Recording - January 2017 - 72

Guest editorial by Bruce Kaphan

was an easy way for me to share these experiences, but everyone has to hear with
their own ears to truly understand the significance of a particular tool.
I've always been interested in recording technology, and kept up with changes as
best I could. I had a very early ADAT recorder because I knew that being able to
take work home, saving hundreds of dollars a day in studio fees, meant being able
to craft recordings to my satisfaction vs. not having the budget to do so in a bona
fide studio. I could see that studio owners were starting to see the writing on the
wall-their tenure was in grave danger. And then came the DAW, and the explosion
of, well.... I can't take credit for authoring the descriptive "cartoon hardware"-
James Gangwer, head tech at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA, was the first and
only person I've heard use it to describe plug-ins. (He's old, too.)

What Are The Emulations Emulating?
Let me start by saying that I'm older
than most of you readers. I was 12
years old when The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper
was released. Though that album may
seem quaint by today's standards, on
June 1, 1967, it heralded an explosion
of creativity in music production fueled
by technological change. Suddenly, the
art and craft of recording began to play
a considerably more significant role in
shaping the art and craft of the music
being recorded. I was there with a ringside seat, and I was hooked for life!

Don't get me wrong: as I said above, I'm definitely pro-technology! Still, I have one
area where I can be a bit of a curmudgeon and pine for days gone by: the relentless
namedropping of vintage gear by modern software emulations and hardware knockoffs that may sound nothing like the originals. Marketers can be shameless about how
new gear emulates the Real Thing... where the name, and maybe the look of the
outer shell, are the only aspects that even nod toward the gear of bygone days.
I find the whole "new vintage microphone" thing to be particularly annoying. I am
seriously excited about a lot of genuinely new and original mics out there (especially
some of the ribbons!). My excitement dies in a hurry when I see inexpensive and not
always well-made mics claiming to offer the essence of the originals after which
they're supposedly modeled. This is where I wish I could share what I've heard!
Chances are good that you've heard recordings that were made using the vintage
microphones that mic guru Klaus Heyne refers to as "the big 5", namely the AKG

I feel strongly that in audio engineering there's just no substitute
for experiencing sounds with your own ears. And without this
experience, how is it possible to make meaningful comparisons
and then make well-informed purchases?
But I didn't start there-I first became
interested in playing music while I was
in single digits. Through adolescence in
the 1960s and 1970s, as I got to know
myself better, I discovered that I didn't
just love music; I equally loved the sound
of music. I discovered that I had an
innate ability to understand and operate
recording equipment. By the time I was
in my early twenties working as a musician, my recording hobby had become
a tandem profession.
Since my early days, I've had the
good fortune to work in some of the most
famous and well-equipped studios in the
USA, and experience sessions with some
of the best-known engineers and producers of the past few decades. I've had the
opportunity to get to know some really
great gear firsthand along the way; I
value that perspective very deeply, especially as new equipment offerings so frequently emulate gear that was first introduced during my childhood. I wish there
72

RECORDING JANUARY 2017

C12, Telefunken ELA M 251, Neumann U47, U67, and M49. Check out the amazing book Recording the Beatles by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew for a thorough reference of where some of these great mics were used, then for ear training purposes
go listen, preferably to a high-resolution recording.
I'm going to guess that many of you have never had the good fortune to have any
hands-on experience with any of these vintage mics. To me this is so sad, because at
least in my opinion, these mics are the benchmark of audio greatness. I feel strongly
that in audio engineering there's just no substitute for experiencing sounds with your
own ears. And without this experience, how is it possible to make meaningful comparisons and then make well-informed purchases?
The point of my ramblings here is simple. You owe it to yourself to dig deeper than
the hype and figure out a way to experience the mics (and other vintage gear) that
everyone emulates, before buying imitations and simply assuming they're "close
enough". Find studios that have the real thing, and book time to try them out by
tracking vocals, drums, guitars, whatever you love. Hear great mics through great
gear played back on great speakers. The cost of a few hours in a studio will save
you lots of money later, when you elect to get products with a genuinely good sound
rather than ones that simply claim they're as good as the real deal. Educate your
ears... so that when you buy, you know what you're buying!
Bruce Kaphan (kaphan@recordingmag.com) is a recording engineer, slide guitarist, songwriter, and curmudgeon-in-training in the San Francisco area. Visit him at
www.brucekaphan.com; he promises he won't tell you to get off his lawn.


http://www.brucekaphan.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - January 2017

Contents
Recording - January 2017 - Intro
Recording - January 2017 - Cover1
Recording - January 2017 - Cover2
Recording - January 2017 - 1
Recording - January 2017 - 2
Recording - January 2017 - 3
Recording - January 2017 - 4
Recording - January 2017 - 5
Recording - January 2017 - Contents
Recording - January 2017 - 7
Recording - January 2017 - 8
Recording - January 2017 - 9
Recording - January 2017 - 10
Recording - January 2017 - 11
Recording - January 2017 - 12
Recording - January 2017 - 13
Recording - January 2017 - 14
Recording - January 2017 - 15
Recording - January 2017 - 16
Recording - January 2017 - 17
Recording - January 2017 - 18
Recording - January 2017 - 19
Recording - January 2017 - 20
Recording - January 2017 - 21
Recording - January 2017 - 22
Recording - January 2017 - 23
Recording - January 2017 - 24
Recording - January 2017 - 25
Recording - January 2017 - 26
Recording - January 2017 - 27
Recording - January 2017 - 28
Recording - January 2017 - 29
Recording - January 2017 - 30
Recording - January 2017 - 31
Recording - January 2017 - 32
Recording - January 2017 - 33
Recording - January 2017 - 34
Recording - January 2017 - 35
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Recording - January 2017 - Cover3
Recording - January 2017 - Cover4
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