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Outboard Gear vs. Plugs

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by brad3e, Dec 13, 2004.

  1. brad3e

    brad3e Guest


    I am new to recording but I am considering buying affordable but quality outboard EQ and Compressers to not have to worry about CPU power and or get more professional results when multitracking in a Fireface 800 DAW. I am looking at the Speck ASC for EQ and FMR RNP compressor. How would you experts rate these 2 sonically to highly rated EQ and Compressor plugs like Waves, PSP, or TC. I am looking to get away from plugs as I A. want to fill up a rack and B. get a more professional sounding mix if possible. :D I feel my ears are good, will I notice the difference in my mixes with outboard gear?

    Any help or direction is greatly appreciated!
  2. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Outboard is cool, no doubt there, but the cool thing about plugs is that when you buy one, you're not just getting one; rather, you're getting as many as you can run at a time. Also, when mixing, do you plan to DA out of the box, go to the Speck, RNC or whatever, and then AD back in, one track at a time? It seems that having at least one good EQ plug is almost a necessity.
  3. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    DA then AD

    Hi, yes, one track at a time DA - AD. Do you use outboard EQ and compression? If so, Do you notice a more alive and real sound from the outboard equip as opposed to plugs? I currenly am using the some Waves and PSP plugs, they seem good, but then again, I don't know from outboard gear sound, so here I am, plus I would like to fill up my 5U rack. :D
  4. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    I don't use outboard EQ, but I do have an RNC. I don't use it as a track compressor however. I just use it to do some gentle taming or peak limiting on the way in. For that, it works great. I have never considered going out to it and coming back in. Seems like all that conversion wouldn't be worth it, but I could be wrong. I have my plugs for that and they keep me happy. Keep in mind that you are not talking to a gear head old school engineer type by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just a guy who needs some decent utility EQ and compression from time to time and for that, plugs suit my purposes. I also have a very fast computer, so I don't have to worry too much about running out of power.
  5. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    Cubase SX3

    Hi, well I may sometimes use EQ or compression on the way in, but for the most part, I feel for mixing, to have all my tracks layed down clean first and then apply the flavors after laying down the tracks and since Cubase SX3 can use outboard gear in the effects chain, I figure they must have added this feature for a reason, but again I am new to all this and applying 6 months of reading Recording Mag, this Forum, Guitar Center, and musician friends knowledge. Still learing everyday, also on that subject I heard I must see the latest documentary on Tom Dowd "The language of Music", the guy who did the "Layla" Derek and Dominoes album.
  6. Screws

    Screws Active Member

    I own the Waves Renn Maxx, the PSP VintageWarmer and the Wave Arts Final Plug, along with the stock plugs that come with Digital Performer. They're all very useful and sound good, but I would never trade them for my Fatso, Toft ATC or Avalon 747. Suh-weeet!
  7. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    The Speck, RNC, RNP have all been dissussed before. Try using the search engine and you'll have some quick opinions to wade through.
  8. J-3

    J-3 Active Member

    Nice! :oops:

    I do know that I've recently gone from waves ren eq's to using the waves paragraphic and it made a huge difference. THe PSP warmer I don't like so much. I use the crap outta my UAD card for comps and the pultec eq. I do have a distressor that I like but I can also get some nice sounds using the UAD 1176 and LA2A. Are these as good as the "real deal"....nope. So....which is better. Outboard! It better be for as much as it costs!!! Can you get good reults with Great Plugs yes. It's all how you hear then adjust accordingly. A room full of sweet gear with someone who dosn't know will sound like ass. A mix with nice plugs and someone who knows what to do will sound pretty damn good.

    my 2 cents

  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Does the outboard gear do anything more that process the signal in the same way that a plug would? Yeah, in some cases it does - in the case of a good compressor or eq. There are physical devices that do the work for you. In the case of reverb though, it's all digital now, so what's the big difference which CPU does the job?

    You have to decide whether the outboard devices (given the extra steps of conversion) are going to do a better job physically processing the signal or if the plug-in will do a better job logically processing the signal. There are some very good compressor plug-ins, but they approach compression in a whole different way than external boxes! Look at the field of EQs. There are tons of great analog parametric eqs. However, some of the new eqs that are on the market that are really shining are the new digital eqs - like those from Weiss or Z-Systems. Your computer is capable of doing the same processing, but is your plugin up to snuff? (Of course your plug-in probably doesn't cost any where near the Weiss either. Nor does it convert to 40bit floating before processing.)

    Ultimately, you can get some really good results from processing the 1's and 0's internally and unless you really know how to squeeze every last bit of performance out of those outboard pieces, I would say leave them out of the chain. Of course, if you want to use them up front on the signal, there's generally not that much harm done there - as long as you don't overdo it.

    Just some thoughts.

  10. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Well, the VERY big difference is that a CPU as in a computer is designed and focused for general processing and to be used with other components to work in a system. The other is not really a CPU, it is either an ASIC or a DSP or a microcontroller that does way more than what CPU does. They are systems on a chip that not only do general processing like CPU does, but does it with more focus on it's design goal, which in the case of reverb is specific for audio processing. The end result be it audio only, reverb or plugs that rely on specific hardware do a far better job and have far superior quality sonics.
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    But remember, a CPU or processor of any type has no effect on sound quality. Ultimately, in a digital process, there is mathematical computation which must take place. With a dedicated processor, this is significantly more efficient. However, efficiency does not better sound make (necessarily). There are some amazing effects built in the digital world (such as the whole new series of reverbs) and many of these are designed to use your hosts CPU. Granted, at a severe cost to the overall performance of the machine.

    In general, I am most definitely not going to disagree with you. Personally, I love outboard gear much more than plugs. Ultimately, I feel a lot more in control with the twist of a knob than the click of a mouse. :)

  12. shock

    shock Guest

    I really liked Fletcher's post. To bad it's gone.
  13. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Hmmm... I wonder who pulled it... and why?
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Most likely because of foul language .. I had to delete a few the other day and because I wouldn't want to be accused of editing a persons post, I simply deleted it .. That kind of language may go over on other forums but I as an administrator and editor of RO, am very aware we have some fairly young readers. I wouldn't like it at all if their parents choose to "lock out" RO from their computers just because of a few instances of cursing ... So if you want your posts to stand, please keep it polite and clean ... and if you want your replies with "quotes" in them to stand as posted unedited, don't quote someone who has been swearing .... Really the only reason to swear in this kind of situation is if you don't have something intelligent to offer ..
  15. trock

    trock Active Member


    i am a pretty new recording guy and have had a seesaw battle with outboard vs plugs etc etc etc

    I started out with a 2480 with onboard hardware effects cards and did really well with it, then i got sucked into the "you need a MAC" world.

    So i got a G5 with Cubase SX3, Waves native pak, UAD-1 studio card, PEAK 4.12, Tracks-24, soundtrack, Live, reason 2.5 and on and on

    never did get it to work all that well or sound all that good

    so i am back on the 2480 with a M5, 747, and a TC M3000 all outboard. for me this works, i am just better at understading this when i can get my hands on something. get a decent sound too.

    anyway, the UAD-2 studio had some great stuff on it, and the WAVES stuff was nice, couldn't complain about those.

    but for me the M% and 747 together are coming together well if with a pretty steep learning curve. and routing out the 2480 on an AUX send/reieve to the M3000 is new too but getting to be pretty fun

    i like the outbaoard better but i think the plugs etc work well for a lot of people

    oh and also remember the UAD-1 is an actual PCI card and has its own CPU so that saves your PC too
  16. Daweenis

    Daweenis Guest

    My 2 Cents....

    Go outboard.

    1) First off you'll be growing your collection of outboard gear. This is vital for tracking. You ultimately want a variety of compressors and Mic pre's to go through so you can mix up their usage with the tracks you bring in. Mixing up your equipment combinations will make it easier, in many cases, to fit the "sonic puzzle" together come mix-time. The sonic differences in the equipment helps further differentiate, complement and enhance each instruments/tracks "sonic signature" or personality if used correctly and with care.

    2) You should choose carefully and buy for the long-term. Many times, one slightly more expensive piece can ultimately stand the test of time better than the three bargain-basement pieces you picked up for the same price as the one (there are still a ton of outstanding affordable pieces available as well...don't get me wrong...just do your research). Ultimately, buy for the sound not the price.

    3) Make sure your conversion chain (A-D and D-A) is quality. This is mucho, mucho important. You are introducing another whole round of conversion to the audio chain. If your AD/DA is crap, it's gonna diminish the quality of your tracks especially in the high end. Clock jitter is one of the big issues. Just getting a quality master clock source and slaving your current DA/AD converter will go a long way...depending on your current set-up (you might already have a decent converter...I don't know)

    4) Also very important...Make sure you measure the latency created by the outboard processing chain. Send a recorded click through the chain (disable the processing but keep all the equipment in the chain).. and record it on an adjacent track. Note the difference in time placement between the original track and the newly recorded outboard-process-loop track. Set your "Nudge" in your DAW to that amount and remember to nudge the newly recorded/processed tracks back by that amount to compensate for the latency introduced by the outboard sends loop. This will restore your phase alignment to what it was prior to the outboard processing.

    Ultimately you'll probably employ both but I still prefer the sound of my CL1s or ADL 1000 over the plugs I have in my DAW. Each situation and track calls for a fresh look and a fresh approach. I think about it this way though....My outboard compression as a ton of personality and two outboard units of the same model will still many times have some sonic differentiation (for better or worse). An LA2A UAD-1 plug will always sound the same on every computer out there. Perhaps I'm a romantic but it's those subtle sonic differences that make the soup tasty and despite the advances made in digital modeling of analog circuits, the tube still pulls a few rabbits out of the sonic hat that I just don't get from my plugs.

    Just my 2 cents...hope this helps...
  17. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

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