Wednesday, July 11, 2012 by Tim Webb
I'm a lefty and often feel I must look at the world upside-down and backwards from the majority. Too Much Information (TMI) Tim will examine issues in music making that deserve a closer look from a different perspective. I've got a great one to start this off!
One of the most common questions I've been getting since I started Everyone Can Play Music, is from people who feel they are ready to stretch their wings and challenge themselves with hardware synths. These guys have read somewhere that hardware is going to sound so much better than software iPad apps, and they ask me if this is true.
Rather than retreading the old Hardware Vs. Software arguments, I want to give you an analogue analogy.
In the world of competitive video games there is a similar lust over keyboards. There are those who will tell you that you simply must own a "mechanical keyboard", with Cherry MX switches. These have a physical component to detect key presses, as apposed to the membranes common to most keyboards. In fact the holy grail for these guys is an ancient bit of IBM technology.
These "vintage keyboards" aren't even compatible with modern computers, but enthusiasts will use adapters to get them working. Musicians lust for a unique sound advantage in old gear, and gamers are looking at these archaic devices for a competitive advantage. Both are just marketing and hipster hype.
Hardware manufacturers play on the idea of mechanical (analog) keyboards being so much better than the convenient conventional keyboard that came with your computer. These mechanical keyboards are a premium, priced 5-10 times the amount of regular keyboard! The manufacturers want you to feel like the keyboard you have in front of you is shameful, but if you pony up for the premium you're going to be so much better in competitive games. Hipsters perpetuate this by bragging about their status symbols. They've bought and paid for the right to snobbishly say, "Oh you have a Dell, well... I guess that's fine for playing Farmville."
The truth is that the real Professionals in competitive gaming use cheap $30 keyboards! No shit, watch a game of the Global Star League in Korea. The guys making serious cash, playing for $100,000+ prize pools, are using $30 keyboards that are like any other (digital) membrane keyboard.
Pictured here, to the right, is the keyboard used by the guy who has made the most money from professional gaming. It's a $35 Qsenn DT-35. His team is sponsored by SteelSeries, makers of a keyboard that has "18K gold-plated mechanical switches" and retails for $150! SteelSeries would gladly give him one for free, just so it shows up on TV when he's playing, but none of these guys give a damn about mechanical switches.
This whole notion of some advantage to analog switches is complete bullshit. We have the same competitive advantage silliness in the music realm, from manufactures that release new synth models annually. Members of the community who fall for the marketing will then try to justify their investment on forums. This is a never ending cycle of nonsense, as more people buy into the hype and perpetuate it themselves to brag about their gear.
Ignore the hype. It doesn't matter which is better. It doesn't matter which is cheaper. Just learn to use what you have in front of you.