Why Investing In Hardware Is A Good Idea

2012 Nov 02, 2012

Recording and mixing has become increasingly a software driven world. With mixing consoles and tape replaced by DAWs, outboard gear replaced by plugins, and records replaced by MP3s, everything seems to scream “software is king.”  But with all the investment I have made in software over the years, it seems to me I have gotten more value out of my hardware.


Via fr4dd Flickr

Hardware Is Backwards Compatible

Have you ever updated your DAW to the latest version only to realize that it doesn’t work with your current computer’s OS? So then you update (potentially paid) your OS only to find out some of your plugins no longer work on the new OS. Ugh!! Now you potentially have to pay for an update of those plugins that are in essence the exact same thing you’ve been using for a few years, just compatible. Yep. Been there. Done that.
Unlike software, hardware is (generally) always backwards compatible with your studio. Got some old microphones from 10 years ago? Those will still plug into your interface. Picked up an old mic pre off of Ebay? Yep it still has balanced line outs that will work with your converters. Just bought some new studio monitors? You guessed it, they will always work with your DAW, no matter which version you are running.

Hardware Needs No License Protection

Have you ever moved all your software over to a new studio computer only to realize you’ve lost your license code/key for some plugins? Yep, I sure have. And no amount of digging or looking up in my email resulted in proof that I had purchased that plug in 5 years ago. Even though I physically have the disc with the software on it, I can’t use it without software protection. Granted things like the iLok can help and more info is being stored in the cloud, but I’ve definitely lost out in the past.

Hardware on the other hand needs no license protection. As long as I physically don’t lose the gear, it’s mine to use as much as I like! I can always use my mics, preamps, speakers, cables, mic pres, and everything else I’ve invested in over the years no matter what happens with my computer and it’s software license issues.

Hardware Retains Value Monetarily

One final benefit to investing in hardware for your studio is that in general it holds its value better than software. If you purchase a DAW or plugin, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get much of anything back if you to try to sell it and transfer the license to someone else. Hardware on the other hand has a great secondary market.

If you feel the need to get new speakers in your studio, you can at least sell your old ones and subsidize your cost. I’ve done this a lot. If I have gear that I’m not using anymore, I’ll sell it and use the proceeds to round out my studio in other ways that are more useable. That’s the beauty of investing something tangible and real, it has value in the resale market.

Is Software A Bad Investment?

So what am I saying here? Is software really a bad investment? Of course not. What would the world be doing right now if it weren’t for amazing computer software? My livelihood depends on software. I basically have a 96 channel console in my house with unlimited tape, compressors, EQs, reverbs, and delays to play with. Add that to some mind blowing programs like Melodyne and Beat Detective and you’re able to do some amazing professional work at little cost.

I am saying, however, that as fun and exciting as it is to want to add more plugins and DAWs to your plate, you really can never go wrong with investing in real hardware gear like microphones, preamps, etc. These never need to be updated, upgraded, or replaced unless they break or are stolen. Something to consider when looking to spend your hard earned money.

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