Talisman (noun): A magical figure charged with the force which it is intended to represent.
It’s probably part of human nature that we tend to hang unreasonable expectations on something or someone that we hope will protect us, or more commonly, bring about a major change for the positive.
We think this will occur once we acquire a specific piece of gear, hire a new key person, or get a new boss. Otherwise, why would there be so many plays and movies on this subject such as Waiting for Guffman, Waiting for Godot, and Glengarry Glen Ross, to name a few.
I certainly count myself among those who have pined for some piece of gear or the next upgrade to my existing gear. I’ve thought, “If I only had those microphones (or preamps, or monitor loudspeakers, etc.), my life would be complete and/or my recordings would now be perfect.” And when it was about cameras, the focus (pun intended) was lenses.
Let’s face it, the pro audio industry – and any technical field – thrives on this desire. Without manufacturing innovation, we’d be stuck with yesterday’s gear and yesterday’s problems.
The thing, however, is that yesterday’s gear – if it was of sufficient quality – doesn’t suddenly become obsolete just because of the arrival of a newer, shinier, sexier and ostensibly better version. Sure, the new stuff can probably do things the old gear couldn’t do, otherwise why was it developed? Although sometimes one does have to wonder if it’s more of a “new packaging, same great taste” thing, when it’s actually much the same product with a new paint job.
However, most innovation we see is real and designed to address actual issues. Today the latest loudspeakers, amplifiers, consoles, microphones, preamps and even audio over IP are the best we’ve ever had.
But let’s just imagine, for a minute, that we’re running a business without the consistent profit margin to continually invest in new gear. (I know, strange concept!) So reality dictates that we must largely “deal with” the exiting gear to “make it happen.” And truth be told, this is the day-to-day for most of us anyway.
Honestly though, do our lives get a lot easier when the new mixing console arrives? Perhaps, after we get appropriate training and learn how to run it efficiently. But I argue that for every problem solved there’s likely to be at least one new problem we didn’t consider before. In other words, the overall amount of effort remains roughly constant even though the gear is continually evolving.
Certainly, we can now do things that we couldn’t before, or at least not easily. Consider, for example, the ability to facilitate (Audinate) Dante audio over IP. There are now some very impressive networks with dozens of devices all connected and routed, with almost no analog cabling. That really is advancement.
But by the same token, now we must know how to set up these networks, how to manage all of gear involved, and how to troubleshoot problems that didn’t exist before. So, like anything else, there are tradeoffs.