“Grumpy Old Codger”

I spent this week working on an awesome new system. I love getting to work on new gear, finding out its capabilities and learning to find new ways to improve my projects. Spending time listening for improvements, or setbacks, seems to inevitably point out a shortcoming in the equipment that I thought was fine. It’s funny how we get accustomed to the flaws and character in the equipment we use. Other times we appreciate just how great our old toys were.

Fighting the obsolescence curve now seems to be an ongoing battle. For the first 20 years or so of playing the recording studio game, it seemed like the majority of my purchases were things that expanded the capabilities that I had. Lately though, it seems everything that I get is a replacement, instead of an enhancement to my gallery of toys. I guess that’s just the hazard of getting to be an old guy in this business! But there is one thing that has changed when buying new gear; I can’t seem to remember ever buying any equipment that didn’t work correctly for the first six months or year that I owned it, but then miraculously it began to function perfectly! Sure I’ve got plenty of things that worked poorly when I bought them, but they still work poorly, and I like that! That’s the way God intended pro audio gear to be made!

I realize the beauty of the new software based equipment, and the capabilities it has to grow and adapt to an evolving market. But the trend now seems to be the first six months or year of a product’s introduction is a secondary beta testing program. Unless the product is a version 2.0 or 3.0 it’s quite likely that all the features initially promised will not be fully functional. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a total gear slut and I want to play with anything they figured out how to plug in! But I do so knowing the hazards and expecting to spend time and energy to try to help the manufacturers release a better and more stable product. I just feel sorry for so many out there that jump into a new piece of equipment (with quite often a significant financial investment) only to find they bought themselves a ticket to hours on the Internet downloading new software, new drivers, talking in chat rooms, researching user forums, calling product support, not to mention a fist full of email’s, just to be able to use their new toy.

Let’s keep the “pro” in pro audio and keep the pressure on the big boys to conduct themselves in a “pro”-fessional manner. Let them know when they let you down, and let them know when they do a great job. The great companies out there that spend the time to research and test their products and bring them to the market as solid usable tools, need to hear from their customers too. My time as a front of house Engineer taught me one thing about people, out of a crowd of thousands of people, when one person is not pleased with your job, that’s the one your gonna hear from! If we need to pay a premium for the “pro” moniker so be it, I know that there are a lot of people quite willing to do so.
Another interesting thing occurred to me during my play time with the new toys, I realized that we’re now caught up in the same race as the computer manufacturers are. We’re now starting to look at an 18 month cycle of obsolescence (okay, maybe 24 months). Many of our purchases now need to be made with that in mind. Prior to this I always considered five years to be the practical life span for most of the major purchases I made. Luckily it seems that the price tag on most of the major items in the studio has dropped even faster! The power and the capabilities of the new technology are truly amazing. $2000 24 track machines, 100 track laptops, complete guitar rigs and B-3s complete with Leslie on a plug in, I guess I don’t mind the race so much after all!

Like I said when I started, it’s interesting how the new equipment sometimes actually improves your appreciation for your old favorite toys. I guess that works with music sometimes too, because this week I just started Producing a brand-new album with my old friends, the group “Poco”. All of us are enjoying the benefits that all the new technology gives us. Hard-disk recorders, digital consoles, multitrack editors, plug-ins, and some great new mics have made the process more fun than ever. But the greatest part is being privileged to share the experience of creating some great new music with a great classic band. Finding the balance seems to always be the key, great music, great gear, and great friends, make it all worthwhile. Wow, I forgot about great sex, man I’m not that old!!! Am I?

Michael D Clute – Producer/ Engineer/ Studio Ower
searching for his wife to explain that last line!