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Past & Present: Were The “Good Old Days” Really All That?

Some of the crazier (and unknown and uncertain) stuff has been taken out of the equation...

By Keith Clark November 26, 2018

Image courtesy of Ryan McGuire

A recent poll here at ProSoundWeb asked, “The one thing I’d like to see the return of, or at least more of, in sound reinforcement is…”

Response choices included tube electronics, rotary faders, loud/distorted audio, wired-only microphones, and wedges only (no IEM).

Oh, and the winner: none of the above, which garnered almost 50 percent of the vote.

Number two was tube electronics getting more than 20 percent, with number three being wired-only mics at about 15 percent.

I was a bit surprised at the result, given the deluge of times over the years I’ve heard seasoned audio professionals fondly remembering the “good old days.”

Yet I suspect the real reason(s) behind this response are quite a bit more complex.

Obviously, technology “back then” was not nearly as advanced as it is now, but decades ago, exceptional results in both sound reinforcement and recording were attained regularly.

It was often just a tougher proposition, with the people doing the work figuring out techniques, working to maximize everything they had, and improvising when things went wrong.

There’s a lot of satisfaction in that type of endeavor, and also a lot of fun, even when the situation doesn’t go quite as planned.

Now, on the other hand, there are so many proven techniques, as well as proven tools readily available to a lot of audio professionals, of exceptional quality and reliability and from so many sources, that some of the crazier (and unknown and uncertain) stuff has been taken out of the equation. (And keeping in mind, of course, that in the wrong hands, a million dollar system can sound worse than two soup cans linked by a string, but I digress…)

So while some might say “tubes sound better” and the wireless/RF picture has been a tad rocky of late – and overall, the good old days may hold a lot of warm memories – there’s much to be said for the hard-earned techniques and technology of the current age. And this is reflected in the poll result.

What do you think?


About Keith

Keith Clark
Keith Clark

Editor In Chief, ProSoundWeb & Live Sound International
     
Keith has covered professional audio and systems contracting for more than 25 years, authoring hundreds of articles in addition to hands-on work in every facet of publishing. He fostered the content of ProSoundWeb (PSW) from its inception, helping build pro audio’s largest portal website, and has also served for several years as editor in chief of Live Sound International (LSI).

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Tony "T" Tissot says

It’s difficult to reconcile fondness for old equipment from the herculean effort needed to acheive good results in regional/local touring in the early 70s. I was a squint then, but audio and lighting were in the same boat.

My recollections include very heavy equipment, load-ins at venues that still had steps, long drives with no DOT 10-hour rule, power-ties with “battery” clips. For us non-union guys, you did the load-in, the show, out, and then drove. Each stop had repairs on the docket. Every job seemed as if it were a science project.

I can now roll in a 6X12 trailer, put out as much acoustic output as Woodstock, run 4 to 8 on-deck channels (or in-ears) - and be cooking in under an hour. And the cost of decent gear is peanuts compared to the “old” days.

The “old” days? I think any fondness is similar to the apocryphal stories about how we traveled to school back then; Uphill both ways, 10 miles in each direction, in the snow, with no arms or legs.

On the other hand, nothing will ever replace the warm sounds from mid 70s boutique consoles, custom pres, hand-built mics, tape and outrageously expensive monitors at Philadelphia International Records. (I was only the “phone” guy then.) I can replicate their entire work flow today, with higher channel counts, for less than $5K - but the difference in sound is obvious.

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