Diminishing Returns

by | Aug 8, 2012 | Advice, Mics, Technology

When the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was in Las Vegas in January, I made a B-Line for the Blue Microphones booth so I could drool.

I wrote about that visit in this January blog: CES for VO’s…then again in March: CourVO on Blue Blog.  I also met with the Blue mic reps at their VOICE2012 booth.

During all that time, it became clear to me the Blue Spark Digital was at the top of a new line of mics and technology of which Blue was pretty proud.  At CES, Blue seemed confident that the Blue Spark Digital would be released “sometime in the Spring”.

Ahem…it’s August, and so far, among the three new mics I saw previewed at CES, only the Blue TIKI USB mic has been released.

I’m sure it’s extremely frustrating for the marketing department of a company like Blue to find the fine line between offering advance notice of a hot new product, without over-promising the release.

I think we’d all agree, though, that it’s probably better for device manufacturers to “get it right” before putting something out for distribution.  Good for them, and the consumer.

However, all of this points up a basic rule of thumb worth remembering:

As voice-actors we can’t pin our hopes of improving OUR voice product, on such advances in technology.  It all falls under the rule of diminishing returns.

As an example, a beginning voice-actor, using a USB stick mic plugged directly into a laptop might see a 70-80% improvement in the quality of their recording with a $500 outlay for a decent XLR mic and a basic audio interface with pre-amp.  Beyond that, you reach a point of diminishing returns.  Sure you could go out and buy a Neumann U-87 or TLM103 with an Avalon pre-amp…but the thousands you’d spend would only bring you a 10-15% rise in quality (ballpark).

We all (especially geek guy voice actors) are guilty of believing technology along will boost us into voice over success.

So in celebration of the law of diminishing returns, I ask you:

Would you rather keep buying more mics, or spend that money on coaching?
Will a new computer help your sound, or would a visit to FaffCon do more?
Should you spend a ton on a new demo, or get those improv classes? (tough one)
Do you really need a new mobile setup, or would the money be better spent on  CRM software?
Could you skip a DAW upgrade — wait for the next version, and do some phone sessions with a valued consultant?

…just some examples of approaches that might bring a better chance of improvement in your voice product than to continue to buy newer and better equipment (uh, voice of experience, here!)




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