At a certain level, you might be wondering if you need some more analog gear to increase the quality of your mixes and production. You probably have that nice picture of those big studios in LA or New York, full of amazing hardware gear. Attractive, isn’t it ? But do you really need it to improve the quality of your music ? Most of the time, no. But it really depends on your situation.
In this article, we will make a list of all the reasons why you should buy some new hardware gear, and why you shouldn’t. Keep in mind, by reading the article, that every information is there to help you. But you will certainly need to adapt it to your own situation.
Are you ready ? Leeeet’s go!
A. Beginner in sound engineering ? It’s a big NO
1. Your ear is not trained enough
If you started to work recently in the music production world, your ears are probably not trained enough to hear the difference between analog and digital sound. Consequently, buying and using some hardware audio gear will only give you more frustration than satisfaction. Because you will not hear the difference with the plugins you used in your DAW.
You can find a lot of ear trainings on the internet. Some of them are free and extremely helpful. This type of training will help your ears to listen to music differently and to hear really small details more naturally. You can sometimes feel the first improvements after 2 or 3 months of training.
2. It will cost you more than what you earn
Analog gear is not cheap. It’s often tough to find a good piece of audio gear below 500$.
Now, let’s say you decide to buy a Neve 8801 Channel Strip for 3000 $. You install it in your home studio and, great, it works. But is there anything that could potentially make you earn those 3000$ you spent thanks to your brand new Neve compressor, in the next 6 months ? If you think that it could, well, you can think about it. But most of the time, the answer will be “no”. In this case, it’s preferable to keep your money for other things like education (Mix With The Masters, Nail The Mix,…)
3. You will lose time and energy
If you’re novice as sound engineer or producer, you probably don’t understand everything about audio yet. Especially about analog audio. Which means that you will lose a lot of time by understanding how your piece of hardware gear works, how to set it up correctly in your studio, how to make good parameters recalls and, simply, how to use it efficiently
The time and the energy you will spend by figuring out all this stuff should be used for something else. For example, you could spend more time analyzing how the plugins you use everyday work. Sometimes, you can find amazing secrets about your favorite plugins just by digging a little bit more deeply.
B. Intermediate level in sound engineering ? You can maybe think about it
Before analyzing this situation, let’s agree on the term “intermediate level”. At this level, you have customers that you work for. Not a lot, but you have a certain revenue that allows you to earn a certain amount of money per month. If you stand below that situation, you should refer to point A. if not, let’s see what you can do!
1. “My new analog equipment will bring me more customers” : Wrong !!
A lot of people think that, by buying more and more analog gear, they will have tons of new customers in their pocket. Those people think that a simple piece of hardware equipment can transform you from a random sound engineer into the best engineer in the world.
Those thoughts are wrong and extremely unhealthy. Actually, all that matters is the quality of the end-product. Whether you’re a producer or a sound engineer, you don’t need to buy hardware gear if you think that the quality of your work is already good.
2. Don’t be attracted by the simple fact to own some audio equipment
If you love music and especially music production, you will fall into the trap every sound engineer once fell into : Buying gear, just for buying gear.
That’s a fact, analog gear is attractive and, for most of us, extremely exciting. You maybe once reached that point where you just scroll down a tons of pages on Sweet Water or Guitar Center to find that unreachable piece of gear that you deeply know that you’ll never buy. This exactly the trap where you can’t fall into. Never forget to ask yourself this question : “How that piece of equipment will improve the quality of my music ?”
Think about it!
3. Something missing in your mixes ? You can think about it…
“Intermediate level” is a very large way to describe the real level you sit at in sound engineer and/or production. You might be really close from that third stage which is simply the professional sound engineer.
At that point, you might sometimes feel that you need to add some analog sound to your mixes. If you meet that feeling increasingly, you might think about buying some new analog gear for your studio. But…
Before diving into hours of research for a new piece of gear. Think about purchasing the software emulation of the piece of gear you’d like to buy. Brands like UAD, Slate Digital or Plugin Alliance build, every year, amazing emulations. And the sonic result of their plugins tends to be increasingly closer of the real piece of equipment they emulate.
If you think that you have to buy hardware gear to get the sound that you need, our best advice would be to think first about brands that copy the best audio equipment of the market. Klark Teknik does that at a very low price. Warm Audio, on another scale, does that as well.
Klark Teknik products are an amazing starting point in the analog gear field. They are very close from the piece of equipment they copy, especially the 76-KT compressor, that copies the great 1176 by Urei.
C. Professional sound engineers, it’s up to you!
At this level, you’re making a living with your passion in the music field. You have enough customers to provide you, and maybe your family, a financial comfort. And, honestly, at this point, you probably have enough experience to determine if yes, or no, you need to buy some new outboard gear for your studio.
In conclusion, don’t be attracted by the simple fact to own a piece of hardware gear in your studio. Don’t spend hundred or thousands of dollars in something that will make you earn the tenth. And more importantly, don’t think that the quality of your music will suddenly sound clean and professional thanks to your hardware gear.
There will be a stage in your career where you will be able to judge entirely by yourself if you need more hardware gear for your studio, or not. But, below that stage, just be patient… And…
HAVE FUN !!