Thursday, 2 May 2013

Gear Talk

Welcome back to Turn Down the Shit Knob. As summer is the busy season, this Blog has been on hold, but now there is a bit more free time, I'll kick it off again.

I get asked a lot about what gear people should buy to get a good sound.
The answer to this question is never simple and depends on some important factors. The first question I always ask first is "What gear do you have already?"
A sound system is only as good as the weakest point in your system so there is no point in spending $20k on a pair of speakers if you are running them through a rubbish mixing desk.

People are often surprised by what I recommend they spend the most money on in their system. Marketers take advantage of audio naivety and will try and sell you an expensive pair of speakers telling you they will solve all your problems and make your sound system sound amazing.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the quality of your speakers actually has the least impact on the quality of the overall sound relative to the other gear in your system.

Over the next few weeks I'll go through all the components of a sound system and highlight where you should invest the most money and how to tell if the gear you are looking to purchase is good or not (without even listening to it).

My list in descending order of the most important components of your sound system are as follows:
  • Cables 
    • Your system is only as good as the worst quality cable in the system, one dodgy cable is all it takes to ruin a performance, never skimp on cables, ever.
  • Microphones
    • This is where the signal begins, if you have rubbish microphones, then you will be battling uphill to try and get the sound you want. Good microphones unfortunately cost good money and eventually they may wear out.
    • This category extends to DI boxes and any other source of signal.
  • Amplifiers
    • The amplifiers are the engine room of your sound system, don't underestimate the difference a good amp will make to the sound, especially as you start to crank the volume up.
  • Mixing Desk
    • People are often surprised how far down the list the mixing desk is in priority. The reality is that if you have good cables, good microphones and good amplifiers you significantly reduce the 'fixing up' you need to do on the sound. The mixing desk provides the icing on the cake, but if the components above it in the list are rubbish, the best mixing desk in the world won't save you.
  • Speakers
    • There they are, right down the bottom of the list where people least expect to find them. Yip, that's right, the speakers make the least difference to the overall sound quality (assuming they are not blown and function as they were originally designed). People often wrongly focus on the speakers as being the most important component of the system as they are the part that's always visible.
Over the next few weeks I'll go through this list and and offer advice on how you can find the best components for your money and how to tell if what your are buying is actually good or not based solely on the published technical specs. Hopefully I will convert the technical jargon that most people gloss over and ignore into plain English that you can understand.