The Barista's Problem
February 17, 2013
So I stop into a coffee shop for a hot cocoa and a brownie while waiting for my daughter, and the barista starts naming all the mics on my T-shirt and getting most of them right. (Gotta love Shure for the most consistently fun shirts at NAMM over the years!) She asks me why I have a shirt like that, and I mention the magazine... turns out she reads it once in a while and has a nice thing or two to say about it, she has a small recording room where her band tracks demos. Nice when that happens.
I go and have a seat, and a few minutes later, she comes up and asks if she can get some recording advice. She's trying to choose a new interface for her computer and is asking about Company A vs. Company B, both very good firms whose products have gotten good reviews in past issues. I discuss the pluses and minuses for a while, and ask her why she's upgrading. We get to talk about preamp quality, which gets us onto the subject of audio quality and where one starts for the best sound...
After a few questions and answers, it turns out she has a great DAW, a solid interface that could maybe stand to have better pres, and very good mics, but she's recording in an absolutely horrible room. The audio artifacts she's describing have nothing to do with preamps... they're flutter echo from two unadorned parallel walls in her tracking room!
So I explain to her that we start with a good performance on a good instrument, put it in a good room, then put up a good mic and place it properly, then worry about the preamp and signal chain and eventually the DAW. I hope it sank in, I think her eyes were glazing over a bit toward the end. :)