The author's own refurbished acoustic environment, first improved with new porcelain tile flooring followed by a complete acoustic treatment scheme, custom designed by Jay Porter of Primacoustic. On the heels of another Winter NAMM show — full of Pavlovian bells and whistles specially made to make the musically minded drool in the heart of dreamy Disneyland — I came back home to reality a bit conflicted. On one hand, many of the best manufacturers in our industry were showing their latest products, including exciting and innovative gear considerations for Pro Audio Review's readership. Yes, I was still on that postshow high. Yet I couldn't ignore a bit of an environmental hangover directly associated with our world's current financial situation (aka, the recession).
So, along with lots of great products to think about, the show also left me with one huge question to ponder: How can PAR be most helpful to our readership — audio professionals considering their next gear purchase — in 2009, a year anticipated as a tough one for doing business?
Pro Audio In Perspective
Like never before in my work of editing reviews and features for this magazine, I am realizing how important it is to evaluate new pro audio products from a realistic, logical, and time-sensitive perspective. While reviewing the Really Nice Series of preamps and compressors (see pages 34-35), Mark McQuilken, FMR Audio owner and all-around logical thinker, reminded me of his philosophy (one that his customers will read in his product manuals and that I also share): "Any piece of studio gear is only a tool ... nothing is perfect, and compromises always have to be made."
Regardless of how cool, no piece of gear (even our industry's most popular DAW gracing the cover of this issue) is more than a tool. Any product cannot and will not be more important than the sounds and the space in which you hear and capture audio. And what a relief that is, especially because I know that I'll never have everything I want, in the studio or elsewhere.
So, First Things First
Regardless of the economy, PAR will review and recommend the best pro audio gear in the industry. But I realize that many readers' budgets for new gear may be down in '09. For this reason, because dollars must be stretched and purchases must be closely scrutinized, good acoustics should be the top of your priority list like never before. And, as always, when acoustics are prioritized first, good things will follow.
Odds are that you're like me. You probably don't work very often in a studio that was designed by an accomplished acoustic architect from the ground up. Yes, those of us who can go to a Storyk-, Berger-, Hidley-, Manzella-, Swist, etc.- designed room to work each day are truly blessed. But in much of the same manner that digital technology leveled the pro recording field in the 1990s, 21st Century surface-applied acoustic products alongside innovative thought can almost miraculously transform bad acoustic spaces to very desirable ones.
So to put first things first in 2009, I must recommend a reevaluation of your production environment, and an improvement, if necessary. A better acoustic workspace will glean better results from any new gear you choose to purchase (and actually, I'll bet that you'll buy more gear in the near future as a direct result of the improvement). Further, your new space will give your old stuff a better environment in which to shine.
Speaking From Experience
The manufacturers that now populate the acoustics treatment industry (such as Acoustics First, Acoustic Sciences Corp., Auralex, the Auralex/Russ Berger pArtScience cooperative venture, MSR, Primacoustic, Real Traps, RPG Diffusor Systems, WhisperRoom, VocalBooth.com, and many others) are an innovative bunch. Together, they offer pro audio products that produce their intended results all of the time, power on or power off — simply sit in an acoustically improved environment, close your eyes and you'll surely hear the results.
Strother Bullins is the reviews and features editor for Pro Audio Review and a regular contributor to Audio Media.