DynoPopper X-10
Photo by Roman Sokal, courtesy of Audio Crowbar Dynamics.

Having recently spent more time working on the Tape Op Gear Reviews section of this magazine, one thought keeps creeping into my mind and I need to get it out:

Forming real, useable opinions on audio gear takes a lot longer than people think. Or, maybe what I should really say is, it should take a lot longer than we usually allot time for.

You know the scenario: A new piece of recording hardware or software is out in the marketplace. Let's call it the “DynoPopper X-10” for the purpose of this article. Maybe it's a version of a hard-to-find microphone, a limiter based on the Pythagorean theorem, or a plug-in that does something that was impossible three years ago. Whatever it is, if one works in this field – or is even simply a home-recording musician – eventually somebody will ask, "What do you think of that new DynoPopper X-10?"

Remember, recording gear forums are full of comments like, "I haven't tried the DynoPopper X-10 yet, but I heard that it's not as good as the DynoPopper X-5." Or, in the case of the common scenario where a poster does have access to the device, but has nothing similar on hand to compare it to, nor the background to even understand how the device works, they’re often likely to write, "I don't like it. It’s a lot more complicated than my $40 DinglePlopper." Or, my favorite, "I'm not gonna buy a DynoPopper X-10 because it's overpriced." Okay, thanks for that hard information.

Over the last 26 years, I have gone through a lot of different gear at Jackpot! Recording Studio. Many items would show up, seem pretty decent for a while, and then slowly begin to reveal their faults over time. Faults that eventually resign them to the "for sale" pile, such as intermittent switches that cut out during takes, hard to comprehend faceplates, audible switching power supplies, and even simply unbalanced audio connections. Some recording tools would stick around, others would go away.

The main point is that sometimes it took me decades to decide why I didn't trust (or, in some cases enjoy) using a certain piece of equipment. With more and more experience, I would also find that I was generally using intuition when choosing what mics to place on different sources and which preamps to patch them into. I wasn't having to access my left brain and calculate through all the choices available. Instead, I began picking out equipment on the feeling that it would likely sound right, using deeper knowledge based on prior experience. Building up this magical intuition? As you should be able to guess by now, that also took time. Lots and lots of time. I think it's a bit like how I approach listening to and enjoying music. Some albums and artists might take me years to fully come around to, but when I keep an open mind and keep trying, many times there's a musical reward. I now have another favorite album or artist.

Along the way, I also began to notice that I would find a use for an item and stick to it. Someone might tell me, "That's a great mic for bass amps," but all that I've used it on for ten years has been for recording washboards.

So, "Larry. No, really. What do you think of that new DynoPopper X-10?"

I'll have to wait and see. Do I even need to have an opinion? Oh, and if I do write a review of it for Tape Op, ask me about it again in ten years. Who knows what I'll say. It might, by then, be my favorite tool to use when recording underwater Siberian banjo orchestras.

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

Or Learn More