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The classic equipment of tomorrow - is it in your attic now?

Will the equipment that you currently don't use and can't sell become a classic of tomorrow? Or does it belong in the dumpster?


The classic equipment of tomorrow - is it in your attic now?

If you have a certain history in music and recording, you will remember how equipment that is considered classic today was once virtually worthless.

Take a microphone like the AKG C12A, the predecessor of the very popular C414. When this microphone was first sold in the 1960s it cost a small fortune. Microphones did then, and this was a good one.

However move on to the 1980s and you could buy a pair for $200 complete with power supply units. But now this has all changed and a typical price for just one is $2250! And it doesn't even have a tube inside! (Actually, the nuvistor it contains is a tiny tube, but made from metal and ceramic instead of glass.)

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It is though a very good microphone indeed.

This pricing cycle of high-low-high begs the question, what equipment is around today that is currently in its low phase? The low price indicates that no-one currently wants it - the reason could be either that it really isn't any good, or that it is currently merely out of fashion.

Current classic items include microphones, microphone preamplifiers, compressors, mixing consoles, guitars, synthesizers and effects units, among other possibilities.

However it is probably true to say that current out-of-fashion items in these categories will not become classics. Where there are classics already, who needs more 'classics' that are not quite so classic?

The classics of tomorrow will come from different and perhaps unexpected areas. Perhaps they will be landmark instruments or equipment that defined a change in musical technology or style.

Here are two possibilities...

The Akai S900 sampler. You can pick up one of these for around $100 on eBay. Now plainly this model has been superseded by modern technology. Yet it has a certain directness and is very easy to use. Also, the lack of memory and the 12-bit 'crunchiness' leads to musical textures that modern equipment and software can't match.

Another: the Atari ST computer running Steinberg Cubase v2.0. Now this is the classic combination that has produced many hit records. The Atari ST was the Macintosh of its day, and that was at a time when you wouldn't dream of using a PC for music - they were so primitive. So every musician had one. And Cubase? Well in an era before you could record audio on a computer, Cubase version 2.0 was simplicity and elegance itself in MIDI sequencing. Later versions have piled feature on feature and have become monstrosities compared to the clean lines of v2.0.

So if you have either of these currently unsung 'classics', you should hang onto them until they reach their true value in the marketplace. No - you should be using them! You will be surprised what you can achieve.

Over to you... what future classics do you have in your attic?

By David Mellor Monday November 6, 2006