i.e. the Soapbox Page, i.e. TL;DR
I've been in this business for over 15 years now, and over the course of that time, have observed and experienced what I deem to be a toxic psychosis in the music production industry with regards to audio gear, i.e. a prevailing "conventional wisdom" that expensive and/or vintage gear is intrinsically superior to more modern and cost-effective gear. This is a false notion, mired in subjectivity, technical ignorance, misplaced nostalgia, and most of all - materialism.
There's a great irony in the history of our profession... for decades, up until the 1990s, the preoccupation with gear in the industry was solely on transparency and fidelity. We weren't even close to that ideal until the late 80s, when amplifier designs reached full maturity, and digital audio became firmly entrenched in recording studios and consumer devices.
The irony came about in the first decade of the new millennium, as the computerization of recording democratized the entire music production business, with near-perfect fidelity available to the masses... and in a Shawshank Redemption-esque twist, audio engineers decided they missed the "warmth" (i.e. coloration via harmonic distortion) of analog recordings. Audio engineers finally had what they had sought for so long... and they turned their backs on it.
Part of this was because the old guard of the engineering corp - who learned the trade on prohibitively expensive tape machines and analog mixing desks in the highly consolidated large studio era - were among the few to survive the flattening of the industry with their careers intact; and since they were much more highly skilled than the masses who began their careers during the still-blossoming digital era, it only made sense that their preferred workflow paradigm, along with their preferred gear, would become reverenced to near mythical proportions.
Some of the old guard successfully changed to an all-digital workflow, but many didn't. Though most have replaced their tape machines with computers running Pro Tools and AD/DA converters, many of these people still prefer to mix with analog desks and/or analog outboard processors. It's an expensive proposition that sounds all the more expensive when a finished product is in hand - but that is mainly due to the skill of the operator. Unsurprisingly, many of the new wave of engineers were easily bewitched by the notion that it was the gear that made great recordings, not the engineer's skillset; to say nothing of the music itself.
It is a well-known facet of human nature for people to want what they can't have... and given the eye-watering high cost of an analog mixing workflow, it's no surprise that a new generation of engineers, who are much more artistically inclined than technically inclined, would fall prey to this modern tale of the "Emperors New Clothes." Thus, the audiophile* mentality has very nearly overtaken the engineering mentality in music production.
(*An audiophile being defined by me as someone who loves audio gear more than they love music.)
It has also become increasingly common for up-and-coming musicians, who have some studio experience and have been taught the mythology surrounding the old-guard, to insist on recording through an expensive chain of analog gear, with very little understanding of what makes a great-sounding recording.
For me, the rub is this: the more musicians and engineers think that they need certain gear to make a quality recording, the more they remove the onus of responsibility from themselves for making great music. If things are not working out in the studio, they can blame something or somebody else, and I've never seen anything great or worthwhile come from that kind of thinking.
I subscribe to the philosophy outlined by engineer/musician Alan Parsons in his 2004 interview with Tape Op Magazine. Said he:
He went on to say, in relation to the last sentence in that quotation, that when a certain piece of gear or signal chain works in one scenario to spectacular effect, it causes others to think that combination will produce repeatable results in other situations. (Like the fabled Neumann U47 microphone in Capitol Studios that Sinatra and several other luminaries used... "if it worked for Sinatra, it MUST be good for me too!") But that's not how it works. The "magic" comes from the performer and how they interact with the studio and it's equipment, regardless of what that equipment is.
Am I saying gear doesn't matter at all? No. It does matter - to an extent. There's no denying that quality gear that gets the job done well with a minimum of fuss isn't a trivial investment.
It can, however, be very easy to rationalize spending what I call "stupid money" on mythologized, "magical" gear with prices that are grossly inflated relative to its functional value, with the expectation that it will provide a commensurate return on investment to the quality of an engineer's recordings - which, to me, is nothing less than a Quixotic quest to take the real work (and, ironically, the reward) out of the recording process.
Now, if one wants the sound of an analog recording, there is no better way to get that sound than with an all-analog workflow. But that's not what I'm about at Chalk Creek Sound. I'll freely admit that there's no way I'm going to sound like Al Schmitt without working in Capitol Studios, its fantastic acoustics, large spaces, reverb chambers, microphone selection, consoles, and tape machines, etc. - let alone Al's decades of incomparable experience. But the great secret is this - you don't need Al Schmitt and his gear to make a great recording. It just won't sound like he did it.
What is a great recording? A GREAT MUSICAL PERFORMANCE THAT IS UNIMPEDED BY THE RECORDING ITSELF. Chalk Creek Sound is fully capable of that ideal.
Would I own a vintage Neve 80-series console, a million dollar mic locker, and racks and racks of outboard processing gear if I could afford it? Maybe... I remain cautiously unconvinced about the utility of the latter compared to the capabilities of modern DSP processing, but the rest of it... hell yes! Regardless, I'm in this gig for the joy of making music... not to curate a gear museum.
Over the course of my career, I have discovered quality tools that are capable of fantastic results, while also keeping my spouse (mostly) happy. For those who must know, for some reason, here is the list of gear that I currently use:
And last but not least, awesome RGB mood lighting in the room and the workstation desk. As well as ClearSonic and Auralex acoustic treatment, both for absorption and diffusion.