Archive for May, 2010

Tips for buying gear

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Just want to share a few tips, i use when buying gear.

Research in advance

I’m sure, i don’t have to tell you to do some research before buying anything, but many people starts researching when they make up their mind, that they want/need to buy something, this may help avoid impulse buys, but it also means that you need to build up all research in shorter time, since you know you want to buy a workstation, you may just rush research, just read the specs and try your hands at it for a couple of minutes. I’m a regular at the local music store, without buying anything in a long time, that because i’m out researching. I might go because i want to check out some equipment that just was released, or that i  been wondering about buying, just see what they got or sometimes checking out showcases of gear. I audition everything, if i’m researching preamps, i’ll try everything from the low cost ART pre to the Neve, i know i’ll never get unless i win the lottery. Some music stores got a room for doing this, where you just change the piece you are auditioning. Auditioning those highend pres makes you realize the different rather then the small difference between two budget preamps. This also give you a bit of experience on a lot of different gear (preamps in this example). This information can be quite valueble, for example a lot of my musician friends, who don’t really know the gear other then their amp and mics ask me for advice when looking for new mixers, preamps, reverbs and all those not-instruments pieces of gear. In return they might give me a bit of money, or if i need a vocal or guitar to a track they might come through and give me the material i need.

Here is a little checklist of things to keep in mind when researching gear:

  • Bring headphones, people not gonna like to hear you rapping when they try to find the right violin for their chamber ensemble.
  • Keep a notebook and pencil on you if you hear something stellar or horrible coming out of a piece of gear write it down.
  • Ask the staff if you can demo something if it’s not turned on or seems to be put away, they might not love you for it (after all you are asking them to hook it up i.e. work), but they like you for not messing with their stuff on your own.
  • When auditioning monitors preamps or mics keep all other parts the same, some stores might have a dedicated room with acoustic treatment and high-end stuff so you really can hear he difference between the pieces you are auditioning.
  • Go to showcases, they learn you alot.
  • Watch product videos, hear demos, google it for reviews and videos of people using it, if possible download the manual in advance see if it answers any of your questions.
  • This probably not necessary to tell you, but if it’s software download the demo and play with it. However some software don’t got demos, here go to the store, they probably got it on a computer where you can get your feet wet, but using a demo version on your system is always  a better way, especially if you think it might have problems on your system.

Help your friends

I set up live shows for a small time cover band, in return i never have to buy a guitar sample pack, or female vocals, all i have to do is call them up and say the word. The principle is simple one hand washes the other. I help them doing stuff, that they can’t do, in return they do things i can’t do, no money involved, a added perk is that they normally play for open bar, which of course means i got open bar to. Another thing is that maybe you are a guitarist invested a small fortune in a superb guitar, amps, pedals and mics just for recording guitars. Now you want to be a singer instead, your friend a singer invested a similar fortune in vocal equipment, but now he wants to be a guitarist. Here it’s easy to see what’s great for you both, swap gear. It’ll be cheaper then both of you buying new gear, and you aren’t gonna get low balled, as many i know have been on ebay and similar services.

Important note: Never cheat your friends, i should have to say this, but i still will, you’ll end up losing a friendship, and people aren’t gonna trust you. If a friend is unhappy with your gear, and you haven’t cheated him, try helping him understand it better. This way you’ll just become better friends, and when he find something he doesn’t need while cleaning up, he might just send it your way as a thank you.

Buy the best, buy once

Simple as it is, buy the piece that suit your needs best, this means if you need to buy Komplete, don’t just buy Kontakt. It doesn’t however means that you should buy Komplete if all you need is Kontakt. If you are just a hobbyist you don’t need that Neve pre, if you are a pro, you aren’t gonna get much out of the ART pre (ok a bit wild example i know).

Exceptions to the rule:

  • If you need the gear now, and the piece you really want is out in the distant future, you need to buy some workable piece that can do what you need.
  • If you aren’t sure on whether you need it. For example if you don’t if you need the full version of Cubase or if the smaller Studio version is enough, here you can end up losing money either way, if you buy the full version and find that you only need the features of the Studio version, or if you buy Studio and find you need the full version. However it’s safer to buy Studio first, you still take a lose, buy having to buy the upgrade, but it’s less then the extra money down for the full version.
  • If you can afford something now, will benefit noticeable from it, and it will compliment another more expensive “better” solutions, when you can afford it.

These exceptions aren’t written in stone, you need to really research and do your homework before going this route.

This is nowhere near a complete guide, just a few tips, that i wanted to share. You are probably familiar with most of them, but i hope, that i have giving you at least a broader perspective on the steps of making good buys.

Little Trivia:

RZA started out on a used SP-1200 with no manual brought at the pawnshop.

I know i promised a blog on Groove, but it is taking a lot of time to write, so i thought, i’ll give you this while you are waiting.