I Didn't Know My Converters Were Bad Until Someone Told Me

2013 Nov 22, 2013

Nothing irritates me more in the audio world than seeing impressionable home studio owners being led down pointless rabbit trails in the name of “getting better recordings.” There is a gospel of “better gear” being preached day and night on popular internet forums and all around the inter-webs that not only doesn’t help get people the results their after, it leaves them more confused and disenchanted than ever.


Via spacedust2019 Flickr

Why Are We Obsessed With Converters?

If can’t tell by now, the title of this article is chock full of sarcasm. But the sad thing is, this statement is being made all the time. Many of you even have been “convinced” by someone online that your converters are bad and you need to upgrade. You might not have even known what converters were, let alone that the ones you already own in your audio interface aren’t “good enough” to do serious audio work.
I’ve read all the articles, watched all the video interviews, and of course taken part in many internet debates about the “blanket theory.” You might know what I’m referring to. People will say something like, “Once I upgraded to [insert more expensive converters here] I immediately noticed a difference in the sound. It was like someone had pulled a blanket off of my speakers!” You know what else sounds like a blanket coming off of your speakers? A high shelf boost of 2db on the mix buss.

My Trusty Old Digi 002

Back in the days when Pro Tools users had to have Pro Tools hardware connected at all times, there were only a handful of audio interfaces I could use. After upgrading from the original 2 channel Mbox to the multichannel 002 Rack interface, I was set. I could now record full bands and drum kits. And that’s exactly what I did. I had that thing for 7 years and used it on countless albums and live recordings.

Well, it became a well known “fact” that the converters in the 002 were “awful” and “unusable.” That was news to me. In fact, I was making a decent living in my studio and my portable rig helping people make great recordings, all with the 002 as the centerpiece of my rig. It wasn’t until people told me that the 002 converters weren’t good enough that I ever even noticed.

I became paranoid instantly.

Just like anybody else I want my recordings to sound their absolute best, so of course I immediately began looking for ways to “upgrade” my converters. But I could never justify the cost of either a mod, or an ADAT converter of some kind. It just seemed like a total waste.

What Really Makes A Difference

So instead I decided to keep my money in my wallet and put all my focus on something that would actually improve sound quality: improving myself. I worked on mic placement, gainstaging, better arranging, strategic use of EQ and compression, and constant referencing of pro mixes. All of these things have made major improvements in the final result of my recordings and mixes. No new gear necessary.

And that’s what I’m getting at people. I have no doubt that audio to digital conversion technology gets better and better as the years go on. Shoot, we used to only have 16 bit converters and people were still making Grammy award winning records on them (Frank Filipetti and James Taylor for example). That’s the thing. Technology keeps getting better, but that has no bearing on your ability to make pro sounding tracks on your current gear.

The Hard Truth

The truth is, we all are desperately looking for an excuse to spend money on gear. That’s what drives all of this in the end. The converters issue is no different from the new preamp, microphone, or plugin issue. We’d rather buy our way to better recordings than practice our way. The latter is far more effective and cost efficient my friends.

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