There was a lot of other things going on back then. Music was heavily promoted for sales, so I don’t think it is a fair comparison. But I do get what you are saying.
I agree that the space in which you record is as important as the gear that you use to record. I’ve spent the past 15 years messing around with the tuning of my spaces. (1200 SQ ft, 3 recording studio rooms all tuned different and a control room) That is so important to me and my work.
Still, I will not follow you down the road that the difference in a “£5,000 pre-amp and a £100 pre-amp is not that great”. I think anything at $2000-2500 is the top end of what you would ever need. Anything higher you will not gain much. $1000-1500 for a channel or 2 is a sweet spot… Usually preamps in this range will come with tools such as bass roll off, pads, etc. and an input and output gain pot Useful tools for working with sources.
I’m trying to keep this all on topic…
I don’t know your background, what type of work you do, or the capacity of your skill set. If you are a musician that records themselves, a really nice preamp may not make any sense. Also, if your work has low track counts, you may never experience the additive sonics really good gear brings to the table. For me, typical 5 piece band generates 35-40 recorded tracks, meaning 35-40 mics through 35-40 preamps into cubase for the baseline mix arrangement. Typical track counts for these projects are 2-3 times the recorded track count number. When I moved from a digital recording board to boutique preamps and comps and eqs, the difference was startling. The cost was too.
In your signature you list a
AKG C1000S, Rode NT2A, SE2200A and 1950s Ferrograph Series 5 reel to reel (great for adding warmth to vocals!)
Did you ever think that the reason you are using Ferrograph to warm up your vocals was because you are compensating for the brightness of your condensers? And that it is the limitation of the components and the cost of them?
You talked about these old recordings being made with inferior equipment. Perhaps to a degree in lack of precision of manufacturing. With technical limitations of multi-tracking, a computer and DAC would have been appreciated then, but back to microphones… I highly doubt they would have taken a NT2 over a U47. Speaking of which, do a google search for “u47 capsule” and just view prices. That is for one component of the microphone. Fit that with a fet or tube stage to complete a diy microphone build and you are climbing higher. My point to this comparison is some things cost money. They just do. Even with all the different people making these and other quality capsules, none of them are inexpensive because it just isn’t possible.
I hope this doesn’t come off as being harsh or anything. I am wishing this info aids and engages people without alienating them.