For the "I only have crappy gear" crowd...

Massive Master
I'm putting this one on a few forums, as I think it's something that really needs to be addressed. It was inspired by an MP3 I heard on an audio forum - A track by a guy with crappy, outdated 16-bit digital gear with old converters and cheap microphones - but really good core sounds. A nice sounding guitar, a great sounding amp with great sound coming from the amp.

So here's something for the "I only have crappy gear" crowd...

Listen to this file - It's classical - Don't be afraid, it's actually pretty heavy (for classical). And don't scroll down too fast...

It's just a short snippet of an orchestral rehearsal I recorded recently...

Crank it up loud - It won't bite... It's only over a minute, so hit "repeat" so it can sink in nicely.

Listen to the clarity in the strings and the winds from the start...

Notice the build at 0:12 at that culminates at 0:22

Now listen to those glorious horn swells... Good Lord, if those don't give you goosebumps, your epidermis isn't working. You can feel the brass against your face (even though they're 40 feet from the mics).

(Now ignore the french horn blurt at 0:44)

Listen to the clarity in the soundstage from around 0:43 - the horns, the strings, the timpani - You can literally close your eyes and point to them - The french horns on one side, the trumps & bones toward the center, the tuba off to the other side... Startling, isn't it... Not the greatest recording in the world, but there are clear highs, clear mids, clear lows, good imaging, great musician-controlled dynamics, all that neat stuff.

What's my point? First, read the gear list...

2 Okatava 012's (16 feet high, spaced 8 feet apart, shooting straight down at the far downstage row of strings) through around 250 feet (each) of balanced cable to:

1 $99 Behringer Ultragain Pro MIC-2200 preamp fed UNBALANCED through Radio Shack quality cables into:

1994(?) first-generation Sony MD recorder with horrendous converters - unbalanced I/O.

Then, it went through my chain here for a whisker of minor sweetening and a little verb (it's a VERY dry stage) just for fun. Keep in mind the volume boost (nearly 20dB!) just to get it up to a decent level (it went in unbalanced) and the added noise involved - Not a big issue, is it...

But my chain isn't the point - This is a fairly solid recording made with garbage for gear. Sure, the post-production brought out some potential, but it's the recording that had the potential in the first place. The recording had that potential from the sound being created on the stage and no where else.

This recording (and all "good" or better recordings, IMO) demonstrates the only real "rules" in audio... "Garbage in = garbage out" and the obvious point of the importance of your core sounds. These guys sounded good and played well. Cheap, crappy gear picked this up just fine. Would it have sounded better with $3,000 Nuemanns going through some really great preamps? Of course it would.

But on first listen, would you ever expect the tracking chain of this recording to total $300?

Is gear unimportant? Certainly not. Dad always said "Get the best you can afford and if you can afford it, get The Best. Then, you can't bitch about it later."

But there are a lot of (mostly home) engineers out there that are copping out on their recordings because of their "crappy" gear. Buying (or cracking) loads and loads of plugins, programs, pee-wee-hermanizers and more, trying to get their recordings to sound "more pro" while their completely ignoring the CORE SOUND.

A cheesy guitar through a cheesy amp with a cheesy tone is going to sound cheesy whether it's recorded through a Behringer or a Neve preamp. A crappy bass with old strings is going to sound bad no matter what it's recorded through - A mic'd amp, a direct box, a $5,000 compressor, etc.

On the flipside, a great guitar tone is hard to screw up - with a 57 or a U87, it's going to sound pretty good. THAT's where all the extras come in - THAT's where you choose the "flavor" you're looking for - Not after you record a crappy sounding instrument and expect to be able to fix it later.

The moral to the story - Of course, use the best gear you can. Great gear is a wonderful thing. In some areas, only the best will do. HOWEVER, don't forget the gear BEFORE the microphones and the preamps. Experiment - Open some new doors - Change your strings and your drum heads - Get someone in who *truly* knows how to tune drums properly and pay attention to everything - Especially what a properly tuned kit sounds like in the room.

Get your core sounds *too good* for your cheap gear to handle. THEN figure out what you need. If it's some sort of Sonic Disgronificator, your sound probably isn't ready for really great recording gear yet. Spend time learning what good sound really sounds like at the source, and work from there.

You'll probably find that some of that "crappy" recording gear isn't so crappy after all... :)

A Reel Person

It's Too Funky in Here!!!
Blaming your gear is a first rate cop out!

That's a Newbie's game, IMO.

Most of the seasoned users realize it's the mixing & listening skills, as well as the musical performance, that makes or breaks a recording.

I don't have time to waste, listening to people blame their gear for their crappy recordings.

Kevin Deschwazi

Well-known member
Oh great so now as well as saving for the gear you're telling me I need to develop some skills and find some talent from somewhere?

You just shattered all my dreams. :mad: :p

Seriously, great post.


That's a nice recording. Yep it's true, G. in G. out.

Retailing of rec gear is an awful lot like retailing of cosmetics. Who was it, maybe the CEO of Revlon, who said, "We don't sell cosmetics, we sell hope." Well just change "cosmetics" to "audio gear", and maybe change "hope" to "fantasy", and there we have it.

It's the source and the room that matter. A face can only be changed so much with makeup.

trying not to be a garbage man. :D
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New member
The recording

I hear the distinct grainy artificial highs that the Behringer stuff produces. I hear the hiss. I hear the lack of power in the lows...

Will most listeners hear this stuff? Probably not.

I like the Behringer stuff. My portable rig contains much Behringer stuff. I wouldn't be afraid to take it into hell to record Satan him/herself... and it still sounds decent.

Track Rat

Dungeon Studio
I wouldn't presume to judge anything as critical as grain or hiss from an MP3. I definately get the point. A great sounding performance, sonicly and technicly trumps the medium and signal path.


New member
Wait a second...

My acoustic guitar sounds great, and I tune it up well, yet my guitar recordings still sound NOTHING like the instruments in this recording????

Reckon I need some 012's to get that "orchestra effect" since I dont have protools.


New member
How was the room those thing were recorded in? Was it a low end room (bed room basement etc.) or a 'real room'.

Massive Master
Teacher said:
How was the room those thing were recorded in? Was it a low end room (bed room basement etc.) or a 'real room'.

It was a stage - about 60 performers (70?) on "essentially" a 40x40-ish stage (different, when you take the proscenium arch and apron into the equation) with a 20' grid system taking over about 50% of the space up to the 30' ceiling. around 10, 10' panels of VERY heavy soft goods in the 20' wing space.

In short, a medium sized, but very dry, classic broadway style stage with a sprung wood floor (with a nasty resonance problem - Great for dancers, a nightmare for musicians).

Chris Shaeffer

Peavey ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sounds very good. It does sound a bit grainy, though- is that the mp3 encoding? The MD compression?

Maybe its the resonance I'm hearing, too. There is something a bit unrealistic about it. It does sound good, though.

Take care,


Mixing and Mastering.
Sounds like a score for an old film. Really dated sound, but sounds great. Add character to it since it sounds old. Would sound alot clearer with better convertors etc, but would loose out on that old feeling maybe.
Although recording a band of this type and size isnt that hard to acheive a good sound if the musicians are good and the room is right. Stick up a good few condensor mics to get a stereo spread and your laughing. and maybe some sm58s also.


Say Something Smart!
Hey John - Were you using omni caps on those Oktavas?
There's no way I would be able to get that kind of balance from my Oktavas with the Cardioid caps...