High Quality Recording for Cheap?
Many people seem to think that there is no need to go to a professional recording studio or pay for an experienced engineer to record and mix your music anymore because anybody can buy the equipment to do it at home. There is some partial truth to this because there are amazing things that you can do with a simple home studio setup, but of course there is still a benefit to better equipment and a trained and experienced engineer. The following four statements sum it up:
A skilled engineer with high quality equipment can produce extraordinary results.
A skilled engineer with low quality equipment can produce excellent results.
An unskilled engineer with high quality equipment can produce mediocre results.
An unskilled engineer with low quality equipment can produce horrible results.
The common thread is that no matter how good the equipment, it is the skill of the engineer that will always shine through in the end result. Part of what makes an engineer skilled is their knowledge of high quality equipment, their familiarity with acoustically musical spaces, and their trained ear. It is impossible to impart this amount of knowledge, experience, and training in a book or single website article, but it is possible to point learners in the right direction towards becoming a skilled engineer.
Acoustics Are Important
It’s not just about the gear. Understanding how sound works, moves, and reacts in a room all help an engineer to better capture a sound. An understanding of acoustics will also help a student of recording have a better idea of what to do when their mixes sound rightside heavy in their car, or why their vocal sounds phasey or washy. They should then be able to make some minor adjustments to the placement of their speakers and microphone in order to remedy these two problems. Understanding how the pros do it will always help the hobbyists. If you know what is required to produce high quality recordings, you will better be able to produce quality recordings with cheap equipment (statement #2 above).
Myth vs Reality
It’s simply a myth that a $2,000 home recording rig can produce music that sounds as good as music produced in a million-dollar studio. It is simply impossible. What is possible is that if you put that $2,000 rig in the hands of the million-dollar studio engineer, they can probably make it sound like it came from a $30,000 studio or even $100,000 studio. The earlier the hobbyists come to terms with this truth, the better. This might be like saying that there is no Santa Claus, but isn’t it better to say it now and avoid having kids spend hours starring at the fireplace wondering how Santa carried that big bike down that small opening last year. Rather than have a home recording enthusiast spend hours trying to figure out why their vocals don’t sound as good as the ones on the radio, they just have to first learn what is required to sound that good from the start. This will make them happier with what they have, admitting that in order to sound the same, they might have to spend a bigger chunk of change (like $5,000 to $10,000), focus a little on acoustics, and learn about audio engineering.
I don’t really know if there is a specific reason why this myth is perpetuated. Maybe, people are still in denial of the truth and don’t want to let go of the hope that they can produce professional recordings on a budget. Maybe those who sell the equipment want people to believe this myth in order to continue buying inexpensive semi professional gear. Or maybe hobbyists don’t want to admit that pros are pros for a reason, they have both knowledge and good gear. No matter how much you try to cut corners, the skill of an engineer will always shine through.