The classic equipment of tomorrow - is it in your attic now?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Monday November 6, 2006

The classic equipment of tomorrow - is it in your attic now?

If you have a certain history in music and recording, you will remember how equipment that is considered classic today was once virtually worthless.

Take a microphone like the AKG C12A, the predecessor of the very popular C414. When this microphone was first sold in the 1960s it cost a small fortune. Microphones did then, and this was a good one.

However move on to the 1980s and you could buy a pair for $200 complete with power supply units. But now this has all changed and a typical price for just one is $2250! And it doesn't even have a tube inside! (Actually, the nuvistor it contains is a tiny tube, but made from metal and ceramic instead of glass.)

It is though a very good microphone indeed.

This pricing cycle of high-low-high begs the question, what equipment is around today that is currently in its low phase? The low price indicates that no-one currently wants it - the reason could be either that it really isn't any good, or that it is currently merely out of fashion.

Current classic items include microphones, microphone preamplifiers, compressors, mixing consoles, guitars, synthesizers and effects units, among other possibilities.

However it is probably true to say that current out-of-fashion items in these categories will not become classics. Where there are classics already, who needs more 'classics' that are not quite so classic?

The classics of tomorrow will come from different and perhaps unexpected areas. Perhaps they will be landmark instruments or equipment that defined a change in musical technology or style.

Here are two possibilities...

The Akai S900 sampler. You can pick up one of these for around $100 on eBay. Now plainly this model has been superseded by modern technology. Yet it has a certain directness and is very easy to use. Also, the lack of memory and the 12-bit 'crunchiness' leads to musical textures that modern equipment and software can't match.

Another: the Atari ST computer running Steinberg Cubase v2.0. Now this is the classic combination that has produced many hit records. The Atari ST was the Macintosh of its day, and that was at a time when you wouldn't dream of using a PC for music - they were so primitive. So every musician had one. And Cubase? Well in an era before you could record audio on a computer, Cubase version 2.0 was simplicity and elegance itself in MIDI sequencing. Later versions have piled feature on feature and have become monstrosities compared to the clean lines of v2.0.

So if you have either of these currently unsung 'classics', you should hang onto them until they reach their true value in the marketplace. No - you should be using them! You will be surprised what you can achieve.

Over to you... what future classics do you have in your attic?

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

Come on the Audio Masterclass Pro Home Studio MiniCourse - 60 great hints and tips to get your home recording studio MOVING

It's FREE!

Get It Now >>

The Internet goes analogue!

How to choose an audio interface

Audio left-right test. Does it matter?

Electric guitar - compress before the amp, or after?

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue

Clipping and compressing a drum recording to achieve an exciting sound texture

What can we learn about room acoustics from this image?

Can you hear the subtle effect of the knee control of the compressor? (With audio and video demonstrations)