Help! My Irrational Love Affair With Studio Hardware

04-22-2014 10:44 AM

Perhaps it is a mid-life crisis, or the pressure of work, or buying a new rack and seeing empty gaps that were begging to be filled, but after shedding all my studio hardware over a decade ago I’ve fallen in love with studio hardware again - I can’t get enough of the old, dusty, electricity loving gear.
Perhaps, it’s the same thing that stops me buying a Kindle (or any other e-book) and still has me filling shelves with real paper books? For me there’s nothing like holding a new book, even better smelling a new book… try it!
I talked about this on the Pro Tools Expert podcast last night with a couple of fellow hardware addicts Neil and James, after I asked the question, what’s wrong with me… but we didn’t have enough time for a full answer to that question. Joking apart, there’s something about hardware gear, as opposed to audio plug-ins that grabs some of us and won’t let us go.

Perhaps it’s what my buddy Vance Powell said to me “with digital two two plus two always equals four, with analog it might be just under four one time and then just over four the next, it’s the chaos that makes the difference.”
Perhaps as creatives we thrive with the tactile and somewhat unpredictable nature of hardware and the maths of a plug-in just leave us cold.
Don’t get me wrong I have the plug-in versions of all my hardware, in rational terms the benfits of plug-ins far outweigh the cons, on price, flexibility and sound. The UAD dbx160 sounds exactly like my hardware and so does their 1176 compressor, so this is not about the sound of a plug-in versus the hardware for me. Perhaps you are one of those people who swears blind you can hear the difference, if so enjoy your gift, my ears are obviously just regular old human ones.
The bottom line is that I’ve spent several weeks trying to rationalize my new found love of hardware, of me choosing to plug cables into a patchbay and mess around with the hardware, instead of just clicking a plug-in on the Pro Tools insert, I still have no answer to why I am restocking on hardware, I don’t have Ebay shares, so it can’t be that.

The fact is, I get far more pleasure out of messing around with hardware rather than simply clicking on plug-ins and presets, oddly enough it takes longer to do everything - and perhaps that’s what it’s all about, not some rose tinted trip back to my early recording days in the 1980s, but that I am actually creating something that is made with my own hands and not making music as if I was using an Excel spreadsheet.
Some of you reading this will think I’m nuts, I know Mike does… perhaps I am?