Sunday, June 15, 2008

I'm a stickler for quality. And a cheapskate at heart. Conflict arises, especially when I'm getting into a new hobby or activity.

A couple of cases in point:

About a year ago I wanted to buy one of these new digital oscilloscopes. They have LCD displays, can capture signals, and do real-time analyses on the inputs. Neat stuff, and much better than their analog predecessors.

Like most things, they come in a variety of price points. The cheaper units has B&W LCD displays and narrower bandwidth. Being my first digital o-scope, I bought a used one off eBay for about $200. After playing with it for a few hours, I wanted more. More bandwidth, faster display, color.

My next purchase was a new, Chinese-made color LCD unit for about $1,000. It had great reviews online and, indeed, it's a nice unit. But although it had a huge memory for capturing digital signals, the display was kind of "noisy" and it didn't quite have the bandwidth I lusted after.

Finally, I purchased the unit I should have bought in the first place: a Tektronix TS3012 color LCD digital storage oscilloscope for about $1,200. It's fast, built like a tank, and still supported by Tektronix even though it's used (another eBay purchase).

In other words, I spent on my dream 'scope the same amount of money I spent on the first two 'scopes that are now sitting on a shelf. I spent double, needlessly.

Another case in point: as a teacher, I'm getting more into online instruction. And I might dabble in podcasting. So I bought the typical starter kit:

Basic condenser microphone (Audio-Technica 2020), $100.
Basic mixer (Behringer 802), $60.
iMic USB interface, $50.

But I quickly ran into limitations. Being a condenser mic, the AT2020 picked up way too much room noise for my taste. So I upgraded to the Electro-Voice ND767A super-cardioid dynamic, $130.

The wimpy Behringer mixer was quickly replaced with a Yamaha MW10C, $200.

Boy, that Heil PR-20 microphone sure is looking nice. Heil, known among podcasters for its PR-40 studio microphone, makes great microphones right here in the USA. Well, better order one of those. ($150)

Then I start really getting into different ways that might students might be "calling" into class: either through CCCConfer or through Skype. I need a way to cross-mix the two inputs. And I'd love to have Firewire so I can send all the audio inputs to the computer separately, rather than mixing them down to a single stereo track. That Yamaha mixer just isn't going to cut it.

So, off to eBay to get a Mackie Onyx 1220 Firewire mixer, $800.

After using it for a few hours, I still can't quite get the inputs to mix correctly. Next purchase, Behringer UB1622FX mixer along with a Behringer UCA202 USB interface (to be used in conjunction with the iMic). Total for this purchase: $170.

But wait! I think I might be able to get the Mackie to do what I want! Too late, the Behringer is on its way.

Finally, here we are on Sunday evening. I'm lusting after that Heil PR-40 again -- the microphone I should have bought in the first place.