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How many "PRO" engineers really use plug-ins?


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I'm just curious. I wonder if we fool ourselves into thinking that we can have virtual compressors, eq's, instruments, and reverb that sound just as good as the hardware counterparts? I know that the gear isn't as important as the engineer but I wonder how many of the really good engineers really use plug-ins (Waves, PSP, UAD-1, TCpowercore, bla bla bla)? How much better would our mixes sound if we used a real room for the reverb, real 1176's, real EQ's, and real amps assuming we are all pretty good engineers? How can we justify charging a client for a "virtual studio" to record with? I am asking these questions because it seems like everything can be virual these days and more and more independent studios use these tools because of the convenience and price. All opinions are welcome!!!
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Almost all pro engineers work with plug-ins these days, but they never (or at least rarely) sacrifice audio quality for the convenience of the plug-in. If a plug-in compressor, for example, doesn't sound as good as the hardware equivalent, there's no way they're going to use it for serious projects.

 

But yeah, they use them all the time.

 

- Jeff

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Thanks, Jeff.

hhmmmm.....Maybe I am not using the correct words here but how much "worse" do plug-ins sound compared to their hardware counterparts?

Like some other engineers around here, I haven't heard every classic hardware device so how much better can I assume the hardware version would sound? There are some engineers like Steve Albini who refuse to use anything digital. I think his recordings sound awesome but I am a little depressed since I probably won't be able to have my mixes sound like that(HUGE!)Digital sucks :confused: . I will probably hire him to record my next record anyway.

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I agree with the Weasel. A good engineer uses the best (or the most correct) tools available at the time. They don't charge all of that money for the PT versions of plugs for nothing. They are being used.

 

I think you need to put this in perspective. It's the final result that counts, not how you get there. Can you hear the difference between a real 1176 and an 1176 plug? Probably. Will it matter in the context of a great song with a great performer and a good engineer? Probably not.

 

From my experience the thing that kills most songs is not the equipment, the plugs or the studio. More often than not it's the lack of a talented producer who can take a good song and make it a great one. I think where we "fool ourselves" is thinking that we can do that when most of us can't at that level. Me included.

 

Question: Would you consider the on-board eq of a Sony Oxford "real" eq? If so, and Sony can duplicate that exactly in a TDM plus is that plug then "real" eq? Is the Massenburg EQ "real" eq? Does putting a digital eq process on a hardware rom chip make it any better or "real"? Is digital audio "real" sound? You see where I'm going?

 

Lawrence

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Originally posted by ryst:

Thanks, Jeff.

hhmmmm.....Maybe I am not using the correct words here but how much "worse" do plug-ins sound compared to their hardware counterparts?

There is no hard and fast rule about them. like any other product, the ones that are well designed sound terrific. If there's a hardware counterpart, the good ones are basically indistiguishable from their predecessor. The less good ones are... less good. :)

 

Like some other engineers around here, I haven't heard every classic hardware device so how much better can I assume the hardware version would sound?
That's just it... you can't. You need to have the ears and experience on both sides of the fence to make an informed decision.

 

There are some engineers like Steve Albini who refuse to use anything digital. I think his recordings sound awesome but I am a little depressed since I probably won't be able to have my mixes sound like that(HUGE!)Digital sucks :confused: . I will probably hire him to record my next record anyway.
Well, if you can afford Albini, I say by all means do it! But the stament that "digital sucks" is an uneducated (or at least inexperienced) one. Huge advances in sampling rates, bit depth and the use of hybrid systems that use some analog processing along with digital recording and editing have produced some spectacular-sounding records lately.

 

But you go into any commercial studio these days, and the analog decks are used less and less (if at all)> I visited a big studio a month ago, and the engineer pointed to a beautiful analog Studer deck, calling it the paperweight. Hadn't even been powered up in months.

 

In the pro world, the DAW has become king. So, you always have the choice to retain an all-analog path, but keep in mind that it's nearly 100% likely that the playback source will be digital regardless. I say do what sounds good to you, and you will be a happy camper.

 

- Jeff

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The audio school I went to 20 years ago has a rather large SSL in the main studio. It's the same one that was there then and it's still being used along with PT and other daws.

 

When they bought it new it was $400,000 and it was state of the art with a S/N ratio of 60db,

far below what semi pro offers in noise specs now. Even it's analog circuitry is outdated by todays standards.

 

It's automation system is a dinosaur compared to whats available today on much lower priced digital consoles. But...

 

I know that thing can still make great records!

 

Lawrence

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It depends on the plug in. IMO, it's not always a matter of "better vs worse" but more one of "different". For the most part, I'd say that most software plug in emulations of classic hardware devices are not exact replications, although some of them come very close. But the utility of being able to use 6 XYZ compressors is certainly nice. And there's some plug ins that are completely new, or at least have their own sound to them, without being based on classic hardware devices. Some of that stuff is extremely nice.

 

There are differences of opinions on ALL of this stuff... ask any 10 engineers for their opinions and you're likely to get a wide variety of responses. Some folks hate anything digital, while others embrace it wholeheartedly. Some prefer mixing on an analog board, some prefer digital boards, and some prefer no board at all and mix "in the box". Is one approach "better" than another? Only to the individuals involved. Use your own ears and go with whatever makes sense to YOU - because there's no consensus on most of this stuff.

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Lawrence,

That is a good point and I try and remind myself of that but sometimes it's hard to keep that in perspective. I want to be able to have the best tools at my disposal that I can afford. I guess maybe I am getting a little spoiled. I am saving up for some good outboard gear. I just am curious about what you guys think. Thanks for the replies so far!

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Originally posted by Jeff Da Weasel:

I say do what sounds good to you, and you will be a happy camper.

 

- Jeff

Truer words have never been spoken... or something. :rolleyes:

 

Also, the occasional LAVA LAMP is good! :D

 

Is There Gas In The Car? :cool:

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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But the stament that "digital sucks" is an uneducated (or at least inexperienced) one.
Jeff,

I didn't mean that literally. I know the advantages of digital. And I really like digital. Ableton's Live saved my marraige! So has DP. I was only saying that because I want to record...let me re-phrase that. I want to BUY Steve Albini's studio. I don't believe at all that I am uneducated. Maybe a little inexperienced but definitly not uneducated. By the way, I'm not offened either. :thu:

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Some analog stuff is shitty, some digital stuff is shitty. Does the best analog sound better than the best digital?

 

Probably.

 

But who can afford the best analogue inserted on every track, fully automated with total recall?

 

Digital might not sound quite as good but you can get a lot more creative with it.

"That's what the internet is for. Slandering others anonymously." - Banky Edwards.
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If you have a LA-2A hardware and a LA-2A plugin laying around, I'd think most people would prefer to go through the hardware, depending upon the situation of course.

 

There's some plug-in effects that no analogue gear can recreate though, regardless of how much you have, or how much they cost..

 

It all depends on the style of music, and what one is looking to achieve.

 

I think it's stupid to rule out one over the other. Each has it's advantages.

 

alon

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Originally posted by TinderArts:

Originally posted by Is There Gas in the Car?:

 

Also, the occasional LAVA LAMP is good! :D

 

Why hasn't someone come up with the LavaLamp plugin??

:D:D:D

HERE

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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Originally posted by Alon:

If you have a LA-2A hardware and a LA-2A plugin laying around, I'd think most people would prefer to go through the hardware, depending upon the situation of course.

That situation would depend on how many you need at once.
"A Robot Playing Trumpet Blows"
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I've no problem going to a plugin if it does what I want it to do, however in most cases I prefer to use a hardware uint because that's jsut the way I work...I like actual knobs and buttons.

 

I'm old school, but flexable. Typically the hardware gets dedicated to the primary tracks, and plugins for secondary stuff. The final judge is my and the clients ears, if it doesn't sound right, something changes until it does.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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I use analog outboard with Plug-ins a lot but not all the time. 10 years ago when all we had was analog outboard we were only able to work on one project at a time when mixing as it was just too much work re-patching at recalling all the outboard. I think for us and the most part the convenience of recall of a session is just too easy to leave out outboard for that reason.
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Some songs, (i.e C. Dion and B.Streisand) have so much wideness, so much depth, can someone reproduce it on a DAW? I not!

Sucking the brain's vacuum

Waiting for the Nuclear Fusion. More energy, less damage.

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From my experience the thing that kills most songs is not the equipment, the plugs or the studio. More often than not it's the lack of a talented producer who can take a good song and make it a great one. I think where we "fool ourselves" is thinking that we can do that when most of us can't at that level. Me included.

 

Great point. Thats something I am always addressing. I really learn so much from listening to songs, taking notes on arrangements, panning, effects, etc...

 

To answer the first question, pro engineers are using whatever works for them. However, they prefer to still grab a knob.

 

With younger engineers coming into the business you`ll see them using more plugs for two reasons. 1.) Its what they`re used to and 2.) the plugs are sounding so close to their hardware counterpart, they can`t tell the difference unless they have spent alot of time with the hardware (which most have not).

 

I can tell you that its cool to have both. We use an 1178 for drums and theres nothing like it. I have yet to hear a plug that does what the 1178 does.

 

Ernest

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Originally posted by 1:

Some songs, (i.e C. Dion and B.Streisand) have so much wideness, so much depth, can someone reproduce it on a DAW? I not!

Streisand's engineer, Dave Reitzas, hangs out here sometimes.

 

He has done her last few projects entirely in the box, so I'm sure a few plugins were used.

 

Here at our studio, we are still doing music projects on occasion by tracking analog, but eventually something ends up in ProTools for editing and plugins most definitely are used (who wants to convert D/A, process something, and then back A/D into the DAW for most tracks?). This hybrid approach is probably the most common these days.

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Originally posted by Doug Osborne:

This hybrid approach is probably the most common these days.

Yup.

 

The engineers whose work I respect these days are generally using terrific analog front-end gear (mic pre, compressor, sometimes EQ) into their DAW. These guys use great converters and clocking devices, which make a HUGE difference.

 

Occasionally, you find guys that will track certain sources (drums, for instance) to tape and then dump it over to the DAW, but more and more, they're doing everything in the box.

 

- Jeff

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