Computer hardware is cheap. Many software recording tools are also inexpensive. In an age where anyone with a laptop, microphone and I/O device can record better quality audio than in the 70s, is there still a need for recording studios? Will they continue to be relevant in the times to come?
It has long been said that anyone could set up their own home project studio, and never has that been truer in an age where software and hardware tools are so inexpensive.
Anyone with a laptop and a microphone can capture better quality sound than even professional studios of the yesteryear.
This begs the question: are recording studios obsolete? Is this the end of an era?
There are several factors that we have to keep in mind before spreading doom and gloom predictions. Consider the following.
Hardware is Complex
Not everyone knows how to set up a home studio. If you’re mostly dealing with software-based recording, then there isn’t anything terribly challenging about setup. That’s a bit of a different story when you’re dealing with hardware-based recording.
You have to know what cables go where. You have to know what the faders and knobs do on the mixing board. You have to figure out your signal chain.
Software certainly is powerful, but it doesn’t always offer the variety of options and warmth that good hardware does. There still is – and will continue to be – a demand for studio engineers that know their gear inside and out.
Software is Complex
Learning software can be a challenge; especially for beginners. DAWs certainly are powerful, but in terms of complexity, many of them are not that far off from a program like Adobe Photoshop.
Anybody with enough determination can become proficient at using DAWs, plugins and other software tools, but not everyone has the time or the patience.
A seasoned studio engineer will probably feel at home within a DAW environment, and will even comment how easy it is to do. However, it can be intimidating for many others. Unless recording software becomes even more intuitive, automated, or both, quality engineers will continue to be in demand.
Good Sound Requires Good Ears
A great studio engineer doesn’t need a state-of-the-art studio to create pristine quality recordings. The longer they use their gear, the more they get to know it. The more bands they work with, and the more recordings they do, the better they become at what they do.
Anybody can record a voice and an instrument and get a sound, but they can’t necessarily get a great sound. Moreover, they may not have any knowledge when it comes to mixing and figuring out how to place a track in a mix.
A good ear can be developed, but again, it tends to come through a significant amount of experience and study. Many musicians, producers, hobbyists, and others will continue to rely on the ears of a professional to get the quality of recording desired.
Because of the proliferation of inexpensive technology, anybody with the desire to set up shop can. However, achieving their musical vision may prove more challenging than they even realize.
Professionals will continue to be in demand, but the marketplace will become all the more competitive as time goes on. Recording studios may not be obsolete, but becoming the go-to studio or engineer – even in your own locality – is easier said than done.
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.