What if an upgrade is a downer?

In my home the microwave oven is a time saver. It’s a fast way to heat, reheat or defrost foods. Used right, it’s a smart tool with little need for bells and whistles. That’s my perspective. Engineers and marketing staff at microwave oven manufacturers think differently. They see a need to differentiate, to offer more features for a premium price.

At a company I worked for, there was a lunchroom built with 8-10 microwave ovens for the staff to heat their lunch. Naturally the ovens were new and fancy with digital displays and a control panel with many buttons. The ovens could probably do a lot. But the users were puzzled on how to set the basic parameters, time and effect level.Every time I went there all clocks on the microwaves were showing different times. Everyone of them wrong.

In the music studio there are tools that can be Swiss army knives, with lots of features. But whenever I read interviews with experienced pros it seems to me they use each tool for a specific purpose. They often have a lot of gear, but they use each piece for a specific task. It gets the job done and it’s a fast way to work.

In the last year I’ve seen a few famous boxes get significant updates, the Roland SP-404mkII sampler and the Teenage Engineering Op-1f. I wouldn’t say no to any of them. But it’s interesting that each box has become updated with ever more features to turn them into more capable digital audio workstations. That is, each box is a studio in itself.

And I wonder if that actually is a good thing. Despite an initial onset of gear-lust I feel pretty good with my old boxes. And they still have more features than I have CPU upstairs to remember.

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