Well, this took longer than expected, didn’t it? Hopefully nobody was paying attention and didn’t realize that I said “coming soon” on part 2……but I guess that would mean……….that my audience isn’t listening. Irony is a humorous little bugger.
So we’ve figured out that your audience just doesn’t care if you hit all the right notes, used a real guitar or a fake one, but what about effects? Guess what……they don’t care.
Your EQ Just Isn’t “Vintage” Enough…
It’s awesome to be a part of this audio world, isn’t it? I mean, for so many years we fought the battle of cleaning up our source material, trying to remove the unwanted artifacts introduced by tape and non-digital signal paths, and we finally succeeded……….and now we all want to put the crap back in. In fact, we go OUT OF OUR WAY to find ways to sound JUST LIKE a piece of gear 20 years older than we are. We want that “tape” sound, and we want it EXACT. We won’t settle for a tape emulation plugin that just “fakes it”. We want the plugin to NAIL it.
Saturation is for sissies if it isn’t real enough……………..yet, nobody actually cares. Shocking, I know you couldn’t see that one coming, but seriously, have you ever had a fan approach you and ask you which saturation algorithm you used, or what tape emulation preset was chosen? Really? Has anyone ever walked up to you and told you “hey, that’s a great Lexicon sound you have there!”. Of-freakin’-course-not. They just don’t care. So why do WE care so much?
I guess the ears of an audio engineer are just more sensitive than most. It’s a perfectionist trait that many of us have. That desire to get the mix just right. But unfortunately, in the meantime, we get to the point where we aren’t satisfied unless it sounds like it was run through tape. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s an easy way to destroy a good mix as well. It’s an obsession that has created situations where engineer-X just HAS to use THAT plugin on every track, every time. It’s like auto-tune being used just because it’s available.
“Hey, Is That The Taj Mahal?”
Hopefully you were able to take an ego break after learning that your newly acquired sample-accurate gritty EQ plugin is irrelevant to your audience. I’m guessing you’ve now turned to your favorite reverb for reprieve. If you can’t impact your audience’s impression of you by faking analogue tape, then surely they will love to hear that you had access to the top venues in the world for your recording, right? I mean, how cool will it be when you can tell your friends that your recording takes place in THE Sydney Opera House?
Sorry, they aren’t buying it. In fact, until you mentioned it, they didn’t even know that you left your bedroom to record. They probably didn’t listen with the question of whether you recorded in “Dry Studio A” or “Dry Studio B”. They probably didn’t notice that you perfectly emulated an original 10 foot plate reverb in your closet.
In other words, they aren’t listening for that. Sure, a good reverb matters to you, and it can indeed affect the very core of your recording to make it more pleasant, or annoying, to your listener. But they aren’t concerned about that.
See the theme? It all comes back to the song. In this entire series, it’s about the song. It’s about the lyrics. It’s about the passion. They ARE listening to that.
Great plugins are always good to have. They let us do things that we couldn’t dream of 20 years ago. But don’t lose perspective on what we are doing. Don’t forget that to your audience, nothing you do on the other side of the glass really matters.