What if money was no object and we could indulge our wildest gear-hoarding fantasies and buy whatever we wanted? Rob Boffard has the answer…
When it comes to buying gear, money isn’t actually the primary consideration – or it shouldn’t be, anyway. Buying studio kit is all about your needs, what it can offer you and how it can affect your mixes.
Not that that stops us from jumping on kit websites and filtering by price, seeing just what the top end really looks like. What would we do, if money was absolutely no object? Which pieces of gear would we splurge on? Fortunately, we’ve saved you the trouble.
Here are six pieces of hardware to spend a year’s salary on – and by a year’s salary, we mean a truly staggering amount of money (heads up: we’ve largely steered clear of vintage equipment here, as prices can often fluctuate – and we could spend a long, long time rounding up the best and most expensive vintage gear out there…).
1: Avalon AD2077 Stereo Mastering EQ
Amusingly, Avalon includes a testimonial for the AD2077 on its website from a person named “Emily L, NY”, who raves about the EQ’s “incredible depth and elegance”, “the integrity of the stereo image” and the fact that “the high-end air seems to go on forever!” We don’t know whether “Emily L” exists, but unless she’s got the dollar equivalent of £10,000 in the bank, we’re betting she doesn’t own one of these.
The AD2077 is a truly marvellous bit of kit, with fantastically-made Class A amplifiers that deliver all the sound quality you’d expect. Emily L may or may not be real, but you can definitely believe her hype.
2: Manley Slam!
It’s worth gracing our list with this outstanding piece of outboard: a mic preamp/limiter combo. A very expensive one, built by a legendary manufacturer and guaranteed to give both your recordings and your studio a sheen that only lots and lots of money can buy.
And, to be fair, the Slam! is terrific. It offers superb dynamics, lightning-fast FET, and pin-point control – and despite the fact that it can get bloody loud, bloody fast, the results are always butter-smooth (as you’d expect from something with a price tag of £5,000).
3: Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor
Compressor shopping is the dark underworld of studio kit. It’s a realm filled with rumours, strange characters and mythical creations. The Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is – and we use this term very deliberately – the holy grail.
Even finding it on the Shadow Hills website takes time and effort, and…well, just look at the thing. Big, foreboding and very, very black, with a set of components that deliver truly breathtaking compression.
No wonder it’s sought-after. It’s separated into discrete and optical sections, includes full sidechain filtering and is generally considered to impart shine to mixes just by being in the same studio. It also costs around £7,000 – assuming you can find one to buy in the first place.
4: Adam S6X Active Studio Monitor
When it comes to monitors, you want monsters. So why not put down £10,000 for the Adam S6X? It’s a four-way monitor with front-mounted controls that is ridiculously, sublimely accurate, even at very high sound pressure levels.
Each of the drivers has separate controls, allowing you to perform minute adjustments. These are the monitors you buy if neither space nor money are a problem, although you’re not going to get by with just one. Nope, that £10K will get you only a single speaker, so crack open the savings account and buy two. It’s the sensible thing to do.
5: Minimoog Voyager 10th Anniversary
Synths are another area where you could spend hundreds of thousands of pounds buying vintage equipment, but if we stick to new stuff, a few things become apparent. It has to be a Moog, and it has to be hand-made – also covered in gold, inlaid with awabi pearl from Japan and finished with transparent knobs.
Because who wouldn’t want a piece of studio equipment that not only screams the fact that your studio is probably installed above a Scrooge McDuck-like money pool, but also sounds absolutely astonishing? We’ll take three, please. At £10,000 a pop, of course. Hopefully, Moog will throw in a complementary pair of white gloves.
6: AMS Neve Genesys G128
Do you work in the City of London? Take home a six-figure bonus? Splendid! Here’s the mixing console you need. The AMS Neve Genesys G128 is an amazing console by definition – it is a Neve, after all – but this is one that really pushes the needle into the red.
Never mind the 64 channels of mic/line and 64 channels of DAW/tape monitoring, the real draw here is that this desk is modular, allowing you to mix and match, and even expand, your desk if for some ungodly reason you need more than 128 channels.
Oh, and it comes with fader and button recall. You need never use the tape and sharpie again. Although if you let sticky tape come anywhere near your £104,000 beauty, you need your head examined.