Gatekeeping in Audio

by Sam, 03 December 2023

There’s a problem I see time and time again in audio discussions, whether it’s in forums, on social media posts, at conferences, or even private conversations: gatekeeping. There are a lot of things bandied about, but it boils down to this unfortunate thought pattern.
  • I possess special knowledge
  • This knowledge is required in order to do a thing properly
  • This knowledge dictates specific tools (gear and technique) for doing the thing
  • This knowledge dictates measurements that show you if your sound is good or bad
  • If you ignore the tools or measurements, you can’t do the thing: your results are either subpar or lucky
Look, I have a lot of respect for wisdom and experience. I also love me some gear. I’m obsessed with all kinds of wonky knowledge that allows me to make super cool tools for other people. Hell, I even tell other people to use them! But never let me or anybody else tell you that these tools replace your creativity or your ear. Never let them say the measurements hear better than you do! 
That would be nonsense. 99.9% of your listeners will never know these measurements or your toolset. If somebody cannot tell you why something sounds off without looking at measurements or looking at a gear list, they have nothing useful to tell you. If, instead of describing a quality of your sound they dislike, they focus instead on tools, they are not being helpful!
All audio tools were invented by somebody in the past to achieve a sound. The potential for that sound existed before the tools. The tools are good only because they get you to the sound with less effort than was required before, so your mind can be geared toward expression instead of mechanics. When it comes to audio processing, the ends justify the means. Your ear and your style make you special to the world of audio, not your kit or philosophy!
So go out there and try new things, break the rules, rewire the boards, smash the charts, and most of all: believe in your ear.
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