They say nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but perhaps the modern recording world has more than its fair share of rose tinted glasses - you don’t see too many computer sites waxing lyrical about wanting to recreate their old gear. I’m not suggesting for one minute that our desire to recreate the old stuff isn’t without merit, but it might be good for some of us old farts who actually used it to put some myths to bed. I was inspired to write this post after getting involved in a Facebook conversation with my old friend Nigel Bates, who like me lived through that ‘golden era’ of recording.
- It Sounded Better
Did it? It might be nice now to add a bit of channel noise, distortion, hiss, sample-rate or bit reduction to a track, but when we had no choice then we would have killed for a copy of Pro Tools or a software based sampler. I think those of us struggling to get a decent sounding sample into an Akai S900 would have thought the idea of trying to make something sound shite completely nuts.
- Things Were Cheaper Back Then
Hell were they! For what you get now with a basic copy of Pro Tools, it would have cost you a small fortune, in fact a mortgage to get what you needed. For what you pay for Pro Tools now you would have got a 4 track cassette based recorder. For what you pay for Logic Pro X you would have got a couple of reels of 2” tape.
- Things Were Built Better
Nope. I had a Moog that never stayed in tune and endless samplers with power supply issues. I also used a 2” 24 track tape machine that was endlessly having cards replaced. often mid-session. If you want to stop your heart then the sound of a 2” master tape snapping during rewind will do that to the strongest person.
- Things Were Simpler
I wish. Striping two 24 track tape machines with SMPTE and then getting them locked, just to get 44 tracks. No my maths are not wrong, each machine needed a track for the SMPTE code and then track 23 was left empty because of bleed. My favourite nightmare story is when one junior engineer dropped in on the SMPTE track by mistake in the middle of an album session whilst recording a vocal… he got his coat. These days 48 tracks seems so small, then it was an industrial (and expensive) operation to achieve.
- We Have All The Innovation Now
Like hell. I lived through the birth of digital recording, MIDI, sampling, DAWs, plug-ins, software product downloads, The Fairlight, Synclavier, Linn, Akai Samplers and MPC, virtual instruments, EMU, hard disk recording, Digidesign Sound Tools, Pro Tools, C-Lab, Steinberg, drum machines, the ADAT, SSL, total recall, digital reverb, FM synths, gated reverb, AMS, Lexicon, CDs, CDRs, DAT, Apple Mac and much more.
If you’re a fan of Monty Python then you will be familiar with the Four Yorkshiremen sketch. In essence it’s a parady of those who hark back to the ‘good old days’. When it comes to recording and music production they weren’t as good as most people would have you believe, but I for one wouldn’t have missed them for the world. Discuss.