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High Quality Recording for Cheap?

A handful of reviews written about “Home Studio Setup” have one common complaint. “This book is aimed towards hobbyists with a small fortune.” They complain because the book seems to spend a large amount of focus on ideal scenarios. The book is precisely designed to address and foil a specific myth. The following four statements can sum it up:

  1. A skilled engineer with high quality equipment can produce extraordinary results.
  2. A skilled engineer with low quality equipment can produce excellent results.
  3. An unskilled engineer with high quality equipment can produce mediocre results.
  4. An unskilled engineer with low quality equipment can produce horrible results.

The common thread is that no matter how good the equipment, it is the skill of the engineer that will always shine through in the end result. Part of what makes an engineer skilled is their knowledge of high quality equipment, their familiarity with acoustically musical spaces, and their trained ear. It is impossible to impart this amount of knowledge, experience, and training in a short book, but it is possible to point readers in the right direction towards becoming a skilled engineer.

Three chapters on acoustics are not for the sole purpose of requiring the reader to remodel their basement into an acoustically perfect recording studio. After reading these chapters, the reader should have a better idea of what to do when their mixes sound right heavy in their car, or why their vocal sounds phasey or washy. They should then be able to make some minor adjustments to the placement of their speakers and microphone in order to remedy these two problems. Understanding how the pros do it will always help the hobbyists. If you know what is required to produce high quality recordings, you will be able to produce quality recordings out of cheap equipment.

I am basically trying to debunk the myth that a $2,000 home recording rig can produce music that sounds as good as music produced in a million-dollar studio. It is simply impossible. What is possible is that if you put that $2,000 rig in the hands of the million-dollar studio engineer, they can probably make it sound like it came from a $30,000 studio. The earlier the hobbyists come to terms with this truth, the better. I guess that this is like I am telling them that there is no Santa Claus. Isn’t it better to tell them now and avoid having them spend hours starring at the fireplace wondering how Santa carried their big bike down that small opening last year. Rather than have a home recording enthusiast spend hours trying to figure out why their vocals don’t sound as good as the ones on the radio, I am telling them what is required to sound that good from the start. Now they can actually be happier with what they have, admitting that in order to sound the same, they would have to spend a bigger chunk of change (like $5,000 to $10,000, focus a little on acoustics, and learn about audio engineering).

I am not complaining, because I can tell that the majority of reviewers of my book have gotten this point with out requiring me to spell it out as I have done here. I don’t really know if there is a specific reason why this myth is perpetuated. Maybe, people are still in denial of the truth and don’t want to let go of the hope that they can produce professional records on a budget. Maybe those who sell the equipment want people to believe this myth in order to continue buying inexpensive semi professional gear. Or maybe hobbyists don’t want to admit that pros are pros for a reason, they have both knowledge and good gear. I really have no need to complain because I know where I stand and, based on my skill level and budget, have pieced together a home studio that I am happy with ($10,000 range with over ten years of experience in and out of big facilities and producing professional results). I’m also not complaining because there is a small part of me that still believes in Santa Claus.

-Ben Harris


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Issues -
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Here are all the big myths in the recording world and the truth.
Arguments -
What is the real answer to what everyone arguing about?

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