DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:
“How dare you suggest my equipment is bad!”….
This is the subtext that seems to permeate many discussions on audio equipment…and it concerns me a tad.
Before I go any further, I should make one thing perfectly clear, this particular entry isn’t gonna be about audio equipment. I mean, not really. Kinda. I won’t mention specific names of audio equipment. I mean, I will, but not in the context of recommending them. I mean, I will kinda but I…okay, just….just listen. Or read, if you’re not listeni–I mean…ugh…just move on. Bottom line, it’s more about honor and integrity.
If you’ve been in VO for more than two minutes, you’ll know that there are countless forum posts, forum discussions, Facebook groups, online tutorials, and general buzz about recording equipment. What a microphone is, what a preamp is, what an audio interface is, what a mixer is and whether or not you need one, mic positioning, acoustic materials, proper computer set-up, appropriate noise floor, whether or not Pro Tools is overkill for VO, the best pieces of equipment to buy…the list could make your head explode if you’re not overly interested in the technical details. I wasn’t at first, but came to be obsessed with the technical details. Firstly because I found them interesting, and secondly I wanted to translate the endless chatter that there seemed to be on the internets about this topic.
As I said earlier though, I’m not going to talk about audio equipment. Rather, I want to talk about a subtext that seems to be emerging from all this chatter. You see, what struck me about all this chatter is just how heated it could get. It starts out as general information, then somewhat passionate, then heated, and on select occasions, it evolves into spiteful back-and-forth arguments over what equipment is the best. I like to believe that I’ve never been in an “internet fight,” but the closest I ever got to one happened a year or two ago when someone took issue with a suggestion I made about audio equipment on a forum. I backed out when I sensed that what started out as a discussion began transitioning into a somewhat bitter debate, but I remember being confounded as to why the discussion had taken such a bitter turn…I was just speaking my opinion, right?
Well, ever since then, I’ve been hesitant to participate in discussions about proper audio equipment. I won’t completely shy away from them, but I’ll only talk about them in general terms, because I’ve learned that talking about audio equipment on a VO forum can be like bringing up religion or politics at a casual cocktail party…people get overly touchy about it. I can totally understand why people would get touchy over things like religion or politics, but it took me a while to figure out why people would get touchy over audio equipment.
I don’t claim to know exactly why people get touchy over it…but I have a working theory.
You see, it gradually occurred to me that people who get offended by statements such as “Brand X of microphones really aren’t that great”…are people who use Brand X of microphones. People who get offended by statements such as, “Mixer Y adds way too much noise to your audio chain”…are people who use Mixer Y. Whenever a specific line of audio devices are put down, the people who use that specific line get offended, because they see the unintentional (or sometimes intentional) subtext of, “The audio equipment you use to do your job is sub-par.” In other words, my theory is that people get offended, heated, passionate, or otherwise riled up in discussions about audio equipment because the subtext of honor and integrity in one’s job seems to surface.
So, let me tell you my stance on this: do what works.
I had an acting teacher once who went over the many different methods of acting with us, and during different periods of our class, we would focus on the different methods. At one point, we were focusing on the Stanislavsky method, and it really wasn’t doing that much for me. So the teacher told me afterwards, “I’m telling you to do it just because that’s what the class is focusing on right now. In real life, you should just do what works. If the Stanislavsky method works for you, great. If it doesn’t, then what the hell are you trying to accomplish by using it? Isn’t your primary intend to give a good performance? Do whatever works!”
So, I could tell you that I record in a Whisper Room, and that I took out the acoustic foam in exchange for Owens Corning 703 panels rapped in Guilford of Maine fabric. I could tell you that I use a Blue Baby Bottle mic most of the time (and love it), that I’m a condenser mic purist, that my mics are run through a DBX 286A preamp into a MOTU Ultralite mk3 Digital Hybrid audio interface, into a Mac Pro Tower via Firewire, and that my devices are power-conditioned by an APC H10 power conditioner, and that I listen to my audio through M-Audio BX5a deluxe active reference monitors…
And what have I accomplished in telling somebody this? Relatively little. Everybody’s situation is different. Their voices are different, their recording environments are different, their budgets are different…it’s all so very diverse. So for that reason, I love talking about technical stuff, but you will never catch me defending my choices to the bitter end. I use what I use ’cause it works for me, and you should use what you use ’cause it works for you.
And plus…we all have to keep in mind, that when we send our audio off to clients, they’re not thinking, “Oh it could use a little bit of a boost on the lower ends to give it more umph and bass power.” They’re just listening to it and going…
“Uh……………yeah. Yeah, sounds good.”
PS: Yeah, I know “internets” is not an actual word, but if our President said it though…it counts.