What to buy?

One of the biggest questions you will run into when first putting everything together is what to get? There’s no easy answer, and it’s different for everyone because there are many factors that come into play.

How much money do you have? Your decisions will be a lot different if you only have $5000 than if you have $50,000. Not more difficult necessarily – just different.

What kind of music and venues do you want to work? An acoustic guitar duo in coffee shops is vastly different than a metal or prog band in 2000 seat clubs.

How big is your truck, and how much space are you going to have in anticipated venues? Are you going to fly any of it at any venue?

What kind of monitor system are you planning on providing? If you plan on providing only 3 or 4 monitors on 2 mixes, your requirements are going to be a lot different than if you want to be able to provide 6 monitor mixes plus sidefills.

If you’re going to be working with the same band exclusively, you can tailor your system to their needs, which makes it easier for you. But, if they aren’t playing regularly enough, or pay enough, to allow you to do this, you need to be able to meet whatever requirements you will run into as you work for a variety of artists, in a variety of rooms. If your capabilities are limited, you will lose work. Never, ever, mislead potential clients about your capabilities. It is better in the long run to not take a job than it is to misrepresent what you can handle.

Every part of your system can be a bottleneck which will limit what you can do, and how good it sounds while you’re doing it. Because of that, it doesn’t make sense to spend a huge amount of money on one part, and skimp on other parts. Like the proverbial chain, a system is only as strong as (and will sound as good as) its weakest link. It wouldn’t make sense, for example, to get a Heritage Series Midas console, and then only have enough money left to buy some cheapo speakers and amps. It would be far better to get a somewhat lesser mixer and spend more on getting adequate speakers and amps.

You’ll need to seriously think about what sort of system you want to be able to field. The big questions are: How many channels, how many monitor mixes, how many monitors. If well thought out, everything else is scalable. Bigger, or smaller, venues can be accommodated by taking in more, or fewer cabinets and amp racks, for example.

Don’t blow your mic budget on just a few expensive mics. It’s better to have 25 SM-58s in your mic kit than to have one U-87.

At this point, it might be good to mention that there is basically two general grades of equipment you will find from two entirely different markets. There is what is called the “MI” (Musical Instrument) grade gear. This is generally made by the same companies that make guitar amps, guitars, stomp boxes, etc. It also includes the “semi-pro” grade of equipment. These pieces are often built to provide features at the expense of sound quality or durability. It tends to be somewhat cheaper, and (more importantly) sound worse. It is not built as ruggedly as gear from the “Pro Audio” market. Pro Audio equipment is generally somewhat more expensive (even at the lower end of the pro audio scaled), is made by companies who specialize in pro audio gear (and may have been providing tour-grade gear for decades to the biggest sound companies), and tends to be much sturdier, and easier to repair.

You do NOT get “something for nothing.” You DO “get what you pay for.” You will have better luck (and better sound) with a bare bones piece of high quality equipment from a pro audio manufacturer than you will from an equivalently priced feature-laden offering from an MI grade piece. Why? I know that this sounds rather odd to say. The reason I say that is because the pro-audio piece is almost certainly going to sound better (often SIGNIFICANTLY better), is going to be much sturdier, and be easier to fix. You will be able to get longer useful life out of it because not only will it last longer, but the sound is going to be better, so you won’t be as anxious to replace it. In the long run, it will be cheaper.

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2 Responses to What to buy?

  1. […] The Traffic Header created an interesting post today on What to buy?Here’s a short outline One of the biggest questions you will run into when first putting everything together is what to get? There’s no easy answer, and it’s different for everyone because there are many factors that come into play. How much money do you have? Your decisions will be a lot different if you only have $5000 than if you have $50,000. Not more difficult necessarily – just different. What kind of music and venues do you want to work? An acoustic guitar duo in coffee shops is vastly different than a metal […]

  2. […] admin wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptFree time, Linux Audio, and Songwriting? … You will be able to get longer useful life out of it because not only will it last longer, but the sound is going to be better, so you won’t be as anxious to replace it. In the long run, it will be cheaper. Tags: Audio, Equipment, Musicianship, Sound. This entry was posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2009 at 3:09 pm and is filed under Audio. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. … […]

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