Hardware And Software: Should You Keep Up To Date?

Every single day it seems like at least a handful of music production companies are releasing a new product or an update to a product. Some of them are great, others not.
But how do you keep up with all the updates? And do you need them?
Probably not. Here’s why.

Most Updates Are Not Even Necessary
If you take a look at old equipment such as the E-MU SP1200 or the MPC2000, there were not that many updates. Sure, you had to deal with diskettes, but at least the updates that were released back then were actually needed. Today, not so much.
There are a few reasons why today’s updates are not necessarily needed, but one of them may surprise you – marketing.
Let’s face it – companies are trying to make money, plain and simple. So it’s no wonder that they are constantly releasing updates with “new features” all of the time. On the one hand, it could be that because of today’s software, there are constant bugs that need to be addressed, but on the other hand, it could also partially be about marketing.
If you take a look at what sort of updates are released today, how many that are actually needed or wanted? Just today I saw an update that was released by Akai for their MPC Renaissance and MPC Studio products. This update is a big one, as it offers over 100 new features. Some companies, however, want to keep themselves relevant by releasing updates every so often, and most of the time those updates are not a big deal.
Even If You Get The Updates, They Might Not Be Any Good
I love Maschine. Ever since I bought it, I thought that it was the best thing ever. When I first installed the software, everything was fine and I upgraded all the way up until version 1.8.2. After that, they came out with Maschine MK2, then onto Maschine Studio. If you really take a look at what they did with the MK2, is it really needed?
Sure, they tailored their software towards the new controller, which also had colored pads, and a jog wheel, but that was about it. Everything else was pretty much the same. Was it needed? Of course not. I stuck with the original version.
Once they brought out Maschine Studio, that thing looked amazing, so I looked into it by installing version 2.0 of their software, which also works with the Maschine MK1. I didn’t like it.
First of all, the software was much improved, but I found that even though it’s great they managed to make it backwards-compatible with the MK1, it wasn’t meant FOR the MK1, so some things were difficult to do. For example, if I wanted to change the endpoint of a pad, I just had to move a few pages over. Now with version 2.0, it’s not even there and I have to find the same setting somewhere else. Why move it?
The Effects Of Marketing
So with the fact that companies are bringing out new updates and products daily, it’s no wonder a home studio in 2014 can still be cluttered. When I first saw the Akai Rhythm Wolf announcement, I wanted it right away. Now, not so much. I decided that I just don’t want to add more equipment to my current setup.
Enter minimalism.
Marketing is one hell of a tool if you know what you’re doing, so that’s why all these companies are working hard to try and get you to buy the latest and greatest product they have to offer. Just look at the iPhone and how every single year a new version comes out. Do people need it? Of course not, but they buy it anyway.
Old equipment like the SP, MPC, Triton, etc., were all great pieces of gear because they just worked. There was no need to install a new version of the operating system, or to even sell the gear and buy a newer version because the one everyone had was fine as is!
When I saw that Native Instruments just came out with a new keyboard this week, I thought the lineup looked great. They have a ton of great features like the touch-sensitive pitch wheel, but it’s just another product in a long line of gear that is at your local store.
So How Do You Keep Up With All The Updates?
You don’t. If you tried to install updates, buy new gear, sell old gear, research new gear, learn new software, and everything in between, guess what would happen: you wouldn’t have time to actually make music!
I knew a guy that was just like that – he had all the latest software and updates, and he would spend hours updating his computer. Then he would spend a few more hours optimizing his computer, along with a few more hours changing computer parts so his computer could run faster because of all the new software he had. Guess what? He hardly had time to actually record his music.
But even if you have time to update your software, you have to ask yourself if it’s really needed or not. You have to remember that sometimes a software update can actually screw up your setup. So if your current setup is fine, think twice before upgrading. It can save you time, money, and a lot of headaches.

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