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Are successful producers the best people to tell you which is the best equipment?

In a recent test, top producers were asked to pick out the best converters. But were they the best people for the job?

In a recent test, several top producers were asked to judge analog-to-digital converters. Their conclusion was interesting, but it made me wonder whether they were the best people for the job. Indeed, would a successful producer be the right person to advise you on any item of recording equipment?

On the face of it, this seems rather odd. After all, surely a successful producer would be exactly the person to advise you on equipment. But there are several very good reasons why this might not be the case.

Firstly, a successful producer might have been a successful producer in the past. But are they successful now? And will they be successful in the future? It is actually a rare producer who has a long and continuing career of success. If someone's best experience is from ten years ago, then they might advise you to buy something that isn't even available now.

Secondly, the producer might have had a string of hit records using a unique and ear-catching sound. If so, that sound has probably run its course. Congratulations to the producer for what they did. No congratulations to anyone who merely follows them.

Next, the producer might be a musical genius. His or her work sold on the basis of its musical, not sonic, value. They might not know a Hertz from an Avis, or a decibel from a carillon.

But there is one point that is worth taking into consideration - the music industry respects anyone who has been associated with success. No-one can say for sure why any particular hit is a hit. But if it's a hit, then the people that worked on it all made a contribution, and the equipment that was used made a contribution too.

So one thing a successful producer knows from instinct is the smell of success. So if he or she says a certain piece of equipment is good, it doesn't matter what their justification is, they can sense potential success in it. And that just might be more important than mere specifications.

Going back to the original test... Perhaps what the producers heard in the converters they tested wasn't accuracy or even any kind of subjective niceness in the sound. They could just hear which would more easily lead to musical and commercial success than the others.

What do you think?

By David Mellor Wednesday March 2, 2011