Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear SNR: Recording Interfaces

On the message boards the most common question asked is "I'm just getting started. What audio interface should I buy for my computer?"  or some variation on that theme. All the gear snobs inevitably have a lot to say about high buck options and the way one mic pre sounds compared to another. The simple fact of the matter is this. It doesn't matter.
You're new. At best you've got more than one cheap microphone at your disposal and probably something atrocious for speakers. You could spend all you want on something with super duper mic pres and dual pump action A/D converters but it just won't matter. If you're green you haven't got the chops yet to properly work over the stuff you're capturing anyway so you may as well not break the bank getting it in there in the first place.
You're at the stage in your career where you just need to absolutely murder some projects in order to get better. So go ahead. Your best investment at this point is your time. Learn how to get that second hand SM57 positioned to get the most out of it when you record your best friend's solo acoustic version of the latest A7X tune. Find out the limitations of gain structure while you make awful board recordings at your mate's rehearsal space. Buy a condenser mic and find out just how hard it is to get good sound out of the world and into a computer.
It gets better.
After a while you'll find that you know the limitations of your gear. You'll know this because you'll be better than the gear will allow you to be. That's when you know you've made a quantum leap and you're ready to get something that's better than you are again and start working up the next rung of the ladder.  But you can't make good multi-track recordings until you can make good one track recordings.

That's the reason that in every studio in the world, no matter what kind of highfalutin, multi-thousand dollar mics they have in their locker, you'll always find a humble 57 or two because people who've learned their craft started there and know exactly what they're good for. 

So to the younger members of the Brethren of the Knob and Fader I say: Don't spend more than $150 on an interface and then get out there and ruin some music! Go ahead. That's what it's there for! Save your money and invest your time. You'll be glad you did.

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