how the guy down the street from you builds high-end race cars in his garage, mostly for his fun.

    So I just don't like the direct or indirect dumbing-down of "home" recording, especially these days. 30-40 years ago, home recording was just dirt scratching, but these days, it's quite a serious, involved hobby or side gig, and it's happening in home spare bedrooms, garages, basements and even purpose built home studios.
    Home recording is a LOT different now...than it was when this Home Recording website was started.
    Last edited by miroslav; 4 Weeks Ago at 21:35.

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    I'm a firm believer in the music setting the quality. I heard a tape from the 50s, Buddy Holly actually. I remember thinking how the double bass sounded like a modern double bass recording and the drums were like a modern kit. Listening to the many recordings on Spotify of the same song, none of them sounded like this original copy of a master. When it listen to some tracks of mine on Spotify from 20 years ago, they mix in with the latest ones pretty well, but that's because of the content. Quality seems for my music very similar now to what it was in the 90s, but somehow today's is mixed better, but quality? I don't find a huge difference.

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    In a way, home recording is a lot like home video. You don't need a 70mm Panaflex camera to shoot Aunt Mildred's 95th birthday party, or even a 4K Panasonic HC1000. For me to use a high performance film or professional 4K video camera would still get the same result as using a Handycam. I'm just not that good at it. At the same time, you probably wouldn't choose an I-phone or a $300 Handycam to shoot The Godfather. Even if you had the sets, with the lighting and the actors, you won't have the degree of control that you have with the pro equipment. But I bet Coppola would do a pretty fair job if that's what someone gave him and said "shoot me a movie".

    I've seen quite a few really good videos shot with Iphones. They easily matched or exceeded the quality of videos broadcast on MTV 30 years ago (yeah, they actually used to play music videos on MTV back then!).

    In general, the bar has been raised for the whole process. Consumer and prosumer grade equipment really is lightyears ahead of what we had 50 years ago, and for about 1/10 the price. Consider that the Tascam 80-8 and a Model 5 mixer was about $4-5000 when it came out. A 388 was about $3000. That's not even full-on pro gear, and it was 30 years ago. With today's systems, you could easily be under $1000 for comparable capability, and I would say better quality.

    I don't debate that pro gear has better capabilities than consumer gear. It should also have better performance. For the money spent, it darn well better have it.

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    Okay, firstly I think we all agree that getting a recording is the primary thing to focus on. That's what we all start out to achieve. The gear is necessarily secondary and I believe we all agree on that also.

    However, as a recordist of any kind, there are (as mentioned) different goals. Also, as a recordist, there is a learning process. And across both the goal and the learning is the arc we each choose as far as what we want to know and do.


    I happen to like all sorts of gear, even junk has it's purpose IMO. As has also been pointed out, what one does with it is what matters. But during this journey many of get to know all of our equipment in depth and we begin to understand each pieces limitations. There is a quote that I like "I've done so much with so little for so long, that now I can do anything with nothing" . It's a great "can do" sentiment that I feel we should all adopt. But when you have pushed past your limitations and made greatness with less competent equipment , eventually there is a point where some of us ask "What more can I achieve? What am I not able to do yet, and do I feel another piece will allow me to reach this new goal? Or am I fine with what I am doing?


    It's not IMO a "better" or "worse" recording division to me, but rather one in which, again, the goal and the desire for a specific result determine gear choice.
    Win 7 Ult Dell i7 4core 6700ghz 32 GB, 1,2x2, 4 Tb Barracuda HD's running Pro tools 2019 through Allen&Heath Qu-32

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    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post
    AFA a pro getting *better* results than you or me using the same equipment, I'm sure that's more to do with their WIDE experience than all of us put together...rather than that consumer equipment suddenly performing beyond its specs, just because a pro is using it. A 4-track cassette portastudio is going to have the exact same sound quality in your hands as in a pro's...all other things being equal...but that's just it, in a pro production, all other things are NOT going to be equal, because a pro knows more about recording production, so maybe they can make that lower grade gear appear to sound better than you or I will, just by how they place mics, or how much this-n-that they use, and it's not that the consumer gear is actually sounding better...but put some pro gear in their hands, and all bets are off...there's no comparison, which is why pros generally use pro gear, not consumer gear.
    This is my point. There's no way to make a recorder sound better than it's possible to make it sound. So if a 4-track recorder or consumer reel machine is capable of sounding "great" in the hands of a pro engineer, then it's capable of sounding "great," period.

    To turn the italicized part of the quote around, just because someone with poor recording skills and/or poor auxiliary equipment creates a bad-sounding recording on a cassette 4-track, it doesn't mean the recorder is all of the sudden bad-sounding.

    Of course pro engineers use pro equipment. Everyone generally wants the best quality tools they can afford in most scenarios. But wouldn't you agree that there's a quality threshold with regard to any set of tools?

    In other words, you might not be able to handle a lot of jobs with a $1 screwdriver you bought from the dollar store before it gives out. But, generally speaking, a $10 screwdriver you buy at a home improvement store will likely do the job just fine for a lifetime (assuming you don't abuse it). Now, is the guy next door gonna build a better table than you---all other things equal---because he has a $150 screwdriver? I think most people would say no.

    The same could be said for audio gear. A lot of people can hear the difference in sound quality between a $30 Chinese condenser mic and a $3K Neumann (although many laymen may not be able to at first until they know what to listen for), but what about comparing a $3K mic with a $30K mic? Does the $30K mic sound "better" than the $3K one? Or does it just sound different? Would anyone argue that it's not possible to make a pro recording with a $3K Neumann?

    What about a $500 mic for studio vocals like an Avantone CV-12? Taylor Swift has recorded with it on several of her albums, so it's clearly capable of producing "professional" results.

    What about a $400 dynamic mic for studio vocals like the Shure SM7B (Michael Jackson) or EV RE-20 (Thom Yorke)?

    What about a $100 dynamic for studio vocals like a Shure SM57/58 (John Lennon, Billy Idol, Rod Stewart, The Killers, RHCP)?

    My whole point I've been laboring to make---poorly it seems---is that, in my humble opinion --- and for my ears --- these lowly prosumer/consumer machines are much closer to this quality threshold (if not above if some cases) than most people give them credit for.

    Of course a 2" Studer has better specs than a Tascam 4-track, and of course it's capable of higher fidelity. No one is arguing that. And no one is arguing that you don't need a Studer machine because we have Tascam 4-tracks that already sound good enough.

    I'm just saying that, IMO, these machines sound pretty dang good to me, whereas many other people make it sound as though if they only had a 4-track to record on, they wouldn't bother recording at all because it would sound like trash.

    Many people know that Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska was recorded on a Tascam 144 with two SM57 mics. And lots of analog folks love to champion that album as "proof" of what cassette 4-tracks can do. That's kind of funny to me because I don't think that album sounds very good at all. I like the album, because I like the songs and performances, but as far as recording quality, it's filled with issues, IMO. But this makes total sense when you think about it, because, although they did the best they could in the mastering stage with pro equipment:
    1) Bruce didn't really know what he was doing when he recorded it. He had just gotten the machine and had very little recording/engineering experience (of his own) when he recorded it.
    2) He did not intend for it to be anything other than a demo when he recorded it.
    3) He mixed it down onto a boombox (literally) that had once fallen into a river and been pulled out. The heads hadn't even been cleaned or anything. Again, it was only meant to be a demo, so he didn't care.

    So when people look to Nebraska for an example of the quality capable on a 4-track cassette, they're looking in the wrong direction. The Tascam 144 machine is capable --- in the right hands --- of far better sound quality than Nebraska. Just as a 2" Studer or a Pro Tools rig with $30K converters is capable of absolute shite in the wrong hands. It's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy because people start off on those 4-track machines when they're inexperienced and bad at a lot of other things, and the machines never get the chance to show what they can do.

    Here's an analogy: Roger Federer uses a $350 racket (I actually thought it would cost a lot more than that ... although his strings are crazy expensive), but he didn't start off on one. He probably started on a $10 special. As he got better, he upgraded his gear, just like most people do. Now, if you were to give him the $10 special again, would he all of the sudden start playing at the level he did when he originally used that racket? Of course not. I would argue that he would still probably even be able to compete on the pro circuit, though not at quite the same level.

    And so my whole point is that I think these lowly machines can do a lot better than people give them credit for. That's all I'm trying to say.
    famous beagle

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    One thing I do agree on...that "Nebraska" often used as an example of a "great" recording on a 4-track cassette, is funny...because you're right, it doesn't *sound* all that good at all. Critics focused on the song content, not the sound quality...which are two different things.

    So if a 4-track recorder or consumer reel machine is capable of sounding "great" in the hands of a pro engineer, then it's capable of sounding "great," period.
    You're kinda missing my point. I never said the consumer reel machine is capable of sounding "great" in the hands of a pro. I said it may "appear" that way to someone...like "IF" a pro uses a piece of low-end gear, that it appears to prove you don't need anything better...but there are many other aspects to a pro production that go well beyond that one piece of gear...all the other gear, the room, the monitoring chain...and yes, the skill too.
    No pro has ever gone into someone's limited home studio and churned out a pro production on some basic consumer gear...that I am aware of.

    Here's the thing...that entire concept, that is often used on home rec forums ("pro's can take someone's low-end gear and make it sound great") is a fallacy...it's a figment of the home recorder's imagination.
    Why...?...because pros in general don't really use low-end gear to make recordings, on the whole...and people are betting on "IF"...but it's not anything that really happens.
    People make that assumption that any gear will sound "pro" in the hands of a pro... because it helps them eliminate the gear from their own equations...and they think it's only a matter of time to develop some pro skills, and their gear will magically transform and start providing pro results.

    TBH...it's not easy to develop pro skills if you never have access to pro gear...which is way most top engineers that started out with some basic home rec setup...kept raising the bar with their gear, along with their skills.
    The two go hand-in-hand...so you're right, "there's a quality threshold with regard to any set of tools"...and you will not exceed that threshold, which is why you need to improve the tools to raise the threshold higher.

    Top pros operate at the "state of the art"...and when the threshold is raised...they upgrade their tools to the new state of the art. It may seem like nothing more than a mindless gear chase to some...but it's not.
    I think typical home rec people should follow that mindset as much as possible, as their budget permit with their home studio rigs...rather than make assumptions about what a pro could do "IF" they used that same home studio rig.

    So that's all I am and was saying from back in the other thread...why drop $2k-$3k on a consumer grade deck...when a pro deck is not much more.
    Raise the bar...and then raise it again if possible.

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  10. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post
    One thing I do agree on...that "Nebraska" often used as an example of a "great" recording on a 4-track cassette...because you're right, it doesn't *sound* all that good at all. Critics focused on the song content, not the sound quality...which are two different thing.



    You're kinda missing my point. I never said the consumer reel machine is capable of sounding "great" in the hands of a pro. I said it may "appear" that way someone. Like "IF" a pro uses a piece of low-end gear, it proves you don't need anything more...but there are many other aspects to a pro production that go well beyond that one piece of gear...all the other gear, the room, the monitoring chain...and yes, the skill too.
    No pro has ever gone into someone's limited home studio and churned out a pro production on some basic consumer gear, that I am aware of.

    Here's the thing...that entire concept, that is often used on home rec forums ("pro's can take someone's low-end gear and make it sound great") is a fallacy...it's a figment of the home recorder's imagination.
    Why...?...because pros in general don't really use low-end gear to make recordings, on the whole.

    People make that assumption that any gear will sound "pro" in the hands of a pro... because it helps them eliminate the gear from their own equations...and they think it's only a matter of time to develop some pro skills, and their gear will magically transform and start providing pro results.

    TBH...it's not easy to develop pro skills if you never have access to pro gear...which is way most top engineers that started out with some basic home rec setup...kept raising the bar with their gear, along with their skills.
    The two go hand-in-hand...so you're right, "there's a quality threshold with regard to any set of tools"...and you will not exceed that threshold, which is why you need to improve the tools to raise the threshold higher.
    Top pros operate at the "state of the art"...and when the threshold is raised...they upgrade their tools to the new state of the art. It may seem like nothing more than a mindless gear chase to some...but it's not.
    It may be true that a pro engineer hasn't churned out a "pro" product in a budget studio. I don't know for sure. But that doesn't even matter to me. I myself have recorded things on a 4-track cassette that sound good enough to pass for a "pro" recording, IMHO. And I'm hardly a pro engineer! "Pro" is pretty subjective, to be honest.

    However, I have seen exhibition matches in tennis where the players used old-fashioned rackets and/or beginner rackets for fun, and the level of play was still pretty outstanding.

    I don't know if "state of the art" is what this is about. What exactly is "state of the art?" I imagine that most people nowadays think that we pretty much have the fidelity thing worked out with digital audio, yes? You hear people say, "Yeah, early digital kind of sucked, but now, you can't argue with the results."

    But what do you think we'll be saying 30 years from now? Will we look back at our current "state of the art" and think it's crap compared to what's around then?

    You yourself are not using state of the art when you use your Otari 2" machine (I think it's an Otari?). You're using technology that's over 30 years old. But I assume that you believe it's capable of "pro" recordings, right? (I certainly do.)

    With regard to your very last statement, I would say that's entirely subjective and depends on the user. Yes, if you want to produce a song like the new T-Pain hit, then yeah, you're going to need something closer to the state of the art. But if you want to record something like an Americana track or the Sex Pistols or any number of other things, you absolutely do not need state of the art equipment.
    famous beagle

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    Never said I was using all state of the art...or that home rec people need to chase after it....just saying that audio gear isn't some magical thing that changes dramatically based on how skilled you get. It will reach that threshold, that you noted...and then no further....so if you want to go further, you need to raise the bar.
    That has nothing to do with what makes someone happy/satisfied with their setup...or how good they think it is, to them. Folks can keep it as simple and basic as they like...just don't make assumptions that the gear can't handicap you as long as you improve your skills

    Did you ever buy one of those $9.99 screwdriver packs because it was a great deal...and they worked very well for awhile, and then the heads got all worn down because it was cheap metal, poorly made...hence the $9.99
    You won't find a commercial construction guy using a cheap set of tools that have a threshold that is BELOW what a pro needs.
    Same thing applies to audio gear.

    Oh...AFA my Otari...yes, it's old, the same as other large format decks of the era...which kinda ended not long after those decks were manufactured.
    A high-end Studer from the same period might have more bells-n-whistles, but otherwise, at the time, all those decks were at or close to the state of the art for tape recorders.
    Otari put out a couple of models after the MX80...but some people think the MX80 is more useful because it's a workhorse...not a lot of bells-n-whistles, just the basics, but runs strong, and often outlasts some of the later models.
    There have been no new decks since those days...so tape recording state of the art has not improved...there's not much to switch to, other than different flavors.

    That 388 you use was made at the same time roughly as my MX80...so even back then, side-by-side...one was a consumer grade, the other a pro grade.
    I don't say that to sound snobby...and I have had consumer and pro-sumer grade decks, like my Fostex G16... but I still consider my switch to the Otari MX80 a really good upgrade to a pro-level deck....which it was. I wouldn't go back to a Fostex G16 if the Otari had a terminal breakdown...I would look for another MX80 or similar.

    I've been upgrading a lot of other gear over the years...and TBH, now most of it can stand up to pro use...now I have the gear to help me push my skills further...or another way of looking at it...I have gear that won't stand in the way.
    Prior to many upgrades...even I, with my less than pro skills, could tell that some of my gear had come to that equipment threshold, and I could hear and see that it wasn't going to let me go any further. I never thought if I just keep improving my skills, the gear won't matter.

  12. #20
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    Here's a thought experiment:

    Let's say you're in a pro studio and you're going to record a band live to two-track stereo. You have all the top-end mics, instruments, and outboard gear you want, and you have pro engineers/producers to set it all up and get a great sound. You have top-notch musicians --- like Union Station or something --- and everyone knows what they're doing all around. You can use as many channels on the Neve (or SSL or whatever) mixer you want, any amount of outboard gear processing, etc. The only stipulation is that, at the of the line, you're recording to just two tracks.

    And let's say you split the outputs of the mixer and send it to two different destinations:
    1) A fully pro digital rig with the best converters possible
    2) A nice late 60s consumer reel to reel machine, like a nice Sony or Akai (that's operating at full spec) running at 7.5 ips or 15 ips (some of them do).

    And then you recorded the tune.

    What do you honestly think the result would be? I imagine the digital version would have some more upper highs. They may be too high for me to even hear anymore at 48 ... but maybe not. There may be some difference in the low end.

    I would imagine that most people with a trained ear (musicians or engineers, etc.) would be able to tell the two apart. I would think some laymen would be able to, but probably not all, especially if you didn't tell them specific things to listen for.

    But, what if someone only listened to the reel to reel version. Remember, this song was performed by top-notch musicians and recorded by top-notch engineers with top-notch front-end equipment.

    Do you think they'd say it didn't sound professional? I don't
    Would they question what medium it was recorded on? I don't think most would
    Would they think it sounded great? I think most would say yes
    Do you think they'd be surprised to hear that it was recorded on a consumer-grade reel to reel? I think most would for sure

    I'm curious to hear your answers.
    famous beagle

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