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Thread March 29, 2014 editorial: comments

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1 March 29, 2014 editorial: comments

In the Gary Katz interview we posted this week, he talked about how much faster and easier it would have been for Steely Dan to produce their music (in the 1970's) if they'd had access to digital technology of today, especially the ability to move stuff around via editing. He said he didn’t really miss the analog days at all, from a technological standpoint.

It got me thinking about how technology has changed our workflows in the studio compared to the days when tape ruled. Our capabilities have increased by a huge amount, but so has the complexity of our setups. And though I certainly wouldn't want to give up the amazing studio tools we have now, there are occasions when I wish for a simpler recording experience.

Because our computer-based systems are typically mashups of hardware and software from a variety of manufacturers, and due to the fickle nature of computers and software, and the fact that updating one application or operating system can sometimes cause another element in the system to stop working properly, and so forth, today’s musicians do spend an inordinate amount of our studio time troubleshooting instead of recording.

Of course, when everything is working as advertised, it’s amazing. But when I’m watching the "spinning beachball of doom" appearing constantly on my Mac's screen, or I’m trying to figure out why I’m not hearing audio when I hit "play" — even though I haven’t changed anything since the last time I turned on my studio — I start wistfully thinking about the old days when my studio was based around hardware and was more predictable — you pushed a button, and it did what it was supposed to.

I think there is some validity to the idea that back then, one could concentrate more on being a musician, because thanks to that predictability, we didn’t have to focus on so many other moving parts, figuratively speaking, in our studios.

That being said, I would never want to go back to a tape-based studio, and give up all the powerful processing and editing tools and virtual instruments that I have at my fingertips today. That is, except for when I turn on my computer and get a blank screen; or my DAW can’t find the audio files from a session, even though I haven’t moved any of them; or when I'm crawling under my desk to reconnect a PCIe-card in my CPU that was A-OK until it suddenly became DOA. I guess that’s just the price we pay for all the amazing studio power we have.

As always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this topic, and anything else related to Audiofanzine’s content, so please feel free to comment via our forums.

Mike Levine

I could not agree with you more! I was not "fortunate" enough to grow up around tape recording hardware; however starting out with a br-900, I know plenty about working with what you have and definitely appreciate my current gear and setup (Mac OSX with Logic Pro X and standard USB interface).

I do think often of the days when I used to own a Roland VS-2400CD with REAL faders and nobs. But, again I was faced with keeping that wonderful yet limiting hardware or upgrade and have countless plugins and presets at my disposal.

Every day I still have that inner argument about hardware vs software and every day I seem to kow tow to the benefits of software at the cost of a more hands on approach. I am considering purchasing a Presonus 16.0.2 which I hope can be more like the VS-2400 and merge software and hardware a lot better.

Any thoughts?
I had to add another post that automatically sends me an email when you reply...never mind this message...
I think it sounds like a good idea. A digital mixer like the PreSonus will certainly give you more of a hardware-based experience, as you'll be moving actual knobs and faders. So in that sense, it will be more like your Roland. Of course, you'll still be dealing with the potential instability of DAW software, plug-ins and a computer, but the combination with the 16.0.2 will give you a pretty powerful system that's more tactile in nature than one controlled only by mouse and computer keyboard.