#34: „Should I Record Flat And Dry Tracks Or Compress And EQ On The Way In?“

#34: „Should I Record Flat And Dry Tracks Or Compress And EQ On The Way In?“

"Should I Record Flat And Dry Tracks Or Compress And EQ On The Way In?“


This is a very common and valid question and we're not sure if it can ever be answered completely. But we definitely have an opinion on it and we are going deep into the topic in this episode.

We explain: 

  • what it actually means to "EQ and compress on the way in"
  • if and when we think it is a good idea to process the signal before it gets recorded
  • the differences between analog processing and committing plugins
  • what tools to use
  • if and when it makes sense to invest in EQs, compressors, other outboard gear or plugins
  • which questions you should ask yourself in order to find out what's right in your situation
  • the advantages and downsides of the different approaches
And finally, we'll talk about some example scenarios to show you our thought process behind those decisions.

Listen now, so you can save yourself some money, invest wisely, make confident decisions, create exciting art and choose your approach strategically, rather than just hoping for the best.

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Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)

TSRB Podcast 034 - Should I Record Flat And Dry Tracks Or Compress And EQ On The Way In

[00:00:00] Malcom: [00:00:00] Being forced to make a decision on the spot before you move on forces you to really think is this what I want rather than, okay. It sounds kind of cool. Let's just keep going. And that there's a lot of power in that mindset. You're going to make different decisions, better decisions. 

Benedikt: [00:00:16] This is the self recording band podcast.

The show where we help you make exciting records on your own. Wherever you are, DIY style. Let's go.

Hello and welcome to. The self recording band podcast. I am your host than it is time. And I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm. Oh, and flood. How are you? 

Malcom: [00:00:37] Hello? I'm great, man. How are you? 

Benedikt: [00:00:39] I'm great as well. Thank you. I've been working in pro tools for the first time, 10 years today. 

Malcom: [00:00:47] And so I was going to ask how that's going.

Benedikt: [00:00:49] Yeah. I was expecting a lot of things to go wrong, but, um, it all went surprisingly well and smooth. So that's a good. It's a little challenge here. I'd try to leave my comfort zone every now and [00:01:00] again. And I agreed to do this project and work from the pro tools session instead of my usual Cubase setup and everything.

And I don't even, I'm not even planning on exporting the tracks. Uh, so it's not a matter of like just making it convenient for the client, but I want to work out of the actual pro tool session in this case. And see what they used, um, plugins and instruments and all that. They baked a lot of stuff in there, and that's why we wanted to do that way.

I don't take on those projects usually, but in this case, the song was so great and I wanted a challenge. And 


Malcom: [00:01:30] we'll see how it goes. Awesome. Yeah. Good song goes a long way. 

Benedikt: [00:01:34] Yeah, exactly. So, uh, what's been what's new on your end. Good question. 

Malcom: [00:01:40] I'm on my like cup of coffee in the morning. So I was like, not ready for that one.

I'm on the Monday reset here. So whatever happened last week has gone already? Uh, no, no, it's, it's been good. Uh, Some mixing and mastering stuff going on from, for me all week. And then some, some TV work stuff on the horizon that I [00:02:00] can't really talk about yet, but I will be sharing soon enough. 

Benedikt: [00:02:03] Cool. Can't wait today.

Awesome. Okay. So then let's talk about today's episode, I guess. And, um, this one again about gear at least. Yeah. It is about gear basically on how to use it or if you should use it. And because of that, I want to. Give you something, and this is, I call it the essential gear guide. It's a PDF, it's a free thing that you can download.

If you go to the self recording band.com/gear guide, you can download that PDF and it tells you what gear you really need and how to decide what you really need. And yeah, it's just, um, a free. Guide to get you started and save you a bunch and help you save a bunch of money. And it's like, I think the perfect, uh, thing to, to go along with this episode, because what we're going to talk about today is should I record through ACU and compression?

Should I buy gear to do that? Is it worth buying gear, buying hardware or, [00:03:00] um, using plugins on the way in, um, so is it worth committing to certain types of effects? Certain types of processing during the recording, or should I just record raw recordings, not press process them in any way, uh, and just have all that.

Let leave all the options for later for the big, that's the question we're gonna answer today. And what part of that question is, of course, for those people who don't already own hardware or plugins to do that with, um, is, should I buy those things? So that's just part of the question. If you are like most people at home with a laptop and a, and an interface.

And you're wondering about like, if you should buy a cheap compressor or something, that's what we're going to talk about. But today, 

Malcom: [00:03:43] yes, essentially when to use them and if they're necessary and summoning it up. 

Benedikt: [00:03:51] Exactly. Totally. Absolutely. Right. So what does that even mean? Because, uh, you, like, I just struggled to explain this [00:04:00] because, um, there are many different ways to actually do that.

What does queuing or compressing on the way in, what does that mean typically? 

Malcom: [00:04:06] Right. Okay. I picture it as sculpting. So you, uh, you do your best to choose the right make and place it and all that, you know, you're, you're capturing the instrument as you normally would. And then you get into the control room and you're listening back and it's not quite what you were hoping for.

Um, especially in context. That's when I, that's a good point. I think we should make is that often the decision to. Process with EQR compression is after you hear it sitting with other instruments that are already tracked and you realize that it needs to gel a little bit better. That's often when I would grab either an ACU or compressor or both often both and then try and shape it so that it does fit that kind of texting kind of gel into what I'm doing.

Um, so . Everybody knows where the queue is, but we're just changing the frequency response and, and, um, how [00:05:00] bright or dark it is kind of thing, stuff like that, you know, going after pokey frequencies or whatever. Um, most people start with the digital IQ these days, almost everybody. So, and the digitally cue can do some really crazy things that you don't even realize are really crazy.

Like make really tiny, narrow cuts and sweep around as you listen and stuff like that. Hardware compressors don't work like that generally. So you're, it's a much more broad. Thing, unless you have some really crazy hardware tools, I guess, but usually it's very broad, uh, whereas compressors generally work similar to the dock compressors, um, different, but similar.

So, yeah. Uh, so there are more types of, uh, hardware than DQ and compression, but those are like the two main ones. So that's what we're talking about today. Did that answer the question? 

Benedikt: [00:05:45] Yes, totally. And, uh, one thing to add. Is that we are talking about using those things while you are recording. So you're committing to the sound of those.

So it's not like inserting an ACU on the channel. [00:06:00] So that you can still bypass it after the recording, Stan, but we're talking about having those things in the recording chain. So your microphone, your mic pre, and then the hardware compressor or queue, and then the converter, and then it goes to the computer or you, if you don't use hardware, you just record as usual, but between the two Dar the track on your doorway to capture it.

And the input there is a plugin. That you record through and that you are printing through. So you're committing the sound of that plugin and it gets recorded and baked into your track that you recording. So either way, um, it's using your compression on the track that you recording in a way that you can't undo it.

So right. Yeah. That's the distinction. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:06:42] Yeah. So I think that's where we kind of need to start this conversation is why would you do that? What's the, what's the purpose of committing, right. And we have talked about that on other episodes, but if it's something that you like, it's a big mindset

[00:07:00] mind. Shit. Can we please leave that in?

Benedikt: [00:07:07] So yeah. What about the rind shit? 

Malcom: [00:07:10] Another sip of coffee before I say shit again, it's a big mind set shift, especially if you're not used to that. And when you're coming up in the world of recording, now, you are used to having this unlimited flexibility of taking things on and off and experimenting. So it is, I think they get used to committing all the way and you can't go back because it's now gone.

It has done. And I think. In most cases, it should be done. You should be committed on the way. And if you can, um, and we will be talking about people that don't have hardware, um, and, and what they should be doing as well. But if, if you have the option and it's the right tool and it's doing what you want, then a hundred percent, I would commit, I have a universal audio, um, interface, which does what Benny was just talking about, where you can record through [00:08:00] plugins.

And I use it all the time. It's all like, anytime I'm checking something. Usually something on there, um, because I've found some tools on there that I like, and I know how to get results from them pretty quick. And it's just like, if it makes the sound, the song, like what I'm recording sound more like what I'm imagining in my head.

It's like, yeah, it's done. It's on there. I'm not going to think twice about it. 

Benedikt: [00:08:23] Yeah, totally cool. Um, we're going to talk about specific like recommended tools and examples scenarios later. So the universal audio interfaces are one. Oh, yeah, one option. So we're going to go back to that, that later for now.

I think. As always, um, the, the, there will, there won't be a final answer. I guess that's what I can say right now. Like it's, it always is like, it depends. Totally depends, but we're gonna go through some scenarios and we're trying to help you figure out if it's worth it in your case. I think the question that Malcolm just asks, so why would you do [00:09:00] that?

Why do I want to do that at all? That's the, basically the most important question and I think. I agree with what Malcolm said. I think you should do it if that's how you get what you're hearing in your head, if that's the way to get the sound that you're going for, unless there's any other way to achieve that sound.

So if there is a way to achieve it at the source, or if to fix a problem without EQR compression, then I would always try that first. But if it's, if the only way to get to the desired result is to use the Q or compressor on the way in, I would absolutely. Commit to it. And we're going to talk about why we actually want you to commit to it rather than just inserting it and leaving it for later.

There's a difference here. It's all about the mindset shift that McCann was talking about, and if you can, at all solve it at the source, you should do that first. So that I just want to say that because sometimes it's not a matter of shaping things or using the box tone, the specific character of a piece of [00:10:00] gear or something.

Sometimes it's just about fixing a problem and that should usually be done. I think you should, you should at least try to do that before you insert any cue compressor or something like that. Oftentimes moving the mic or changing the Mike or doing something to your room acoustics, or like using different strings or drum heads or whatever.

It's the better way to solve a problem. So, 

Malcom: [00:10:21] yeah. Yeah, that's a great point. Often on instruments, less on vocals, but pretty well. Any other instrument hardware is really just being used to enhance and not correct in my situation. It's not a correction tool. Generally. It's more of an enhancement and, and just like subtle.

Get it a little bit closer to, like I said, to fitting into context with everything else that's already down, but I'm not like, Hmm. There's a really weird poky resonance in the snare. I'm going to go suck that entirely out with a piece of hardware. I'm probably not going to go do that. We're going to go try and tune the snare, change the skin, try and change the snare or get the drummer hidden it differently.

Benedikt: [00:10:59] Totally, [00:11:00] totally. Uh, and it's also about, I think part of using those types of, um, processors, like accused and compressors, it's just. To add a certain flavor or character to the recording, because it might be, you might be able to achieve that later with a simple, digitally cue or something, but. If you commit to it, if you use a certain piece of gear, they all sound different.

Even if it's not the most high end best piece of gear, it will sound unique. It's just something that is in the recording. It's a certain character that you can't get rid of any more. And it's yeah, it's just, there's just something to recording unique, cool signals. So I think. Yeah, I think oftentimes it's more like these subtle things, there's this character thing and the shaping more than like surgical correction and fixing stuff.

Yeah. But you, one thing that you said that's interesting to me and you're totally right, is the exception are vocals basically, because like you can't change strings or skins. Um, You can't change vocal chorus. You can make [00:12:00] your singer sing a little different Lee. You can position the mic differently. You can choose a different Mike of course you can choose a position in the room, but your options are kind of limited here compared to a drum kit.

So at some point ACU and compression is inevitable. You need to do some thing in most scenarios, and if you know what you're doing, and if you have a clear vision. In your head, a clear goal that you want to achieve and why not come in on the way in it? It's like it's often a good idea. 

Malcom: [00:12:26] Yes. Yeah. That being forced to make a decision on the spot before you move on, forces you to really think, is this what I want?

Rather than, okay. It sounds kind of cool. Let's just keep going. And we'll, you know, obviously we'll come back to that, but it's no, it's, this is it. This is exactly what I want. And that there's a lot of power in that mindset. They're going to make different decisions, better decisions. 

Benedikt: [00:12:49] Absolutely. Yeah. And if you don't need to worry about certain things, because they've already been done in there's no, like you cannot change them.

It just frees up so much. Uh, like brain Ram, [00:13:00] you can just, you don't have to worry about those things because there's no point you can't undo it. It's just there. So let's move on. And the more options you leave for laser, the more confused it's it's gonna, yeah. It's gonna be a mess at some point. And, um, you're going to forget about things that you actually wanted to do later, but you ended up don't doing them because like not doing them because you, yeah, it's just too much.

And I like just getting one thing done and then moving onto the next, so. There's an advantage advantage, but of course it's risky. You can also like really damage things you can cause harm if done wrong. So there's, we need to say that there's a risk, of course, especially if you're new and you're still experimenting, you can ruin your recordings.

You can ruin a great take. If, if like you choose the wrong piece of gear and use it incorrectly. So. There's that. And that's why you need to find out if it's worth it or not. And we try to come up with some, um, yeah. Some ways to find out whether it's worth it for you or not. And the first one would be the performance.

So does [00:14:00] the thing you choose and the way you choose it, you use it. Does that affect your performance? So the classic example for me, it's not really a piece of. Like  compression, but just to explain what I mean here, if you're playing the guitar. And you're playing through a delay pedal. That delay will probably changed the way you're playing and interacting with the app.

That delay can become part of the performance depending on how you set it. But there are certain parts that you can only play with that delay pedal. So leaving that out of the chain and trying to do that later. We'll probably change the way you play and will therefore be like, yeah, it will, it will be necessary for your performance to record through that pedal that's I think a classic example, but the same thing can be true for a vocal chain.

If the singer just sounds differently and feels differently, if they feel more. Confident. And if they just like how their voice sounds on their headphones and the only way to achieve that is with that recording chain. And you can't [00:15:00] really do that in the monitoring chain then. Yeah. Do it. If that makes the performance better, if that makes the performer feel better, go for it.

Malcom: [00:15:07] There's a lot to unpack there, but you might not even realize that it's making a difference in how they perform or you perform, but compression can be really great for that. Especially with vocalists. I think it just kind of. Kimberly can solidify their vocal and add some confidence factor. And then. What happens is people also start playing into that compression, right?

Like drummers start kind of pushing into the compressor and hitting the snare a little differently. And you can kind of change their performance by twisting the knobs around. Um, I mean that takes practice and helps if you're recording somebody else, because if you're twisting knobs for yourself, it's kind of hard to go.

Like, Back and forth, but it does make a difference. Uh, you know, it's the same reason that I, I like to throw reverb on a channel for, uh, for the vocalist, just, you know, like you're in it, you know, you've got like some reverb delay, you feel like a rock star you're gonna sing differently. Not everybody likes that, but [00:16:00] I always want to offer that.

Benedikt: [00:16:02] Yeah. So it 

Malcom: [00:16:04] totally affects your performance. And as long as that's affecting it in a good way, Then totally worth it. 

Benedikt: [00:16:10] But then again, you just said like the reverb and delay thing, that's usually almost always done on the like listening side of things on the monitoring side. So you 

Malcom: [00:16:21] don't, you don't record 

Benedikt: [00:16:22] through the reverb or the delay usually, but you put it on the sand and you just blended with the monitoring signal, what they're hearing.

So you're not committing and with the cue and compression, you could do both. You could, depending on your setup and what you have, you could record through a vocal chain and then that's what you record. Or you could put a plugin on the track and you just listened through that chain, but you can bypass it afterwards.

So that's not committing, that's just listening to that. It can achieve the same impact for your performance. But it's not committing. So the second question here is after like, um, does it affect your performance? The second question is, do you have to commit, or you, can you just do it on the monitoring side?

The headphones signal, [00:17:00] like with the riverboat delay? And I would, I'm curious, like when do you choose. To commit. And when do you choose to just put a plugin on the channel and just listen through it, but not printing it? 

Malcom: [00:17:13] Right. So whatever possible my EPQ and compression is committed. Um, but I guess it really depends on what instrument, I guess, but like you said, reverb and delay on a vocal, I'm almost never going to record that.

Um, It's it's just too. I want to, you need to tweak that stuff. It takes too long, essentially. It's really the problem because you need the rest of the mix to be finished before you can dial that stuff in 

Benedikt: [00:17:41] and you want it on a separate channel. So you don't 

Malcom: [00:17:43] want channel all of this stuff. Yeah. Um, but eco and compression, generally, you can go right for it and just get it done then.

And there. I mean, what you have to realize is even though we are committing the stuff on the way in is we're normally doing more later as [00:18:00] well, right? It's, it's really just getting it as close and far as we can at that moment. And then we're going to take it even further later on in the mixing stage. Um, but we need it to be the right, like shape and color for right now kind of thing, so that it fits in the picture we're painting.

And then we can, you know, do the finer details later. 

Benedikt: [00:18:20] I don't think that there is actually a big difference because, and here's why, because. If you just put it on the channel and not commit it, it's still there. And the, the decisions you're making after that, to all the other things you were going to record will be based on how that channel sounds with those plugins.

So you won't, you will make your decisions. Based on that anyways. So you can't just deactivate a later usually, um, because that has influenced your other tracks and the way you record the whole thing. And then when you export everything and send it to mixer, and then before you do that, you deactivate all the plugins and everything you've used in the session.

It will be a totally different production. It will be a different thing. So you [00:19:00] want to print those probably insent that to your mixer because you want them to take the project where it is and. Like keep the things that you came up with and just improve it. And if you don't do that, if you take everything off in the end, it will just fall apart, basically, depending on how much you did.

So I think that isn't too much of a difference. The only difference it really makes is you're saving processing power and like on your computer and in your brain, because you don't have to think about it anymore. So unless it's something really risky and really like a drastic thing that you're not sure about, I would.

Commit things, if it's really drastic and you don't know what you're doing, that's an important distinction. Of course, I would always ask the mixer first, just in case, or I would send two versions maybe because there are of course advanced techniques and things that someone new to this, or like a self recording band or artist, who's not a professional mixer.

They might not be sure about what they're doing and that's totally normal and fine. And if that's the [00:20:00] case, Just do two versions, but if you like what you're hearing and if it's not too drastic, I would just commit because it doesn't make a difference really, to me. 

Malcom: [00:20:08] Yeah. I think my one pushback to that is that even with the plugins there and you're moving forward and listening to that, moving, moving forward, I think just knowing that you can go back.

Kind of changes that point to that. You're willing to say, okay, I'm good to move on. Where if you're committing, you have like, you'd really just have to be sure that you're not going to tweak anymore and start recording. Yeah. I think there's like this little bit of, like, you just know you have that extra room to make a mistake and you just, you might just move forward without committing.

Like to the sound entirely, um, which isn't the worst thing in the world? I mean, it's not, it's fine. It's fine. Uh, I think I've got, I got that slate mic awhile back. I think we talked about that when I got that mic and it uses emulation to model different microphones and I can't record hardware through that if I want to hit that mic emulation first.

[00:21:00] So I'm kind of having to do this with vocals these days and it's working out fine. Yeah. It's a combination of like committing for the sake of. I mean, part of me is like, well, that's the job of being a recording engineer is making things sound a certain way. So that come on, that's what we got to do. But then there's also like, do we have the tools?

You know, just because there's a piece of hardware doesn't mean it's the right one. So you might like, you know, the plugin might do a better job, a lot of the time and tired because we've talked about session flow before, but it is so important. And if you're. Killing the session's flow, trying to dial in hardware for the sake of experimentation or, um, just fiddly knobs.

It's not worth it. And you should just, I think, grab a plugin and move. Does that make sense? Totally true. 

Benedikt: [00:21:50] It just depends on if you commit through that. Like if you commit that plugin or if you just leave it on and then with the option to deactivate it. Correct, but yeah, but yeah, totally true. [00:22:00] And I mean, I'm kind of, I was thinking about when I was thinking about doing that episode, I was kind of unsure if it's a good idea, because it's on the one hand, it's a question that many people have, and that I got asked in the community as well, uh, more than once on the other hand.

So I think it's important to talk about that, but on the other hand, I knew that our recommendation would be to at least try or like we would encourage people to commit, but that's so dangerous sometimes. So I wasn't, I wasn't sure if that's actually good advice because you can totally ruin stuff and it's hard to draw the line or it's hard to, you need to know for yourself basically, if you know what you're doing and if you trust your instinct and what you're hearing, if your monitoring is good enough to even charge that.

So there's a part of it is just you. Yeah. Um, being like realistic and honest to yourself and like, yeah. And I mean, yeah, it's, it's just, it's, it's difficult because see scenarios where [00:23:00] someone really digs. Certain piece of gear, a certain setting. And then once you hear it in a, on a good monitoring system, and once it gets compressed more during mixing and it gets refined, things might come up that aren't as pretty, or that you don't want to be in there, like, especially saturation, distortion, subtle artifacts that you might miss in your environment so that there is a danger.

There is definitely a danger, but still, I think it's worth it. It's the same mantra that we've been. That we had in a couple of episodes. Like sometimes you just need to make bold decisions and it's sometimes it could mean that you fail and have to do it again, but it could be worth it. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:23:39] There's I think there's, there's two camps to answer that problem.

There's the camp that's just trying to, that really wants a good album at the end of this. And they're hiring a great mixer, like Benny to finish it. Those people should probably err, on the side of caution. And just do play it safe through, through this, uh, you know, like do what we're saying and try [00:24:00] and have a vision and, you know, keep those plugins on.

So you're making decisions and hopefully can commit those and give a wedding to try to Benny or whatever, but you're ultimately just trying to get through this and have a great product. But if you're the kind of person who is trying to become. A great audio engineer and you want to be improving at this.

You got to start committing and make those mistakes. Honestly, it's like the only way to learn what you can get away with is by doing it. Um, like, like I said, eco and compression are just getting used all the time by me on the way in committing vocal distortion. Not so much, I throw it on all the time.

Cause it's like fun to track through and I love that stuff, but I'm probably going to want to get a little. More tweaky in the mix. So I don't really commit that stuff. And you know, it, like, you just kind of learn what, what you can do and can't do based on experience. 

Benedikt: [00:24:49] Yeah, exactly. Also, if you're in the first camp, like if you just want to have a great product in the end, and you're more like a musician looking to get the best possible production [00:25:00] and your goal is not to become the best recording or mixing engineer, whatever.

Then you can still come in because sometimes that makes things more exciting, but then you should, you probably, in this case, hiring a mixer anyways, or other people experienced people and you just, just talk to them and maybe they could, can help you make those decisions, like when you are in pre-pro and deciding on tones or when you're in the actual recording session.

Most good mixers are people that you're working with will be willing to like, have a quick call with you or answer email, or like help you decide on like, whether you should use a certain piece of gear or a certain setting or not. So in this situation, I was just, yeah, I would just have a conversation with them.

Some people will like it if you sent them bra tracks and they will not want you to do anything risky and other people. We'll love it. If you are just being bold and try crazy stuff, so have a conversation with them, it really helps. 

Malcom: [00:25:56] Yes. 

Benedikt: [00:25:56] Yeah, exactly. If you're doing it all on your own, or [00:26:00] as Malcolm said, if you're just trying to improve as a recording engineer, make as many mistakes as possible, because that's the fastest way to learn basically.


Malcom: [00:26:07] yeah. Yeah. There's a lot of good to be said about having practice sessions. Where you're not trying to record the song that you really care about and it matters if you get it right or wrong, but record something. That's just like a demo idea that. Nobody's going to hear, you know, like it's just for internal band use, like preproduction stuff.

That's where you can try and do the stuff and really get good at it. 

Benedikt: [00:26:30] Yeah. Yeah. So the next question, and that's what Malcolm just said when he's, when he's, when you said like, uh, with the vocal distortion to tweak things afterwards, um, the, the question is, can it be done afterwards in the mix easily or even better?

Or is it something you absolutely have to do right now? Because like, yeah, there's no way to do that later. A scenario like this could be, if you want to record something really crazy with some weird piece of gear that only you have, or some, like you [00:27:00] want to abuse something to create a cool effect. You need to do that now.

Like no, no one else will have that piece of gear. If you want to have that on the record, you need to record it. So, yep. 

Malcom: [00:27:10] Yeah. I mean, uh, In like the indie folk pop rock kind of thing. That's kind of popular with like Chris Stapleton or Mumford and sons, that kind of stuff. You know, Christie, Evelyn's not really in that, but there's a lot of like stomp clap based songs, you know?

And they're like really roomy and the store did and saturated kind of thing, and the songs based around that. So if you didn't have that really sounding the right way as you're tracking the song, like it'd be really hard to record the other instruments. To it. Right. Um, so I feel like some stuff has to be done on the front end.

Like there's no way of building. They get the song is based around that. So, um, you have to go that route. Right. But then there's other things like where the claps are just there to supplement the snare and you just have your bedroom studio or [00:28:00] whatever, then just record some dry lame sounding claps, and then jump into plugin land.

And. Tweak away and you know, the mixer can do some cool stuff with it later. It'll be fine. 

Benedikt: [00:28:10] Yes, totally. And I can think of many scenarios where people send me stuff and then like raw stuff. And then they're like, in this part, we want you to create this type of effect. Right. And they tried to explain the crazy effect that they are envisioning for that part.

And I'm always like, why didn't you just try and record that? You know, like that's, those are the kinds of scenarios where they want something unique, something different. Yeah. So there's no right or wrong year anyways. So just if that's what you want to do for a certain part or transition, or like, even if it's just a standard thing, like a low-fi effect, we've been talking about that a lot, like the radio or telephone effects stuff, just find a pedal or a plugin or a piece of gear that can do that and print it and commit to it because it will be your unique telephone effect.

And if you just tell the mixer to do that, Depending on who they are. [00:29:00] They might just do something generic that they always do when someone wants to telephone effect or a radio effect. But if you are creating that effect, it's yours and. There you could do. You can't do much harm here, I think with stuff like that, because it's unique anyways.

So if you want to do something special like that, just do it. Just have fun experiment and sent that to yeah. The mixer. 

Malcom: [00:29:20] Yeah. Uh, I, one little bit of culture I want to influence and change is that if you want vocal echoes, like dedicated to like echoes that are like. You know, like really intentional ones, not just like any delay that's through the whole song or whatever, but actual echoes send that to your mixer.

Don't don't tell them you want echoes on certain words and have like a bunch of 40 notes at different times. And that is just the worst thing. Yeah. And, you know, they had it in their session. They just didn't send it. So yeah, you send that committed delay or, or re. Some people like to record the delay. So it's a fake delay, you know, it's actually them singing the delay track.

And that sounds really awesome. Sometimes you can do that, [00:30:00] whatever, you know, whatever gets the job done, but send that along and then, you know, maybe the mixer will recreate it the way they want, but they'll have an example track. It'll save everybody a lot of, 

Benedikt: [00:30:08] yeah, totally. I a hundred percent agree. Yeah.

Oh, yeah. To that. Um, so yeah. Sorry. Was that 

Malcom: [00:30:16] a little off topic, but 

Benedikt: [00:30:18] yeah, but it's about permitting, so it's totally like yeah, absolutely worth mentioning. 

Malcom: [00:30:22] So we should circle this back to hardware. Um, and if you need it, because when people think committing, they think hardware, um, even though there are, like we said, some tools that let you record through plugins.

Uh, but hardware's the big thing and that's the big, attractive, sexy thing that everybody wants. And they imagine their studios being lined with it at some point. Um, I mean, I wanted that until I found out how much hydro, those big walls of gear. I was like, Oh my God, that'd bankrupt me. Um, so, but anyways, they are, it is fun.

They're really, you know, rewarding to use. They look [00:31:00] great in the rack. I love my. 10 73 in front of me here. I'm not even using it by the way, but it's, it's there. I don't use it for the podcast. Um, and so yeah, we, we all like gear, but do we need it? Is it a good thing to spend our money on? Uh, that is something we want to address because like Benny said, people ask about that stuff a lot.

So when is it a good idea to buy 

Benedikt: [00:31:26] gear? I think 

Malcom: [00:31:28] where to begin. 

Benedikt: [00:31:29] I think it's the, yeah. The question is, what else could you do with that money? What does your budget allow to do that without compromising anything that's more important? So I think it's never a good idea to purchase anything for that reason, for that purpose.

If there are other more important things that you need to take to take care of first, and that's basically everything. So. On the hierarchy on the gear hierarchy. If you want to, uh, make a list like this, it would be the least [00:32:00] important thing, unless it's something that can't be achieved, uh, in, in a different way.

So if it's some character things, some, some unique, weird whatever effects thing, and that's the only piece of gear that can do that. Of course you have to buy, if you want to record it, that's, that's true. But if it's just quote unquote, just cue or compression. Then the question really is, have you done everything else?

Have you improved everything else? Because everything else is more important in fact, and that's, it hurts sometimes because we think we can fix our recordings and mixes by just buying a nice fancy piece of gear. But usually we can't. So if you want, if you save money on strings and drum, skins and sticks and symbols, And setting up your instruments well and using the right instruments, improving your room, all that.

If you're trying to save money here in order to buy a fancy EQR compressor, probably not a good idea. 

Malcom: [00:32:59] Yeah, I [00:33:00] a hundred percent agree. It's a, like you said, it's really the least important thing. These, these things are just meant to help shape what we're putting into them so that they are not the result of garbage in garbage out.

Yeah. Yeah. 

Benedikt: [00:33:14] Especially because most people, most home studio owners or DIY recording people, surf recording bands. If they don't start buying the best high end gear, that would actually make a difference at a very high price point, but it would make a difference. They are often starting with like budget, sometimes consumer gear or, um, cheap Chinese clones of stuff that sometimes are good.

Sometimes not so much. Or they just buy the cheapest heart rate compressor. They can find just because they think hardware is always better. And especially then it doesn't really make sense or it doesn't really move the needle. Or make things better. So yeah, I think that plugins have come such a long way and are so good at this that you need, you need to have a [00:34:00] really, really good reason to buy HeartWare and not just use the plugins you have or the plugins that you can buy for cheap, uh, in records through those, if you want to commit and compress and the way in, because we're going to talk about that, that you can, you absolutely can.

You absolutely can do that. Um, So you will need to pretty damn good recent to buy hardware instead of just using the plugins. Um, so 

Malcom: [00:34:24] yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a, there's not a lot of reason to, uh, I, I thought that I would never really be interested in going into a studio that didn't have a compressor just really for the purpose of vocals.

Um, because I think vocals are pretty hard to get a good recording if you're not using compression. 

Benedikt: [00:34:44] Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:34:45] But like I said, I got that slate mic and I have to use plugins now to pull that off and it's been fine. It works great. Like I said, I have to kind of still make sure I am committing and dialing in the sound before we move in, [00:35:00] move on.

Sorry. Um, but, uh, It, uh, like it, it totally works. And I would say that most plugins, these days are better than cheap. Like it's gotten good. It's okay. The, the dark plugins are not holding you back. Don't don't think that they 

Benedikt: [00:35:15] are. Absolutely. I think below a certain threshold of the quality of hardware gear, don't even think about it.

Like the typical question is, and I don't want to bash any like company or something or anything like that here, but I have to say that one of the most typical question is. That people see some modern, um, DBX compressor or something online that's meant to be used for live sound most of the time, I guess, or it's entry level gear, that it can be fine life of using an analog, small mixing desk or whatever, but they are, if they see this compressor online for, I don't know, 200 bucks or something, and they wonder if they should buy that because they think it's a hardware compressor and it's, it's better than the plugin.

[00:36:00] And. It's probably not. If you are having, like, if you have good emulations of 1176 is  all the studio standards. And if you have the modern current emulations of those, they will probably be better than any of those cheap hardware compressors. Totally. And the same goes for ACU any like UA, um Pultec or any of the, whatever you have, like.

All those emulations, they will sound better than a cheap ACU on your, whatever you have, like small, um, rehearsal room console or wherever those accused won't sound as great as the plugins. 

Malcom: [00:36:38] I really think that hardware is something that really only needs to exist in like functioning, recording studios.

Um, it's not really something that I would suggest for any home studio setup, unless you plan to have other people in there and turn it into a business. And in which case, you know, there are tools and, but still low on the totem pole of things you [00:37:00] need. Um, but for DIY production where you often have. Like a small track count interface, you know, if you're programming, drums and stuff, whatever, and you just have a couple of channels on your interface, then it's not really worth going down that road.

Um, yeah. And like we said, that, what else could you spend that money on? And the list is very, very long, you know? Um, so wouldn't recommend investing in that too much, but. Would the topic a lot or half the topic. This is kind of a dual episode, um, is, is like when to compress and when to use that stuff on the way in, and the answer is if you have it, then maybe yes.

I'm like go for it. But if you don't like pretty much, it's just to sum it up. We're what we recommend is kind of obvious, but it's use the tools you have to the best of their ability and your ability. And. Master them. Yes. So if you only have plugins, it's not about finding gear that you [00:38:00] like, it is about mastering those tools, mastering those plugins and making them the tools you like, because they will do the job that you just have to figure them out.

Yeah. There's a in ProTools, Benny, which you're now in the stock stock DSR is pretty good. And I just like, I mean, like it's. Super dumb is that it's not a smart, intelligent plugin, but it really works. And I just like went shopping around. I've got like four different DSRs and now I just keep going back to the free one I had in the beginning.

If I only, I not wasted a bunch of time trying to find other DSRs and use the free one, you know, it's so gear. What does that what's gas stand for again? 

Benedikt: [00:38:40] A gear acquisition syndrome. Is it, is it, yeah, that's it? 

Malcom: [00:38:45] Yeah. That's a real thing. And it also exists. We should mention in plugin form as well. It's not just people wanting to buy hardware or other guitar pedals and stuff.

It also is software. 

Benedikt: [00:38:55] Yeah, totally. Absolutely. So, yeah, Malcolm just summed it up. Like [00:39:00] there's two reasons. One is you have checked off all the boxes and the only thing left to do to improve is to get hardware great HeartWare and records through that. So that's one reason. Pretty unlikely. The other reason would be if you're just doing it because you want to learn and it, because it excites you, it's fun to do.

And that's a valid reason. I mean, it doesn't make your recordings better technically, but if you have more fun using those things, if you find yourself making more music, just because you have that and that like those knobs in front of you, then that might actually be worth. It depends on who you are. I can do just fine with the laptop and still be creative, but there are people.

Who just make more music and spent more time on their, in their studio, if there is any cure or a compressor that they can tweak. And if that's the case, like that's, that's a good reason actually. Um, but I would start with a certain level of gear. Like I would maybe start at like the, where the warm audio pieces are or something like that.

You don't have to go for a very fancy stuff, but at least get something close [00:40:00] to the originals, to the classic stuff. I would get maybe a, an 1176. There are some DIY kits out there that you can build. There are the warm audio stuff. Um, yeah, can't really talk about the Clark stuff as much, because I have used one 1176.

I didn't like it that much, but ma might just be me. People seem 


Malcom: [00:40:20] love them. I know people that do like it. I haven't used one, but I know people I trust who do get good results from it. Um, I've used the audio scape stuff, which is a similar price range, and I think it's pretty great. Um, so yeah, the stuff's out there for, I mean, I think that audio skips stuff's like only like four or 500 bucks Canadian or something for compressors.

So that's pretty, pretty reasonable. 

Benedikt: [00:40:41] Um, I had a, um, one of the clones that are used that are like widely used and that people really like. And don't fall for some, I don't know Chinese copy. That just looks like the real thing, but no one's ever used it. And you find it for cheap on some weird [00:41:00] website, don't buy that, but there are a couple of pieces that are cheap or at least affordable that a lot of people, a lot of trustworthy people love and use and start with those.

That's where I would start. I wouldn't buy any of the really cheap, like live sound gear stuff. I would start with the classics. I would go for. An Octo compressor, maybe something like an 1176 and then maybe a Pultec clone or yup. Some of those classic pieces, because they will help you learn compression and correct the queuing.

They will help you get an understanding for what the box tone is of those things. Um, what the basic character is. And it's just fun to tweak those. So if you would really want to do that and it helps you. And it inspires you then. Yeah. Start there. I'd say. 

Malcom: [00:41:47] Yeah. So I feel like we need to do a recap here.

Told us the topics are all over the place we're saying do commit, but using whatever tools you have available and master those tools, um, [00:42:00] we're also saying you don't need to buy hardware, but we're definitely not saying that. Like, we don't want to be an auntie gear. Page. We're not really that, you know, like if you get a new piece of gear and it's cool posted in the Facebook community, we're going to be stoked.

You know, we're not going to be like shame, like guitar strings, you know, like that's not what we're getting at. Like gear is fun. It is cool. I like it. I, I am investing in a ton of location, film, audio gear right now. And I mean, nobody finds that stuff. Cool. Other than me, but like, It's fun for me, I'm building a kit and it's like, yes, this is awesome.

Um, so, you know, you can still do this, but we just want it to be, you know, when, when you're doing a podcast, it's hard not to be like, well, it's this versus doing this, but that's not the case. Obviously you can do about what you can get good at your plugins and still get good or whatever. Um, and yeah, we're just trying to put it into perspective what the priorities are and really highlight that.

And compressors and [00:43:00] other harbored gear is not the way to get records. That is not a shortcut. 

Benedikt: [00:43:04] Yep. Agreed. And you know, what's funny when we started this episode, I was asking you, if you think there will be a solution or a conclusion. And we said, probably not because it depends, uh, people will need to find out for themselves, but I think there is some sort of, um, solution now or a thing, one thing that we recommend, and I think that's the plugin, um, Workflow, because the more I think about it, that's kind of the middle ground and the, the that's where I would really start because not committing at all.

We don't recommend that buying hardware. We don't recommend that as well, unless you want to have fun and you want to just learn, but using plugins and first maybe starting. To use them to just monitor through them, to get a feel for them, and then starting to commit those plugins. That's I think the way to go that's the best of both, both worlds actually.

So you don't need to buy expensive hardware. You can start with your stock plugins. You can eventually upgrade and buy [00:44:00] plugins with it, which is usually cheaper than hardware. You can still commit. So you have that benefit. I think the plugin route really is the way to go. Actually, 

Malcom: [00:44:08] it does make sense. Yeah.

And just so we're clear, there are plugins that you can track through and like that, that won't add latency, uh, or noticeable latency. And then there's plugins that you can't and they really slow, like you would hear it and that you won't be able to make a good performance with that. So you'll learn.

That's another thing you need to know is like what plugins are available in your tracking tool kit? 

Benedikt: [00:44:31] Totally. So let's talk about some examples scenarios and some recommended tools before we wrap it up. Um, I mean, you started with the UAD plugging you in the beginning of this episode, you mentioned your UAD plugins and your UA audio interfaces.

The Apollo. 

Malcom: [00:44:45] Yeah. I mean, they're, they're on the expensive side of brands. Uh, but it's really great. You can't really go wrong with any of their products, even they're like kind of like lower models are awesome. So [00:45:00] definitely recommended. And, uh, with that stuff you can record through the plugins. Like the, the plugins can be treated as if they're a piece of hardware in the chain.

And I really love that. Um, so yeah, no complaints there. I would highly recommend them, but they're definitely not essential. There's there's other brands that are great. 

Benedikt: [00:45:17] Yeah. Cool. Uh, the way I do it is I don't have, um, a UAD interface. I have, um, a duty card, like can use the plugins, but I don't have the interface.

So what I do is I use Cubase and incubators. You have input tracks, so you don't have, you don't, you don't do not only have audio tracks. But input tracks. Um, and those have inserts as well. And if you insert a plugin on an input track, if you make the input tracks visible and you insert a plugin there, then whatever plugin you put there, you will record through it and it will be printed.

So you can't disable it later. Oh, Um, what 

Malcom: [00:45:52] that is a really cool feature Cubase. 

Benedikt: [00:45:54] Yeah, totally. So you have all the basic audio tracks just as in every other door, but then there's a category of [00:46:00] tracks, which is called input tracks. They are invisible by default, I think, but you can make them visible and yeah, it's just a, they have their own feeder, their own inserts.

If you move the fader, that will also affect the gain, right? Whatever you do that lets 

Malcom: [00:46:13] you record the UAE stuff, but you can also record any plugin and 

Benedikt: [00:46:18] then. Exactly exactly any plugin, but the UAA stuff doesn't really work because it all adds latency because of the external processing I think, and stuff.

So I don't, I might be wrong, but I think it's, you're going to have latency issues. Um, but with every plugin that has low enough latency with your buffer settings and everything, like every plugin, that's just fast enough to pull it off. You can insert there. And record through it, or you can do it with any plugin, but some plugins will be suitable because of the low latency and others.

Not so much. 

Malcom: [00:46:50] Right, 

Benedikt: [00:46:50] right. Yeah. But it's a really, and you can, of course use all the stock things. They don't have a, they don't produce much latency. So the stocky Q that's on every channel and stuff, you can obviously use that. [00:47:00] Um, it's, it's pretty, it's a pretty cool feature. It's basically like those input tracks are like the console in the UA interface.


Malcom: [00:47:07] definitely. Yeah. Um, you can do that with any dog, by the way. It's just not set up to be easy like that. In other dos, like pro tools, you'd have to set the output of the check you're recording onto into another one and, you know, or use an ox. Yeah. It'd be kind of complicated and time consuming. So it's just not really part of the workflow.

So that's really cool. 

Benedikt: [00:47:25] Yeah, totally. So you can do that. Um, then there is things like the, uh, yeah. Other products like the universal audio interfaces. There are the antelope interfaces. I think they have their own modeled plugins. I can't say anything about those. I have an antelope converter, but I don't use it as an interface.

And I have no idea how the plugins sound. I just know that it's a similar workflow and you can record through the antelope, um, plugins. So, yeah. And there is more brands like that. So basically you either do it in your door or you buy an interface with plugins and like some virtual mixer that allows you to use those [00:48:00] plugins as.

Um, just like you would with hardware. 

Malcom: [00:48:03] Yeah. So it's kind of a hybrid system, um, which is pretty great. And then, uh, of course there's just using plugins and, and just run them on the channel. Like we said, as long as the latency doesn't add up, you can record through them. Fine. Um, and there's something to be said for mixing a little as you go, you know, Like with those plugins, you know, the, the drum mix is always getting tweaked.

Every time I opened up the session a little bit better, a little bit better, a little bit better. And it's just honing the vision that little bit. Cause that's another nice touch of plugins for sure. 

Benedikt: [00:48:32] Totally. Yeah. Um, what are some examples scenarios? Like not that the gear we covered that, but some scenarios where you think doing that will actually be beneficial or could be a good idea.

We already talked about the vocal thing, the compression and the vocals. That just makes it feel better. What else is there? 

Malcom: [00:48:48] Like examples of when EKU and compression yeah. Are, are great. Um, yeah, like I said, I feel like throwing a compressor on like a snare can really change how the drummer starts hitting it [00:49:00] and get them digging into it a little bit more.

Um, obviously guitar's a big one. Uh, I get compression. People just play into compression. It changes how you play. There's like a, a kind of elastic bandy thing going on, um, that you can really dial in somebody's dynamics, um, with, with some clever compression and try and shape that a little bit, but tone as well.

I think. You know, we've even talked about like changing the volume of what they're listening to, to make them play harder and stuff like that at all. Is that kind of idea, is that what they're hearing impacts their hands or whatever instrument? A little bit. 

Benedikt: [00:49:37] Yeah. Totally thing for me is space the consistency.

Um, similar as with vocals, I just like to limit the dynamic range a little bit with bass. I like more consistency. I like some more. Of the mid range, um, grit and character that we get from compression. And so base is a classic thing. I almost always record through compression when I [00:50:00] record base. Hmm, same as with vocals.

And then there's some sort of corrective , even though we recommend it, not to do, to do a lot of fixing with gear, but there's still some sort of corrective cue that I like to do on the way in. So for example, with Toms, no matter how well I tune them and no matter how, like the drums can I choose. And even if all that is perfect, there's still going to be.

Some 400, 500 Hertz, like mid range, mud, or carpet sound that I want to get rid of and almost always grabbing the cue and pull that out right. During recording because it instantly sounds better. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:50:36] Yeah. And people, so sounding better is kind of this weird objective word to use, but it it's what we mean by that is that.

It sounds good enough that they're not being distracted by how anything sounds. Yes. It's so it just like, they hit the time. They're like, that's sweet. I sound like a rockstar and just keep on going. Whereas if it's like boxy and weird sounding and flappy, they're going to be like, [00:51:00] okay, like, Hmm. I wonder if we should change this and then they don't mention it for four takes when they end up tuning it while you're like, no, but, uh, so, so yeah, you getting stuff to sound good and pretty much just don't want the performer to be thinking about how it sounds, because if it sounds good, they you've done your job.

They, they only notice when it sounds bad. 

Benedikt: [00:51:20] Absolutely. Yeah. 

Malcom: [00:51:22] Um, but even like that kind of IQ, what you're talking about is still kind of like broad strokes shaping, you know, you're like, okay, It cut here kind of thing. It's not like going and finding whistles and attacking that kind of stuff at that point.

Benedikt: [00:51:35] It's a matter of it's done in a matter of seconds now with, for me, it's just grabbing a cube, pull out some lower mid range and they don't sound like cardboard anymore. So same thing, same thing with, with, uh, with kicks, by the way, not like not so much the getting rid of stuff, but if I do having music and I do that a lot.

Then the, the amount of Peter attack and click that I get from the microphones is usually not enough, [00:52:00] even with very bright, very cliquey, microphones, and placement and stuff. So usually I just grab a high shelf, just a very broad thing and just boost some highs with the key insight, Mike, to get more because dramas want to hear that they want to hear their attack.

They want to hear the precise, um, click sound and it just. It just sounds, it sounds more finished. And usually if you're doing metal or any sort of heavy, modern rock music, you probably want to do some boosting here. You don't have to go too crazy during recording, but just the high shelf with a couple of DB just makes it 

Malcom: [00:52:30] better, make sure that that's clear and defined and, and focus.

Benedikt: [00:52:34] Yeah. Yeah. I would agree. So those things, and then also low cuts sometimes, or just getting rid of rumble. Um, sometimes that can be also done with a shell for something, but for some signals, some instruments, you don't need a lot of subs or like low end. And I just get rid of that right away because it distracts me and yeah.

Stuff like that. Sometimes removing stuff, sometimes adding stuff. But if I, I really feel like there [00:53:00] needs that they can, I need to do something because it's not sounding the way it's supposed to sound. I just do it. 

Malcom: [00:53:04] Yes. Yep. It's funny a lot. Everything we mentioned in the last five minutes there. Can easily be done with a plugin where we've kind of been convincing ourselves as we've been recording this episode that like this more and more outboard gear is really honest.

Yes, it is. 

Benedikt: [00:53:22] Yeah, it is. It's totally unessential. It's like completely unessential actually. It's it depends who you are. If it helps you make better record for whatever reason. Then it's worth having it, but it is not technically necessary. It's just, yeah, depends on. 

Malcom: [00:53:36] Yeah. I, I started this conversation very pro.

Hardware in that it forces you to commit, but it's, that's really what I care about is the committee in part, and that you can do that with plugins. No problem. So it's just the mindset of hardware just needs to be brought over to the digital doll. 

Benedikt: [00:53:54] Yes, exactly. Um, okay. So yeah, I mean, it's kinda, it's [00:54:00] kind of a confusing episode, but at the same time, it's, this is really what this is about.

This is what we've expected, so it's no clear answer. Um, there's the recommendation to try and commit to things. Do you try and start with plugins? Uh, but there is no clear answer here and that's kind of the answer we wanted to give you, because if you're asking, do I have to buy hardware because in an effort to make my records better?

No, you don't. Um, Do I have to compress and DQ on the way in. You don't have to, but it might be worth it. Um, so there is an answer, but not a clear one. It depends on your situation. 

Malcom: [00:54:36] Yes. Yeah. Um, I would say probably you do, but how you do it is what we've discovered. Doesn't matter as much, you know, like it doesn't have to be analog.

Can be digital. It doesn't even have to be printed. It could be just sitting there, but you want to just be making a decision. Like I said, being an audio engineer is making things sound a certain way. So that's what we're [00:55:00] encouraging. Yeah. Make it sound the way you want, whatever using whatever tools you need to.

Benedikt: [00:55:04] Exactly. You can probably do all those things with whatever you have right now. And you should only start spending money. If you've maxed out on the things you can do with whatever you have. 

Malcom: [00:55:15] Yeah. You've got buckets of money and you want some toys. There you go. Exactly. 

Benedikt: [00:55:21] Exactly. Which is perfectly fine. I mean, but yeah, just know that it's not necessarily to get better records.

Alright. Um, that's it, if you have as always, if you have any more questions, if you're thinking about buying a specific piece of gear. And, um, you want to do want some feedback, some input on that, or if you're running into a specific problem and you think you're or accusing or compressing on the way in might solve it, just, um, ask and we'll try to help and do that in the community Fe um, the self recording band.com/community that will forward you to the Facebook group, which is free.

You can just try and start a conversation there. And I hope this episode is helpful. [00:56:00] Um, yeah. Download the gear guide, along with it, it's much more structured than this episode is. Uh, but it's also just a gear guide, a lot of additional info in here, I think in this episode. Yeah. That's all I have to say.


Malcom: [00:56:17] There's definitely stuff to take away from in there. So I hope you liked it and we will, of course see you next week. 

Benedikt: [00:56:22] Exactly. Bye. Thank you for listening. .

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