If you know me, then you know I’m not into expensive studio equipment. Is it because I can’t afford it? Well originally, when I was starting out, that was the biggest factor. I was a broke student working my way through school.
But these days I actually can afford all that expensive gear, and yet I still don’t buy things like $1000 microphones. Why? Because I can’t really justify spending 10x the money on something that really isn’t 10x better than its $100 counterpart.
Via Will Fisher Flickr
Let’s Be Honest For A Moment
Let’s cut through the silliness and be honest for a minute. There are two inherent reasons why we think that $1000 microphones should sound better than $100 microphones.
One, we see many of the world’s top producers and engineers using them (and much more expensive mics too) and they get really great results. Two, we all suffer from what I call Brand Snobbery, which is a condition where you are brainwashed into thinking you always get what you pay for, and that some brands are inherently “better” than other brands.
Be honest, if it weren’t for those two reasons, most of us would never even consider spending $1000 on a microphone when we could get one that does the exact same thing for one tenth the cost.
But You Don’t Believe Me
I hear it already, many of you don’t believe me. You think I’m simply trying to convince myself that a $100 microphone can sound as good as a $1000 microphone. I won’t come at you with experience and mic shootouts as my proof, even though I’ve worked in some of the world’s finest studios and recorded with some of the most sought after mics.
Instead, I want to put the burden of proof on you! When you record something (a vocal or acoustic guitar, let’s say) with a $1,000 microphone and then again with a $100 microphone, can you really say that the $1,000 microphone gives you a sound that is 10x better than the $100 sound? What about 5x? Does it sound 5x better than the $100 microphone?
Let’s just be conservative. Does the $1000 microphone sound even twice as good as the $100 microphone? Can you literally listen to the $100 recording and then the $1000 recording and say “Wow, this second recording sounds 2x as good as the previous one!”
It Sounds Crazy, Doesn’t It?
When you ask those questions out loud it just sounds crazy. There’s never been a scenario where I’ve tested two mics on a source and thought one was even close to 2x better sounding than the other. Maybe one mic sounds better for the given source, but never twice as good.
That’s just reality.
But in the fantasy that plays out in our heads (and on stupid audio forums) we are almost convinced we should save up and buy (or even worse, go into debt for) a nice $1000 microphone so we can get really professional sounding recordings. Admit it, we’ve all lived that fantasy.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Expensive Gear
Let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with owning expensive gear. It is generally well made and sounds great. But you know what else is well made and sounds great? Affordable “budget” gear.
I’ve bought and sold (and used for free) a wide variety of gear over the years and I can say from experience that the only difference between a $1000 microphone and a $100 microphone is the price.