Professional Audio Dealerships
Where do professional recording studio facilities and legendary recording studio engineers find their gear?
At The Recording Session Vault, it is an important component of our mission to promote an understanding through education about how the great music of the past was created. While part of my mission is to write biographies of the people behind the music, feature articles about the great studios, and also to examine the technologies and to spotlight the companies that created them that have been so crucial to the development of popular music, it is also important to understand how the process of creating music actually worked, as well. With this educational series, we will explore the following topics: how the process of recording worked and how and why the technologies that were so important to that process were utilized. Plus, we will also discuss the products that engineers used to record the great popular music that we have come to love and to cherish.
In this brief article, I want to discuss how recording studio facilities, engineers and producers find and purchase the equipment that they use to do their magnificent work. There are very few places that actually sell the type of equipment that would be used in a professional music recording studio. You will not find the type of equipment that you would use in a professional recording studio in a place like a Wal-Mart or Target, or at an electronics outlet like Fry’s or Best Buy. You will not be able to purchase it at Amazon, either. No local music store will ever have the majority of what you might want or need for a professional music recording studio. There are a few outlets which do cater primarily to musicians that do sell some professional audio equipment, but even these stores, such as Guitar Center, do not sell the full array of professional music recording equipment that can only be found at a few select stores across the United States and around the world. In fact, there are only two places where you can actually purchase professional equipment for a professional music recording studio— from authorized dealers who carry it in stock and from the companies who create it.
I often refer to authorized dealers as retailers. While this characterization is somewhat true, it can be a bit misleading. The reason why it can be misleading is because the largest professional audio store is just that— a true retailer that sells both professional audio equipment, as well as musical instruments and it is known world-wide for its customer service and has a tremendous online presence. However, even this huge online retailer also offers recording studio design and installation services. Most of the stores that are authorized dealers for major professional audio companies also offer studio design and installation services, plus, each of them will also take the time to offer you customer services that will be long-term in nature. The reason for this level of customer service is simple— professional audio equipment is expensive, and, in general, it will be used for decades, so what we are talking about is that when you purchase professional audio equipment from an authorized dealer you are entering into a long-term relationship with that company and their services. However, do not even expect authorized equipment dealers to carry every single product or brand that you may wish to purchase. For the most part, professional audio companies are actually very small businesses in the grand scheme of the corporate world and the vast majority of them have 20 employees or less. In a few cases, it is a much better idea to purchase directly from the company than to go the retail route. There are important reasons for understanding when it is to your advantage to purchase from the company, rather than from a retailer even though it may not happen often.
Professional Audio Companies
It is not entirely uncommon in the world of professional music recording to simply buy products directly from the companies who manufacture them. For example, if you are purchasing a large-format analog console to be installed in your control room, there is a likelihood that you will work hand in glove with the company that will custom-build your desk from start to finish. Some companies sell their own modules or rack-mount gear units, all of which are most likely built from start to finish by hand. It will be easy for you to build a relationship with the people who make the products that you will use in your studio. In just about every case, you will purchase a product from a professional audio company either online or over the phone. It is not entirely unheard of for you to be involved in the custom creation of the product that you are purchasing from start to finish. Compared to most purchasing experiences where you might deal with a sales department in a very large company to purchase products for a school district, the process of buying for a school will be very different with a professional audio company. In fact, much of your experience may be spent with the very engineer who will actually build the product.
Vintage Audio Equipment
In the world of professional music recording, believe it or not, vintage or classic gear is actually sought after in a way that might surprise those who are new to the field. In the most sectors of production in the professional entertainment world, the latest and most fabulous technologies are almost always sought after, but the music recording world is different. Vintage microphones, gear and to a lesser extent, consoles are still highly desirable in the world of professional music industry. In fact, there are companies which restore, refurbish and custom create classic and vintage microphones, gear, consoles and even analog tape machines. Like other professional audio companies, these amazing companies will be with you in the process of developing your custom created product from start to finish. There are fabulous recording studios— most of them, in fact, around the world which have restored or classic gear in their racks, microphones in their lockers, or make use of either vintage consoles or tape machines to do their work each day.
Where do legendary recording studio engineers and great recording studio facilities purchase their gear?
If you were to take a tour of a major recording studio facility that has been in business for more than thirty years and has had a number of major hit records recorded in their control rooms, you would see a dazzling array of both vintage and new equipment being used side by side one another. If you took a peak into the microphone locker, you might see tube microphones which are more than 50 years old (some may be much older than that) sitting side-by-side with digital microphones or brand new condenser microphones that have been purchased over the course of the past few years. If you step into the control room, you might find compressors, microphone preamps or equalization units which are more than 40 years old being used alongside digital audio workstation software programs and their plugins by engineers to do their work. The console that the engineer may be working at could be more than 30 years old, or even older. But, the music that you most likely will be hearing will have been recorded using a digital audio workstation and the world of digital is now more prominent than ever— to the point that even the legendary recording studios are also down-sizing, in large-part to compete with the growth of home recording and small studio ventures.
Most of the professionals of the past purchased their gear from each of the places discussed above, including: professional audio dealers, professional audio companies and vintage audio restoration companies. It was not uncommon in the 1990s for example to have engineers carry a complete rack of gear with them wherever they went to work— from facility to facility. Now engineers have their own home recording studio facilities, though their are still engineers which carry their own gear with them, which even includes digital audio workstations and their software plugin suites. Each of the components of these racks or of their digital gear were purchased through professional audio dealerships. But, recording studio facilities are different. With their large-scale rooms and large-format analog or digital hybrid consoles and exquisite monitoring systems, most recording studio facilties do purchase some of their gear from dealers, but for the most part, these legendary facilities will deal directly with the amazing professional audio companies who have been making their products (some of them) for more than fifty years.
Below, is a list of professional audio companies— there are a number of them, so there is no way for me to be able to list them all, but each of the companies on this list are dealers or outlets who sell a dazzling array of products. Also, I will list companies that sell vintage gear and those that also restore and refurbish classical gear and equipment, as well. Keep in mind that this is just a brief list. If you wish to purchase a product from a professional audio company, it is best to go to the website of the company that produces it, find an authorized dealer near your location and then contact them and begin the process of building a relationship with them because purchasing professional audio products is a long-term investment.
Retail Outlets and Professional Audio Dealers
Vintage or Classic Professional Audio Dealers
The following companies restore, refurbish or custom create classical professional audio products—