Monday, January 12, 2009

Some thoughts about gear addiction

The last couple of years, I’ve been investing quite some time (and money) into rethinking my personal studio. I’ve changed my main synths, from cheap virtual analog to rather pricey analog ones, I’ve changed my audio interface, bought some preamps, compressor and mixer, and only this year, got three different instruments. That behavior, surely, begs the question : am I suffering from gear addiction?

First point to address is : what do you need to make music? It’s always been my belief that you don’t need expensive instruments or gear to make music. A 3000€ guitar has never ever turned a mediocre musician into a good one, and the same is true with synthesizers. There are on this planet a number of people able to produce insanely bad music with outstanding electronic instruments. I can prove it. I’ve seen the Youtube videos. You have too.

That said, what a pricier, more sophisticated synth might grant you is more versatility and higher quality sounds. When you want to add Moog sounds to your music, and can afford to go hardware, the best choice is a Moog synthesizer… which comes at a price. But it remains that every synth, no matter how primitive, can be put to intelligent use and good music.

The second point is : how much is too much? What’s the limit between reasonable acquisition of valuable gear and compulsive buying of new junk?
Let’s say first that the good thing about hardware instruments is that they occupy space. Yes, yes… I know that software proponents argue about how the virtual aspect of soft synths marks their practical superiority. I actually believe in the exact opposite. The trouble with software instruments or effects is that they don’t take any place at all. That’s why whether you’re using illegal software or not, you always seem to wound up with 150 synthesizers and 300 different effects, barely using three or four on a regular basis.
Regarding hardware synths, well, you have to make choices. Up to my purchase of the Prophet 08, I would say that my choice of getting a new instrument or not depended on my musical needs. I wanted a strong, analog polyphonic synthesizer to serve as the basis of my sound.
Other instruments I’ve bought second-hand, like the Wavestation or the Juno, were more a question of having different sounds at my disposal. It’s not really that I needed them, but it’s handy to have different possibilities, sound-wise. A Juno doesn’t sound like a Prophet, and obviously the Wavestation is no Moog. So, depending on the sound I’m looking for in a particular song, I have possibilites.

Am I addicted? I don’t think so. I realise that from now on, every synth I’m buying, I don’t really need. But here’s the third point : it’s fun to buy new toys. For months now I’ve been looking for a Roland D50, or better, the D550 rack version. Why? Because that’s one instrument that made me drool when I was a teen. It was the kind of big, fancy, pro, oh-so-expensive synthesizer I was hearing on all these late 80’s records I loved, one I couldn’t dream of owning. Now with a little bit of luck you can find a D50 for 250€, which is ridiculous considering the power of the machine, and the original price tag. Do I need one? Hell, no. Would I just love to play these classic 80’s sounds of my childhood? Hell, yes.


the_bucket_brigade said...

don't buy a D50! you will end up killing it with your bare hands. it's probably thee most frustrating piece of junk in history. you go nuts trying to access those sub-menus

khoral said...

And I did!
And worse than the D50, the D550 rack
Indeed the interface is probably the worse I've seen so far
But it sounds great