Kevin Alexander illuminates the truth about expensive recording gear.
Sound Engineer | Technologist | Co-founder of Singdaptive
This week’s Tips from the Team are all about vocal recording gear! We asked sound engineer, technologist and Singdaptive co-founder, Kevin Alexander, to compile some advice on choosing gear to record your vocals.
Access to Expensive Recording Gear – Is It Necessary?
Tips from the Team Transcript: What if you want to record and you don’t have any access to good, expensive, awesome, amazing recording gear, and you’ve only got access to basic, cheap stuff? What do you do? What’s going to happen? And the answer is, if you don’t tell anyone: nothing. Nobody’s going to notice. Seriously, if I recorded you a song right now, and I used $500 worth of gear, and some of it was probably broken, and then I used $20,000 of the best, newest gear that had the best reviews on Amazon to record the same song, you know what? If you have good experience using that equipment, a good sound engineer and/or a good musician can make either the $20,000 gear or the $500 gear sound good.
So, don’t worry about how expensive the gear is. Instead, worry about your relationship with that equipment. You need to be familiar with the equipment you’re using in order to get a good recording. Now, hey, if you have the opportunity to get trained in a studio that had a really expensive compressor that was built in 1952, that just works awesome and that’s the one you know, you know what? Lets say that compressor was $20,000, that might be the best way of you getting a great sound – not because of how expensive it is, but because you know the equipment. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with expensive gear either.
What If You Don’t Have Access to Good Recording Gear?
But if you don’t own or know any equipment yet and you’re starting out, don’t worry about this idea of the best gear or the worst gear. The truth is, when it comes to gear, so much of this stuff is all the same. For example, buying an audio interface – this is a bit like buying milk. It might be a slightly different flavor, one might have a cow on the box, the other one might have flowers. It’s milk. An audio interface is not a super complex piece of equipment. Now, of course, there’s different variants, but if you’re starting out and getting going, and you haven’t used the equipment before, go with the one that you can buy at your local store, go with the one that has Amazon Prime shipping for free. You’re probably going to be okay. That would be my recommendation. I’m not saying to never worry about what you go and buy. If that’s the first question you have, just park it. Just get out there, get what you can afford and get going.
Buying a Mic – Which One to Get?
Tips from The Team Transcript: Here’s a math problem for you, a very common math problem when buying microphones. If I have a $100 microphone and I have a $1,000 microphone, how many times better is the $1,000 microphone than the $100 one? Is it 10 times better because it’s base 10 linear math? Is it that? Or is it different? The answer is, it’s different and basically, you can’t answer this question. You could buy a $1,000 microphone and it may be a good microphone for you or it may not. It might even be a great microphone for somebody else and it might suck for you. The price of the gear is not the most important thing, especially when you’re getting going with music. It just is not. The biggest thing you want to pay attention to with microphones, as far as quality and money for your dollar is concerned, is to really know what type of microphone you want or need for what you’re doing.
Do you want a highly directional microphone because you want isolation? Or do you want a microphone that sounds as natural as possible and isolation doesn’t matter? You may want a cardioid or depending on what you are doing, you may even have an opportunity to use an omnidirectional microphone. So, know what type of microphone you’re going to buy first, and that’s the most important thing because that actually can vary the price a lot. Knowing what type of microphone you’re buying is really, really important. And then, my second tip would be to make sure you’re trying out that microphone in the setting that you’re going to be using it in.
For example, I often say if you’re using a live microphone, but you’re somebody who never handles a live microphone, handling noise is probably not as important to you. And sometimes, not always, what a very cheap dynamic live microphone can do for handling noise v.s. a more expensive one is sometimes the cheaper one doesn’t have as good of isolation of the handling noise. But that might not matter to you because you might never touch your microphone. So, why spend $400 for that if you don’t need it? So, just think of your needs first, not the price.