Let the founder of a new 'Instagram for audio' app take you on a tour of recording history - Technical.ly Brooklyn

Jun. 4, 2015 12:38 pm

Let the founder of a new ‘Instagram for audio’ app take you on a tour of recording history

Gary Levitt is a sound engineer, recording studio owner and the entrepreneur behind MicSwap, a studio mic modeler and recorder for iOS.
MicSwap cofounder Gary Levitt.

MicSwap cofounder Gary Levitt.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by MicSwap cofounder Gary Levitt.

Working as a sound engineer in Brooklyn, I’m constantly reminded that I’m surrounded by some of the world’s best talent, and some of the world’s most amazing recording studios. It’s unfortunate that many musicians may never get the opportunity to create in these remarkable spaces. My truest of intentions behind MicSwap is to give the next generation a feel for the recording studio, for the sense of how different microphones create different sounds and how those different tones and recording spaces affect your performance.

Most of the next generation of musicians will never know the experience of being in a recording studio. That’s why our app gives you the ability to change recording studio environments to get unique sounds from different moments in time. It was a big part of the process and played a major part in the outcome of so many classic records. The history of musical tools has inspired the creation of our app.

Here’s a look at that history:

Tape Machines (past)

This may sound strange, but I’m fortunate to have studied sound recording at a college that didn’t have the latest cutting-edge equipment. That’s how I ended up learning the ins and outs of a recording studio using analog tape. Analog recording actually predates tape, with everything from wax cylinders to wire being used to capture sound. Nevertheless, tape was the very first medium that allowed the editing of audio. Before that, every recording you heard was a live performance.

Tape still sounds great and it’s easy on the ears due to the natural compression it puts on the sound. Unfortunately, tape machines are big, bulky and expensive to own and maintain. On top of that, the tape itself is expensive and bulky. Editing is possible, but one edit requires the physical cutting and removal of the tape and then a crossfade using sticky tape to connect the remaining pieces.

Desktop Computers (current)

Almost all recording studios now use desktop computers to record and edit music. For years there were debates about analog vs. digital sound. The debate was always fruitless and silly, though.

Compare digital sound to digital photography. The new photo filters have gotten so good at emulating analog cameras it can be tough to tell the difference. Sound is right on that path. Some of these analog emulation plugins are doing a great job of ridding digital sound of it’s sterility and giving it that tape warmth and edge, if that’s what you’re going for. The ease of editing and automating mixes are just a few of the many huge advantages of using computers and digital technology to record.


Here’s where we now begin to enter the future. As a studio owner myself, it’s sad to see, but we can’t fight fate and the invention of new technology. Big studios are going out of business in droves as people are now recording themselves at home with computers and portable devices like the iPad. This is where I got the idea for MicSwap, the first and only studio mic modeler and recorder for iOS. It brings the look feel and sound of a cool professional recording studio into the hands of anyone who uses the app.

Portable Devices (future)

I’m gonna get some blowback about this from the traditionalists here, but in the future most music will be recorded on portable devices. The sound quality is almost there, while the ease of use and affordability is already here.

Check your local Guitar Center and you’ll see a growing section offering many tools to use with your portable devices. Connect microphones, interfaces, keyboards, synthesizers and use them with the many virtual instruments available at the App Store. You can now get the sound of a Moog for free or $5. This is a first in history. Though this is bad news for big studios, this is great news for music creation in general. Everyone can now afford to make music. Apple’s Garageband app is only $5 and it’s a pretty great multitrack recorder. With all of the tools and sounds easily available, the only real limit is our imagination.

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