7 Audio Engineering Myths

Welcome back everybody to another focus for August; this month we’ll be talking about Growth! It’s natural to want to grow and evolve as your studio becomes better known, you improve your skills, and find a niche you’re both great at and enjoy. 


However, there’s a lot of misinformation out on the internet, and unfortunately, if you’re passionate about improving your skills, it’s much easier to be lulled into believing someone else's claims regarding a topic you may be struggling with, in the hopes of a quick fix or a fast solution. 


So today, I want to dispel 7 Audio Engineering Myths I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of either hearing too often, or have fallen for them myself in my formative years.


Let’s dive in!


Oversampling Makes All Plugins Sound Better

There’s a few times where you’ll find that the plugins you’re working with sound much better when oversampled, however there’s a grand misconception that this is the case on all plugins. Oversampling will only affect the quality of the sound if there’s aliasing occuring (also known as poor sampling). Without going into too much detail, one main place you’ll find this happening is on plugins that try to recreate the sound of a vintage piece of equipment, amplifier plugins, transformer or tube emulations, the list goes on. 


When recording at a standard 44.1Khz, or 48Khz project sample rate, that’s the overall sample rate you’ll record at, and when you turn on oversampling on a plugin that has aliasing built within it (as many hardware emulations have some amount of), for example 2 times oversampling, you will widen the sample range of that plugin specifically (not the entire project) and in this case, the plugin will now run at 88.2Khz, or 96Khz respectively often resulting in less or no aliasing depending on how high you oversample at as well as the sample rate you record at as well. 

 

Some plugins such as the CLA 76 from Waves will have aliasing problems unless oversampled quite a lot - but sometimes that can be a good thing so remember to use your ears!

 

Now, without further discussing aliasing too much, as that’s not the issue here; oversampling will have an impact on that type of plugin, such as an emulation of an analog piece of equipment. However, with for example, a digital EQ such as fabfilter Pro-Q 3, these plugins are designed to be completely free of artifacts or harmonics. A very easy way to test this is by doing a null test which you can find out much more about here. The simple fact is that a lot of plugins like the Pro-Q3 will have no extra quality from oversampling - in fact, all you will do is add more and more CPU strain, and find yourself limited on the processing you want to do within your mix. 



Gain Staging Only Matters on Hardware 

I don’t know if I could be any more against this notion if I tried. Let’s consider that you work solely with plugins that are faithful digital recreations of hardware that have been celebrated for years and just about every trick you can think of in how to get the best out of that hardware has been discovered by now. 


If you had a Pultec EQ from the 60’s (and it worked), likelihood is that you’d want to either run the signal you want to affect a little hotter (higher signal), or a little colder (less signal into the unit), to get more saturation or soften the transient information before even turning any dials. Depending on how much you add or take away, you’ll then level match the output control with both the EQ engaged and bypassed, and keep doing this until you’re happy with the overall desired sound. 


If you purchase a plugin that claims to have the same characteristics as described above, chances are that they have also tried to recreate the outcomes of either running the signal hotter or colder into the plugin so you can achieve the same results - so to claim that ‘it only matters on the real thing’ is folly.


Gain matching matters for many more reasons than just how the plugin will react to the signal level into it, of course; but it’s undeniable that plugin developers would want to recreate all characteristics of the hardware we love, and so the software should be treated as if it were a ‘real thing’ so you can get the best out of the plugin! 


Quality is in the Voice, Not The Cost Of a Microphone 

I’m all for less cost, high quality, top of the line microphones; but a good microphone needs great components, and highly skilled engineers to craft it. This was a comment I saw creeping up time, and time again, on many of our advertisements or posts in general - but this train of thought is shared with many up-and-coming engineers across the internet and it seemed prudent to address it. 


There are a number of good copies of microphones that for beginners are passable in terms of quality. However, when you are ready to take the quality of your recordings to a higher level, with the mindset of recording much more prestigious clientele; a cheaply made, mass produced copy of another microphone isn’t going to be good enough. 


Instead, you’ll need a versatile tool, with premium components, built with care and conviction - which is exactly what our microphones have to offer. Our flagship microphone, the Black Hole Series, is a perfect example of what a great microphone should be - able to excel on all sources, robust in build quality, and pioneering in the technology used to design the capsule and the microphone over all... oh, and it’s handcrafted - something of a rarity in today's market! 

This blog has been well timed, as luck would have it, as I found out yesterday that you can catch all the Black Hole Series microphones on sale for the next week on our store here.

 

Having a Dedicated Preamp is a Waste Of Time, Interface Preamps are Just As Good With Preamp Plugins

Interfaces have gotten better and better in the recent decade, to a point that they are undeniably great for pretty much any recording you find yourself doing. The same can be said for their preamp software counterparts, which have also evolved to be leaps and bounds better than those from a decade ago. 


However, this doesn’t mean a dedicated preamp won’t sound better or be a wise investment. The one thing that software preamps can’t do is mimic the way physical components react to voltage and signal passing through them. They can definitely get close, but there’s a nuance to analog hardware that for some reason can’t be replicated in the digital domain which is why hardware like compressors, preamps, EQ’s and everything else continues to be developed and sold as it has been for decades upon decades. 


If you’re starting out, the main priority is definitely a great interface, and software emulations will definitely do well to get you on the right track towards great recordings. But once you’re ready to progress your career, just like the need for a good microphone to improve the quality of your recordings - a dedicated preamp is a sound investment to take your productions to another level. 

 

You Have To Be Lucky To Make A Living In Audio Engineering (Finding the Right Artist to work with will Skyrocket Your Career)

As much as I wanted this to be true in my early career, it’s just not at all. I’ve worked with some very talented, very high profile artists that returned to the studio a good few times - and I’m still not Andrew Scheps! 


The truth of it all is that for the better part of your career, around 85-95% of your entire clientele will be grassroots bands, either brand new or with a little touring experience, with a small sprinkling of professional artists that visit your studio and fuel your financial success. 


There’s definitely been times in the past where an artist has blown up overnight and found success, but it’s not too often that the producer or engineer is lauded for that achievement with them - in fact, it’s hard enough to even get your credits posted in the description box of their music videos recently, let alone have the artist elevate your name in the industry along with their own. 


The simple truth is that focusing on consistent recordings, and helping out the grassroots artists, will ultimately feel like more than enough. I love working with all the artists I have returning to the studio time and time again, and I honestly am just thankful that they recommend me to their friends or other bands they play with - I get to help people do something they’d otherwise feel like was impossible. 


Vintage Gear is Better The Modern Gear Because of Its Age

I can already feel the rage of the vintage gear elitists boiling up inside, but I’m going to shatter the glass for you all anyway! 


Vintage gear sounds the way it does because it’s likely past its time and for the most part, the mojo we love is due to degraded parts. When the first LA-2A compressors, or the Rev A 1176’s were made, they weren’t intended to be used for 60 years day in day out without being replaced. 

 

 

Now, I’m not saying I don’t like vintage gear - in fact I like using their software recreations all the time. But if I was going to invest in hardware, or have the real thing in my studio, I would much rather have a modern take on that vintage gear, with all the benefits of modern technology and brand new components, than be extorted out of thousands of pounds due to the age of a piece of hardware.

 

Guitar Amplifier Plugins Will Never Sound As Good As the Real Thing

The jury is definitely split down the middle on this one. I agree that a lot of the recreations we have at the moment aren’t quite there yet; but they are very close. And to take that further, I don’t agree that the real thing won’t be or hasn’t been matched by software yet. 


I’ve worked for a few companies in my career, and in that time I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside some of the wonderful minds at Two notes Engineering, Positive Grid, and Neural DSP. Neural have definitely cracked the code, and even in my short stint there, it was obvious that they were onto something extremely special. The amp software they’ve been churning out year after year has been the closest thing I’ve personally come across that you could consider to be as good as the real thing, and I’d be confident in saying that the majority of you that are familiar with Neural DSP would agree with that too. 


If you haven’t tried out any of their software, I recommend you grab a trial of their Archetype Nolly plugin and have your mind blown! 


German