A simple glance around my studio would reveal a plethora of ‘outdated’ technology - from my trusty Digidesign Command 8 to my aging copy of Windows 7, to a pair of relatively unknown Tascam PE-40s, which are amongst some of the most beautiful sounding EQs I have ever used (more to come on that another time...)
Yet with many modern alternatives on the market why am I keeping one foot firmly in the past?
It was so long before I stopped using Pro Tools 8 (released way back in 2009) that it was no longer distributed under the Digidesign brand, but instead Avid - I held off from upgrading until the release of Pro Tools 11 in 2013. Why did I wait so long, and ¹why did I skip the potentially invaluable features awaiting me in versions 9 and 10?
¹ Sense the subtle hint of stubborn sarcasm.
When Not to Upgrade.
The latest software wasn’t going to make me a better Producer. I knew how to use Pro Tools 8 and it did EXACTLY what I needed it to - Perhaps even more importantly I could do it quickly and intuitively… It was second nature! If you want to reduce the barriers between your creativity and the next ‘BIG IDEA’ knowing your equipment and software inside out is one of the best ways to achieve this. Constant upgrades more likely hinder than aid this progress.
There is also a trend for new software and equipment to come bloated with unnecessary features and require you to give away varying degrees of personal information (ranging from email addresses and phone numbers to combined hair, blood and stool samples.) There is an elegant simplicity to older software and equipment that doesn’t come with ²unnecessary (and often clunky) third party applications or require online registration just to operate it.
² This is the main reason I have shied away from RMEs fantastic hardware - their TotalMix application is one of the least enjoyable pieces of proprietary software I have ever used.
Upgrade or Delete.
When to Upgrade.
That’s not to say however that upgrading isn’t sometimes in a users best interest. When I finally upgraded it was because Pro Tools 8 no longer met my requirements - It lacked the features I needed and slowed down my workflow as a result. (Mixing in a 32-bit DAW anyone?!)
Workflow can also be slowed down by faulty equipment. If you can’t maintain your own equipment and software, and the manufacturer (or a skilled third party) no longer offers this service it may be time to (begrudgingly) upgrade! As my current operating system approaches it’s official end of support date I will have to start considering this option.
If you’re interested in finding out about the psychology behind your purchases you should check out this LifeHacker article or Music Radar’s tongue in cheek, self-help piece on Gear Acquisition Syndrome.
What’s your opinion on this topic - Are you guilty of needlessly upgrading software and buying the latest piece of tech? Let me know your thoughts below!