But when it comes to making a great-sounding record, or putting on a high-impact sonically impressive live performance, another factor comes into play: gear. Top-notch microphones, pre-amps and audio interfaces are essential, industry experts say.
While the notion of having to rent or even buy multiple pieces of equipment might seem looming for indie musicians, there’s some good news: They can make records that don’t sound cheap, on the cheap. And they can sound great on tour without lugging heavy pieces of equipment.
Don’t Cut Corners
Gary Ladinsky has learned a lot about pro audio since he started working as an engineer with the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles in 1971, and during his time working with Van Morrison, the Moody Blues, Cheap Trick and other iconic rock bands.
His biggest piece of advice for indie musicians? Don’t cut corners with rental gear.
“Would you want to pull out an album 30 years after it’s made and have it sound crappy and distorted?” he asks rhetorically. “If I’m an artist and it’s my album, I want the best equipment possible, since the album is going to be around for the rest of my life.”
As the owner of Design FX Audio, which specializes in gear rentals for audio recordings, Ladinsky is proud to say that his company was one of the first to commit to Pro Tools.
“We could see the writing on the wall,” he says.
What Ladinsky has found over the course of Pro Tools’ lengthy dominance in the recording field––it’s been in vogue for about 10 years now––is that once musicians realize they have a great recording system on their hands, they discover they want equally strong microphones, which are harder to come by.
In fact, according to Ladinsky, a Telefunken ELA M 251E large-diaphragm tube condenser mic can run upward of $25,000.
And that’s where a company like Design FX Audio comes in, helping musicians to fill in the gaps without breaking the bank. Ladinsky’s company charges only $150 for a daily rental of the aforementioned Telefunken, and charges only $125 for Neumann KM-54s, KM-56s, M-147s, M-149s, U-47s, M-49s, M-50s and U-67s; and Sony C-800 Gs.
“People want a good front-end coming into their digital recording system,” he says. “Especially for vocals, you want to get the best sound into the recording machine, as clean as possible. You don’t want to have a poor signal that you have to manipulate and fix.”
Beyond tube microphones, Design FX Audio’s other popular rentals include mic pre-amps, converters, virtual systems and reverb devices.
Ladinsky’s company also rents out speakers and amps like Genelec 1030 6.5 inches, 1031A 8 inches and 1032 10 inches; KRK E8 8-inch Monitors, S12 Subwoofers and 15-inch three-ways; and Yamaha NS10s, MSP10s, MSP5As and PC2002 Stereo Power Amp 240 watts.
“I only buy the things that people want to rent,” he explains. “The industry has gone through a lot of changes, but people are going to continue making records and will hopefully want to us the best stuff possible, so it sounds good in the future.”