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APK:
Article from the recent Sound On Sound. APK

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Why are we lusting after vintage gear?
SIMON GOGERLY

So the awards season is over for another year. Bucket-loads of Grammys, BAFTAs, Brits and Oscars have been delivered to their stunned and tearful recipients, while the unfortunate losers look on and applaud, wearing permafrost smiles. The audience agonise with the shortlisted nominees and argue amongst themselves as to the relative merits of each. Subjective opinion rules. CD and download sales will increase after the Grammys and Brits, box-office receipts and DVD sales will increase after the BAFTAs and Oscars.

One ceremony that has more to do with musical excellence than sales is the Music Producers Guild awards, at which I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted for my mix work on Paloma Faith’s Fall To Grace album. Although I came away empty-handed, it was a great event, and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with a lot of the studio people who I’ve got to know over the years. The undoubted highlight of the evening was witnessing Sir George Martin receive the Outstanding Contribution to UK Music Award, fittingly presented to him by the current Producer of The Year, Paul Epworth. Sir George’s work with The Beatles is the stuff of legend and he is undoubtedly the godfather of modern record production. There was also a lot of chat at the awards about Dave Grohl’s film Sound City, which concerns the studio where Nirvana’s classic Nevermind was recorded, using a vintage Neve 8028 console and tape. Grohl now owns the console and advocates analogue recording over DAW use.

The evening got me thinking about the trend of worshipping vintage studio equipment and recording methods, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of people are really missing the point. Don’t get me wrong, I love analogue gear and I love the sound of tape, but I also love Pro Tools and plug-ins. I have a studio with racks of analogue goodies and an analogue console, but it’s all modern... and here are my reasons: vintage gear is vastly overpriced and it goes wrong a lot. There, I’ve said it! The pricing factor is a combination of rarity and nostalgia. Everyone wants a Fairchild compressor because the Beatles used them, but they are rare and expensive to maintain. The same goes for vintage consoles and tape machines. Poor reliability is just a function of age. The argument goes: all the classic records of the ’60s and ’70s were made using this equipment and tape, so I need to use it to make a classic record. This is flawed logic. Of course they used that equipment, because it was the best available at the time. The Beatles were renowned for using each new generation of multitrack machines to their full potential, adding more and more tracks to more and more elaborate productions. For them, the equipment was modern. They were innovators, forever looking forward. Imagine what the Beatles would have done if they’d had Pro Tools? Would they have become creatively stifled by too much choice?

When I started working in a studio, 25 years ago, almost all the sessions were analogue. Editing was difficult and time consuming; copying and pasting parts was done using half-inch tape and a chinagraph pencil, and largely discouraged. Tapes were noisy and a lot of the equipment was unreliable. We could not wait for the new technology. I learned how to use sequencers and samplers the minute they arrived and never looked back. I can understand where the vintage gear fans are coming from but I think their passion is somewhat misdirected.

My suspicion is that the obsession with vintage equipment has more to do with a desire to impose limits and discipline on the process than anything else. The ‘limitless’ possibilities of modern recording and production can lead to laziness of performance and a lack of decision making. Musicians and producers are spending more time working alone on a computer rather than collaborating in the studio with like-minded souls. Bouncing ideas around with others can be the most creative and fun part of recording, and it’s easy to get bogged down in isolation. The lack of discipline that the technology can promote isn’t the fault of the equipment itself — it’s the fault of the users. Making music shouldn’t be about the equipment at all: it should be about the music makers. What kind of equipment you use doesn’t matter that much. What really matters is what you choose to do with it.
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Altus:
Interesting read. I completely agree with it.
Reminds me of those who collect tons of vintage synths, build a studio, and yet seemingly never find the time to produce any music with said gear.

doombient:
Well, the article was more about studio technology rather than synthesisers. In terms of production techniques, analogue -- or "vintage", for that matter -- can be a blessing and a hindrance at the same time. As nice as a perfectly aligned Studer A-80 24-track analogue tape recorder can sound at 30ips, with Dolby SR applied properly, it is a behemoth of a tape recorder. Not to mention the cost of recording tape and maintenance.

I for one would prefer a nice blend of analogue and digital techniques, like a great-sounding analogue desk with nice EQs and preamps (API, Neve, Cadac, Calrec, you name it) going straight into a high-end digital recording system (Apogee, ProTools...) to capture the essence of the analogue desk. Same thing with synthesisers -- a Waldorf Blofeld just doesn´t deliver the digital grit that makes the PPG Wave so loveable, Prophet 12 doesn´t get the classic unison Polymod stuff of a Rev. 3.3 Prophet 5 right.

I can´t understand the "vintage" fetish in studio technology, really. As nice as an EMT 250/251* space heater can sound in some environments, I wouldn´t want to be bothered with that sort of bulk and maintenance (*enter any other early digital reverb here). Same thing with Fairchild or Tubetech outboard stuff. There are plenty of modern renditions around (Chandler, Shadow Hill, Thermionic Culture, Avalon Audio etc.), and I guess most of these are still quite over-priced. Even worse when talking about vintage microphones...

After all, it´s the music that is being produced using whatever equipment. There are loads of great albums around that have been produced on cheap Mackie desks. In some circles, though, the studio has become either a thing to brag with, or you can write it off (or tell your local revenue office where all the beautiful money has gone you earned with your top-ten single).

What I find most irritating in this context is that most music which is produced using this extremely expensive type of studio gear is condensed into lossy audio formats and played back using the internal speakers of a mobile phone... pathetic.

Stephen

Julio Di Benedetto:

--- Quote from: APK on March 29, 2013, 07:29:30 PM ---Article from the recent Sound On Sound. APK

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Why are we lusting after vintage gear?
SIMON GOGERLY

My suspicion is that the obsession with vintage equipment has more to do with a desire to impose limits and discipline on the process than anything else. The ‘limitless’ possibilities of modern recording and production can lead to laziness of performance and a lack of decision making. Musicians and producers are spending more time working alone on a computer rather than collaborating in the studio with like-minded souls. Bouncing ideas around with others can be the most creative and fun part of recording, and it’s easy to get bogged down in isolation. The lack of discipline that the technology can promote isn’t the fault of the equipment itself — it’s the fault of the users. Making music shouldn’t be about the equipment at all: it should be about the music makers. What kind of equipment you use doesn’t matter that much. What really matters is what you choose to do with it.
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I feel it is the limitless possibilities that are the real issue.....there are too many choices and I have work at making my own musical choice very limited.  A few piece of good gear and a clean recording path.

To use another creative pursuit to illustrate.....when I was involved in photography some 25 years ago there was film and darkrooms.  Digital was not even dreamed of, well maybe a dream.  You had to know how to use a camera to its full extent to get good technical results. Automation did not exist. Same goes for the darkroom.  In a way somewhat archaic to todays photographic production yet it was so hands on.  Today I use a very good full frame canon camera with a beautiful piece of glass attached, what this camera can do technically is astonishing.  Automation everything.  How do I use it....completely in manual mode as I did 25 years.  Why will people pay $10.000 for a Leica camera.....because they are silly and have too much money, perhaps. " That much money for a camera and it does not even have auto focus"....I have heard this said.

Back on topic....


--- Quote from: doombient on March 30, 2013, 07:09:00 AM ---I wouldn´t want to be bothered with that sort of bulk and maintenance (*enter any other early digital reverb here). Same thing with Fairchild or Tubetech outboard stuff.

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Waves have recreated a hardware version of the Fairchild called Puigchild after said famous producer pictured below.  Interesting as Waves are leaders in creating analogue / tube / tape plugin recreations of vintage gear





--- Quote from: doombient on March 30, 2013, 07:09:00 AM ---What I find most irritating in this context is that most music which is produced using this extremely expensive type of studio gear is condensed into lossy audio formats and played back using the internal speakers of a mobile phone... pathetic.

Stephen

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I agree....also these gifted studio engineers have to contend with their work being slammed at the mastering stage, certainly with pop music, also not the mastering engineers fault.  So who's responsible then?

25 years ago few of use would be able to create, play, record and release music as we do today and though we may work in isolation as discussed, we are not alone....case in point, The Hypnos Forum!



petekelly:
I pretty much agree with everything here. Vintage gear is marketed in such a way to lead people to believe it will add that elusive 'sound' that will make out music complete. In reality, ideas and inspiration are much more desirable (irregardless of what gear people use), but these qualities cannot be bought.

'Mojo' schmojo...

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