For the last three years TAPE OP was created on a Packard Bell PC computer, a 486 with a small hard drive. It's rather slow with a small memory. With the switch to having Substance Media Works publishing the magazine the text files needed to be in Microsoft Word 4 in a Macintosh format. The Substance crew were kind enough to send up an "extra" Macintosh Classic which was sitting around the offices. I went and got an old dot-matrix printer, new keyboard and new mouse for $90. I asked about used laptops and the woman told me I could get a faster laptop than the Mac I had for $169. This means that for $259 I can have enough computer power to edit this magazine and even bring some of the work home on the portable computer when I need to. Not a bad investment. In 1991 this computer was brand new, and probably cost a bit and was "state of the art" to some. Now you can pick them up for $100. People were laughing when I set it up at the office. But shit, it does the job I need to do and it was cheap.

My friend Craig and I were driving around the other day, checking out the monster Quad-Eight console that my studio has in storage (because it's too big to install!) and picking up some drum parts. Craig "manages" a studio in town here, although he also engineers there and owns a lot of the gear too. We were talking about how he and the studio's owner are looking to upgrade the console, maybe even to purchase an API (legendary mixing boards, if you didn't know). Anyway, one of the reasons that they want to have an API is that no one else in the area does, it would lend a "world-class" image to the studio, and that it would attract business. I can see their point, it makes sense to me, but on the other hand I disagree. I don't see that at the level their studio is at (less than $500 per day) that people expect or can demand that kind of gear and with the cost involved, it seems like they'll spend years paying that kind of gear off. That scares the shit out of me.

Gear is something that comes up all the time. Anybody who records is concerned about what they use to capture and create sound on. Is my deck working properly? Do I need a new one? Will "better" gear make me sound better? There's probably more options for purchasing new recording equipment these days than there has been at any time in history, and that's great. Plus, the fact that there's more stuff out there means there's more affordable gear than ever before. That rocks. But gear isn't really all that important. I mean, once you get past a microcassette*, recording mediums all have a certain quality that can work for making music on. This is true of the simplest Fostex 4 track cassette up to 48 tracks of 24 bit ProTools. They work and you can get sounds on them that are pleasing.

My point is that I think it's much more important what you are doing with this gear than what it is. I know that I reiterate this in every issue of TAPE OP but it's damn important. If you are doing home recording learn to maximize the potential of your 4 track. If you are running a commercial studio make the best possible recordings you can. When people hear it on record, that's when you'll get some calls.

So gear, you gotta have it to do anything, but don't look at as the be-all, end-all of recording. Just because you're recording on the best equipment in the world doesn't mean it's better than someone making an album on a 4 track at home. And the best thing? We can all learn from what other people are doing with the gear they've got...

*Actually, if anyone knows of an album recorded on a microcassette please let me know! I'm fascinated by the idea.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More