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Of times and gear obsolescence...


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Hello all,

some evening thoughts here.

This year is the 20th anniversary of my faithful SQN 4S IVe. I bought it new directly from SQN that made a special feature on my request at no charge (remote pot for ch4).

As I realize I am still using it quite regularly and it had never ever failed me and I am about to buy a Sound Devices 888 that no one can tell if it will be obsolete in 5 years or not, I wonder if the era when we used to buy gear as an investment for decades is pretty much gone for good. Yet the prices are still far from affordable for professional gear. There might be still some mikes that we can trust to last and be fully top of the game in 10 years but with digital machines and the ever faster evolution of processor based recorders who knows if in 10 years from now the fantastic Scorpio or 888 will lack some features that everybody needs and will no longer be upgraded?

Every <30y old young sound recordists out there say my 744T is a dinosaur... And indeed I can no longer use it for many of my jobs although it is still working fine. I use it on some documentaries and for wilds but I have had to rent newer recorders for a while now for fiction shoot and bigger documentary.

Yet I have a Nagra 4.2 that is close to my age and still working fine (I bought it 2d hand and it has been serviced by Nagra few years ago) and still very beautiful to hear, and look at. I do not use it much but when I do people don't laugh, in fact most stand in awe for it.

Its price when it came out could be a comparable investment as the price of a Scorpio. I am 100% sure a new Scorpio will no longer be working in 50 years nor be able to be fixed and if it does, there would probably be nothing interesting about it. I hope I am wrong ūüėČ

 

 

 

 

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Am a 100% certain the 888 will still be used on lots of big shoots a decade from now. Just look at the 788T which is a dozen years old! Sure, lots of people have moved on from the 788T, but also many many many shoots are still being done with a 788T. Am betting the 888 will have an even longer life span than the 788T.   

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I still use my 744Ts all the time for nearly the whole lifetime of the machine now.  They've been back several times to SD for repair and checkout.  Gear like that will work very well until the maker no longer will service it.  The irony of digital recorders is that what really distinguishes the current machines from oldsters like the 744 is not the sound, but the many many features that have been added to such machines over the years.  If you don't need the features then the old machines work well.  Many sound professionals do not live at the bleeding edge of technology, but get along quite well with used gear a few generations old.  I thank those that do buy the new gear when it comes out and then sell their old stuff to people like me!

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You've said it already, Fred, but - microphones and the Nagra.

 

I had my Nagra IV-S stored at my friend's dad's place when I went from Hong Kong to China and ended up working in London. When I finally got back to pick it up a year or two later I was staying with another friend and left it on his sideboard: while I was out the washing machine repair man came round and apparently was infatuated with it. Similarly, taking the ferry into Guangzhou a week later the customs were also enamoured of it and I had trouble pointing out the serial number and trying to explain it was from 1979 and no longer my professional gear. When I finally got it back to Heathrow my mate came to greet me at the airport and asked if he could help with any any luggage: specifically the Nagra in its tasty leather case!

 

Jez

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I know there's been a big move towards mixer/recorders with control surfaces but analog certainly isn't dead at all.  The engineers over at Sonosax DEFINITELY believe that, hence why they still make their wonderful mixers.  I really like Ben Osmo's "Rig Tour" video on YouTube.  Rocking the analog mixer with a couple 7 series recorders.

 

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24 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

He's got three on the cart! 2x 788 + 1x 744

It's that "bit bucket" approach.  Get a very nice analog board and then use whatever can capture it into 0's and 1's for ya.  Obviously the 7 series aren't just any old 0&1 converters as they are robust and sound great on their own, but there's definitely something to this approach that I like!  Although I'd be remiss to think that having a few Dante Lectro Receivers inputted via a simple ethernet cable would be very convenient, that's for sure.

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If you are looking for an "investment" is sound recording gear, I think only top-tier microphones fit that bill now days.  Anything else I might buy into would be for my personal convenience and I have no expectations of that gear's lifespan.  I do tend to move on fairly quickly which has saved me from taking big resale hits as a rule, but I have moved on from some companies that had quick EOL even as the gear was still working fine.  So I look for manufacturers that show good support and then buy their innovations.  Seems to have mostly worked with a few ugly exceptions.

 

But I have a 788T that still gets used more than any other piece of equipment I own; I have vowed to never sell it.  Even in deep retirement, the 788T and a couple of mics will allow me to do 90% of the recording I currently do.  Maybe get greedy and keep four mics. :)  Hard to say that about anything else in my kit.  I don't usually use the preamps now; the 788T is a bit-bucket for a Grace m108 preamp.  But would the built in preamps in the 788T serve me well?  Of course.

 

All the digital stuff?  Buy it, use it for as long as you can, upgrade to some other digital stuff.  It is just the way of the world in 2022.

 

(typing this on one of three 2012 MacBook Pros)

 

D.

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I still have and use my original quartet of Schoeps mics that I bought around 1981.  I might have a few stray mic cables that are that old, but everything else from that era is gone.   The main equipment issue for dialog recordists these day is how complex the demands from producers have become and the further digitalization of all aspects of production and post.  Staying in that game requires continual reinvestment as well as trying to figure out ways to make your old dogs do the new tricks being asked of them.

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Regarding microphones; maybe not a populair thing to say, but microphones degrade over time. So a decades old mic, might be "working", but is technically not the same as one that is a couple years old, or brand new. Nothing you really can do about, that is just the natural degradation of the components (condenser mic/plates not holding capacitance, thus less effective, pcb components wearing out etc etc). This all not to the point that it will fail, but indeed enough to alter the sound and the potential of the initial design. Even more so do to the nature of our work; Outside, uncontrolled, humid, not humid, cold, warm, locations. 

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I have brand new, 1980s  and all decades in between Schoeps, some have had a "German vacation" and some have not, but they work equally greatly on my gigs.   I rent quite elderly Neumann U87s and KM84s somewhat often, and they deliver what they are known for.  Take care of your mics and they will probably end up being the one sort of thing your heirs will be able to sell off for decent money after you check out.

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I did a feature this past winter. During the workflow conference call, the post supe asked me what recorder I use. When I said it was a 688, he replied, "Ah, a classic."

 

It took every last whit of my self control to not yell at him to get off my lawn.

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9 minutes ago, syncsound said:

When I said it was a 688, he replied, "Ah, a classic."

You'd think that as long as the files are 24bit/48khz, have timecode, and most importantly, sound good, who would care what recorder you use these days?

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You should have told him that your backup recorder was a wire recorder.  A-hole!

 

And no, classic mics from top tier dealers do not "degrade over time".  Neumann M50s are still selling for just shy of $30k each IF you can find them for sale.

 

D.

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4 hours ago, syncsound said:

I did a feature this past winter. During the workflow conference call, the post supe asked me what recorder I use. When I said it was a 688, he replied, "Ah, a classic."

 

It took every last whit of my self control to not yell at him to get off my lawn.

My default answer to such questions from such people is: "I haven't decided yet".   This goes for all equipment, actually.

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Just now, Philip Perkins said:

My default answer to such questions from such people is: "I haven't decided yet".   This goes for all equipment, actually.

If asked this by a post coordinator some day, I kinda want to just mess with them and say "Oh I always record to DAT tapes".

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5 hours ago, tourtelot said:

And no, classic mics from top tier dealers do not "degrade over time".  Neumann M50s are still selling for just shy of $30k each IF you can find them for sale.

of course they do degrade. What make you think microphones are an exception of the "laws of physics"? 25k of that 30k neumann is gearslutz tax by the way.
*Now, because some mics are having an "epic history", might make it very much worthwhile to restore/fix, whatever. But all labour and component expenses involved, after a while, it becomes a technical total-loss (not taking the "fanatic tax" into account, sure, a "name-50/60s car model" is sometimes also worth to fix for this reason)*

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8 hours ago, syncsound said:

When I said it was a 688, he replied, "Ah, a classic."

He might have meant that in a positive / complimentary manner? 

Just like if he asked "what mic are you using?" and you replied back with Schoeps CMC641, then he could also respond back with "ah, a classic" to that as well, with absolutely nothing negative implied whatsoever. 

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10 hours ago, Vincent R. said:

of course they do degrade. What make you think microphones are an exception of the "laws of physics"? 25k of that 30k neumann is gearslutz tax by the way.
*Now, because some mics are having an "epic history", might make it very much worthwhile to restore/fix, whatever. But all labour and component expenses involved, after a while, it becomes a technical total-loss (not taking the "fanatic tax" into account, sure, a "name-50/60s car model" is sometimes also worth to fix for this reason)*

Gearslutz tax?  No!  I am guessing at that price, it has been completely restored and works perfectly.  Even old Maseraties need maintenance to run in top form.  But a restored old Maserati is still a top tier car and deserves to be priced as such.

 

If you have any M50s that you'd like to let go for $5000, I'll take all you have.

 

BTW, anyone want to buy my restored 1976 MGB?

 

D.

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I think the gear that I have that is most likely to go off meekly into the dark would be my Allen & Heath SQ6 panel.

 

You know?  I love that panel, really love it.  It does everything that I need it to do with grace and ease.  There are occasional firmware updates that keep it on the path.  I bought it three years ago and use it from time to time.  So now we are creeping up on that 5-year window and it is still in the current A&H catalog.  But for how long?  And what time frame would satisfy my wish for something to serve out its value?  And how long will A&H support it, in some meaningful way, once it isn't a current product any longer?

 

So, who knows?  We pays our money and we takes our choice.  Did I buy this expecting great resale?  Of course not.  Will I be satisfied that I got a value for my money?  Time will tell.

 

D.

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2 hours ago, tourtelot said:

If you have any M50s that you'd like to let go for $5000, I'll take all you have.

 

No M50s, but I have a SM58 with some spit/dna from Alicia Keys, Adele and some other singers in on it, 5000$ sounds about right ;)

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