Article : Sound Quality Check ; It's not the gear, it's your Engineer.
Updated: Dec 21, 2019
It's not the gear; it's the engineer.
We discuss artists working at other studios regularly with our clients and have learned alot about different people's experiences over the years. Something that has regularly stood out to us are the reasons people tend to go to different studios, many of which are reasonable and wise.
Yet as you know A-Grade specifically targets the areas in which people tend to falter in order to protect the best interests of our loyal clientbase. So #LetsTalkAboutIt
One of the main things we experience artists doing is venting their frustrations about how hard it is to find studios where the quality of work is consistent, the prices are reasonable and the communication is strong. More than often phrases such as "The studio looked amazing, the song sounded great in the studio but when I got home it sounded terrible" or "I don't understand, they said they've engineered/produced for *insert popular artist here*, I thought it would be more professional than this".
We think it is important that we inform our readers on what the fundamental issues is. Take responsibility: Firstly, You must take FULL responsibility for how "YOU" decide who is going to be one of your main engineers. It is very true that many people are taking cool photos next to studio equipment and guitar amps and saying "I run a studio" ans there are many more people seizing every "photo op" to take a photo with someone who will make them appear to be a professional in field. Its just vital to understand THAT DOES NOT MEAN they are a professional, nor does it imply they know what they are doing 'consistently'. Literally 'anyone' can have a 'good attempt' at mixing a song, the difference between an amateur Engineer and a professional Audio Engineer is the professionals ability to be CONSISTENT in delivering a high standard of audio quality. The Professionals consistency comes out of years of education and education and insane amounts of time racking up experience. This can't be replicated by great looking gear or name-dropping the biggest artists in the world. The problem The problem is something that anyone who has bounced from a few different studios has learned, who a person has worked with can be greatly oversold vs what they're actual abilities are. In shorter words; it's just self-marketing. Bare in mind, no studio/engineer is at fault for engaging in marketing practices to generate business, its common sense for people to try and be as convincing as possible by leveraging their past work to get new work. Truthfully, It is YOUR responsibility as a creative to start becoming more mindful of how consistent each person you work with is, and whether or not your developing at a good rate under their direction. "Communication is key" If you can see that things are not working out as you had hoped, you should try to communicate your issues with the Engineer so they can try to correct the issue, but should communication not be possible or it become a game of egos clashing; It would be wise to step back and start weighing your options. Far too many times we have seen artists fall into the trap of trying to book studio sessions where they believe they will "look best" vs where will actually do 'the best work for them" and those two things can produce very different outcomes in the long run. Taking responsibility is important because the moment you do; you can begin setting "standards" for yourself to ensure your work can always reach a high level of quality. Without getting too technical, there is a huge differerence between a professional audio engineer and an amature. Most people may use the same / similar software and the hardware in different studios can vary significantly based on budget, yet fundamentally, all the software, all the mixing boards, all the audio interfaces and condenser microphones essentially do the same thing; slightly different to each other. Do not misquote us as to say the quality of equipment does not impact the overall quality of a song recording, we are saying that if you are working with an engineer that doesn't understand the discipline behind what they are being employed to do. Whether they are infront of a £80 microphone or a £4000 microphone won't make much of a difference. Whilst on the other hand, a great Audio Engineer could make a £200 set up sound remarkably good. The quality of the work the Engineer is doing will vary based on the specifics of the work. Namely the genre, the 'era' of sound, the production style amongst other factors of personal taste. Lastly and the most neglected fact of the matter is that to be an Audio Engineer is to walk a fine line between understanding the science / physics of sound in theory and then having to balance that with practical, technical application, and then lastly, having to balance these technical factors with theres and the clients personal tastes in sound, and most Engineers can testify to this; as technical as it is to explain, it can be much harder even in practice to keep this up. Yet they do. We are now in an era where Audio-Engineering equipment is more accessible just like many other specialist media equipment and for that reason, the entry point to becoming an audio engineer can be very easy to access. For this reason, actual audio specialists who have taken the time to learn the discipline properly to produce consistent results are regularly getting lost in the fold with amatures who are on a complete different level. Whats key to understand is that its a good thing, amature Engineers are not somethimg to be resented, they are simply growing in a craft just as professional engineers had to many years earlier, but both for artists and Engineers alike, the demand for professional Engineers to increase their visibility and stand out from the noise of amature hustles is becoming a necessity, but ultimately it is the artists responsibility to research and the Engineers responsibility to make themselves distinguishable.