Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Craig Anderton’s Open Channel: Profiles in Gear Lust

Gear. We love gear! But there are many different ways of loving gear—so let us count the ways.

Craig Anderton.
Craig Anderton.

Gear. We love gear! But there are many different ways of loving gear—so let us count the ways.

Collectors have 47 different compressor plug-ins, but hey, you can never have too many compressors, right? So, it’s no surprise that their Google search history includes “best free compressor plug-ins.” They also have a hardware LA-2A and a legendary stompbox compressor to get that legendary “special legendary sound.” Of course, Collectors only actually use two or three of their compressors. Those dozens of others are on standby, waiting patiently for their chances to lead meaningful lives.

The joy of collecting is an end unto itself, and the beauty of being a Collector is that you can never run out of things to collect—only the money needed to collect them. But think about it: No one makes fun of stamp collectors for having too many stamps. I rest my case.

The Smart Shoppers’ budget requires gear triage, so prioritizing is essential. They spare no expense on vitally important items like monitors, mics and preamps. But after that, it’s all about the deals. They never buy software unless it’s on sale, and they comb the Net for free starter programs (e.g., IK’s SampleTank Free, Native Instruments’ Kontakt Player) that come with just enough cool sounds to tempt many users into expanding their systems with pay-as-you-go add-ons. Smart Shoppers know that with enough of these freebies, you can end up with a pretty good collection of sounds without paying a penny.

For hardware, it’s not surprising that the Smart Shoppers have never set foot in a music store—they live for Craigslist, eBay, Gear Exchange and Reverb. Their only shopping trips are to garage sales, and the occasional pawn shop. Oh, and grocery stores. You can’t eat gear.

The Sufferers for Their Art have plenty of gear but are constantly frustrated because it’s never sufficient to express the nuances of their musical genius. Their natural habitat is online forums, where they seek solace from others. (“Why does this program, which is marketed to professionals, not have [this one specific feature that nobody else cares about]? If the manufacturer doesn’t add this to the next update, I’ll punish them by—switching to a different DAW!”)

Nothing ever seems to work properly, and their computers crash constantly. That’s not surprising, because they feel they’re entitled to run a mastering suite plug-in on every track of a 140-track project running at 192 kHz. They’re also too consumed with inspiration to refer to the manual, so they instead choose to go to forums and ask why this process they need to do is so difficult—and then throw in a gratuitous insult concerning the competence of the program’s coders. The discussion usually comes to an abrupt halt when some kind soul points out there’s a much simpler way to do what they want, as explained on page 65 of the manual.

Open Channel: You Matter. Yes, You.

Open Channel: Is the Race to the Bottom Over?

Open Channel: The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta…Write About It

Completists crave order in their gear. If they find a Pultec EQP-1, they’ll immediately scour the world for an MEQ-5 to keep it company. If a software suite has “good-better-best” price points, they must have the most comprehensive version. This carries through to all aspects of their lives: if a Completist bought a collection of the four Indiana Jones movies on Blu-Ray, devastation occurs upon finding out there’s going to be a fifth movie that’s not in the collection. Rather than buy a Blu-Ray of the fifth movie, the Completist will wait until a new set of all five is available. Regardless, there’s one undeniable benefit to working in a Completist’s studio: There’s a helluva backline.

Conspicuous Consumers are right out of Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class, which posits that the upper class’s joy in life is flaunting their superior possessions to one-up the lower classes. For example, you backup your data. So do I. But Conspicuous Consumers archive their audio files exclusively in DSD 1024 format, because DSD clearly sounds superior, thanks to their handcrafted Japanese converter with a 700 Volt power supply (“headroom is crucial”). How fortunate that their $15,000 speakers, using unobtainium cables that cost $300/foot, can reproduce these ultra-fine gradations of sound that, tragically, you will never experience. When you mention there are free PCM-to-DSD software converters, their withering gaze drips with pity.

However, be careful not to confuse Audio Fanatics with Conspicuous Consumers. Audio Fanatics will stop at nothing to find gear that gives even a 0.001 percent sonic improvement—but they don’t weaponize high-end gear to lord over others. Here’s an easy test to tell the difference between the two: Ask what they think about recording at 384 kHz. Audio Fanatics will say that they think it sounds better than lower sample rates. Conspicuous Consumers will pause for an uncomfortably long time while staring at you, and then say, “Oh, do some people still record at lower sample rates? How…sad.”

And finally, there’s the Pragmatist, who chooses gear based on needs, learns it thoroughly, and is dedicated to recording and mixing with the best possible audio quality. But no further explanation is required because I suspect that describes most of the people reading this column.