back to start
Genwave EQ plugin
Went for: $2000Though no longer available, this high-end EQ VST would run digital music makers a cool 2 Gs at launch. What made Genwave’s 5-band EQ so much pricier than the deluge of other, cheaper EQ plugins? Apparently, the price tag is partly due to a ‘lifetime upgrade policy’…and that it’s not marketed to your average bedroom trap producer.
Goes for: Around $10,000 in good conditionPopularized by Vangelis through the Blade Runner soundtrack, this classic polyphonic synthesizer is highly sought-after for the deep, complex tones it’s capable of. For the more budget-conscious Roy Batty fan, check out Arturia’s more affordable VST.
Telefunken ELA M 251E Microphone
Goes for: $11,000Originally introduced in 1960, these condenser microphones have been used on countless classic records (Butch Vig is a high-profile fan) can trace their lineage back to the original Neumann U47, George Martin’s favourite mic. Today, you better have Cayman Island-style disposable income if you’re planning on hitting up Ebay for one.
Goes for: $15,000First introduced to the public in 1979, this now-primitive sampler/sequencer was revolutionary for its time. The Fairlight CMI was a main weapon in super-producer Trevor Horn’s arsenal, and was used on all sorts of classic 80s recordings, from Yes to Peter Gabriel. This 30th anniversary re-release’s price point doesn’t do much to make the CMI any more attainable to the average producer than the 1979 original.
Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 12.01.59 PM
10th Anniversary Minimoog Voyager
Goes for: $15,000For the musician who has everything, except a 24-karat gold-plated Minimoog and excellent fiscal responsibility. Only 31 of these of excess were produced, with 30 going to buyers and the last going to a lucky prize winner. Pictured: the winner.
Buchla 200e series modular synths
Goes for: $10,000 - $39,000Buchla produced this series of modular monsters in 2004. Strictly for the independently-wealthy synth nerd, these complex hybrid systems can be designed and customized to suit a huge range of synthesis styles. Nerd protip: see the excellent 2014 doc I Dream of Wires for a more in-depth look at the contrasting design philosophies of Don Buchla and Bob Moog.
.Fairchild 670 compressor
Goes for: $40,000
A classic compressor famous for the distinctive silky sound it lends to mixes, an original 670 is prohibitively expensive for all but the most super of super-producers. Fortunately, VSTs come to the more budget-conscious’ aid once again, with digital versions from the likes of IK Multimedia and Universal Audio available.
Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” Stratocaster
Went for: $960,000Clapton built his favourite guitar, “Blackie”, out of the best parts of three other Stratocasters he purchased in Nashville in 1970. Clapton went on to use the Frankenguitar almost exclusively between ’74-’85, until it was sold at auction for nearly a million dollars, with the proceeds going to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre founded by Clapton.
Cessaro Horn Acoustics speakers
Goes for: up to $1,000,000No industry is better at gouging its customers than the makers of equipment for audiophiles. Whether or not this series of horn speakers are worth the frankly insane asking price over more reasonable options, the fact remains that 99% of people won’t be able to hear much difference anyway, so why break the bank?
John Lennon’s Steinway Z piano
Went for: $2.01 millionThe slightly shoddy-looking piano Lennon used to compose “Imagine” was sold at auction in 2000 for a cool two million, complete with cigarette burns on the finish from the mop-topped miscreant. The winning bidder and proud current owner? George Michael. Ugh. Imagine no “Faith”, it’s easy if you try.
Computers and their attendant digital audio workstations have democratized the creation of music more than ever before.
No longer do you have to have a Scrooge McDuck-style money vault that you can swim around in to make a record that sounds as good as Sgt. Pepper’s, Pet Sounds, or uh, *tries to think of a third record with classic production* Miss E…So Addictive.
At last, all you really require to produce great songs is 1) talent 2) time and 3) some form of computer and recording software. OK, so making music still isn’t cost-free, exactly, but we’re rapidly getting to the point where every rando who ever whistled a melody can get their hot track down in GarageBand and release their song (and promptly get sued by some rights holder from 1968).
That being said, various pieces of vintage and contemporary gear still command enormous prices, whether for perceived superiority of sound, cultural cachet, or (and this one is the big bucks) the previous owner used it to create classic recordings. Here, we’ve assembled 10 of the most expensive pieces of gear ever sold, whether it be an EQ VST, funny-looking speakers, or famous axes.