Plug In Compressors VS Hardware Compressors

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by Digger, May 9, 2005.

  1. Digger

    Digger Guest

    I am fairly new to the whole home studio 'thing' but as a musician I have spent plenty of time in Studios. My questions are about compression. I currently have a number of compressor plug in's (UAD-1, Waves, Wave Arts and Focusrite D2/D3) which in many cases attempt to imitate a hardware counterpart. Unfortunately, I do not have the hardware versions handy to make the necessary comparisons.

    From a plug in stand point I have enough compression options to keep me happy for years to come. I also recently purchased 2 EL-8x Distressors (stereo pair) but I have not even wired them up yet. So these questions go out to those people who have had enough experience to hear the difference between software plugin's VS the hardware;

    1) Can you hear a noticeable difference, if so please be specific as to what those differences are?
    2) Do you see advatages to using one over the other?
    3) What is your personal preference and why?

    I currently have a very solid microphone and pre-amp selection and the next area I am looking at investing in is compression. I just wanted to get some feedback from the group on this one before dropping some more of my hard earned cash! Thanks.
  2. Dave62

    Dave62 Guest

    I use both real and virtual compressors. I use a Drawmer 1960 pre/compressor on input with the kick and snare (lots of compress -4 on the kick, minimal (-2) on the snare) when tracking and also do all my overdubs thru it for the tube sound. I use software compressors when mixing on individual trax and most work quite well, I usually use the Waves rennasance? compressor. I also strap the 1960 across the mix bus with a minimal amount (-2) of compression and it just makes it sound better. Thicker, more cohesive etc.
    I do think that the hardware units sound better although tube models do colour the sound more than the solid state or software . I also have a TL C-1 stereo tube compressor which is a pretty good unit as well.
  3. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    The Drawmer 1960 and the TL audio are hardly considered good commpressors. Good to great compressors can not be equaled in digital. The UAD comes closer than anything else, but it still aint the same try as they might.

    The difference is that great analog compressors sound great and digital ones don't. Plain and simple. The Focusrite Red-3 has nothing in common with the crap plug that also bears their name.

    Get off your dufff and hook up the El-8's and you should be able to hear and understand what a real compressor is and can do.
  4. Digger

    Digger Guest

    Somehow I knew this post was going to convince me to spend more money. I have a few follow up compressors in mind to complement the pair of distressors I already own (assuming of course that I actually set them up);

    Tube Tech CL2A
    Manle Vari Mu
    Universal 2-1176
    Summit DCL-200

    Any suggestions?
  5. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Well, I own the first three (sub the 2-1176 with 2 ea 1176) so that tells you something about me.

    And while I like and have used the DCL-200, it hangs near the bottom of my must have comps list.
  6. Digger

    Digger Guest

    Do you own the UREI version of the 1176 or the Universal remake? Also Black or Silverface? Because I own 2 UAD cards so I will probably hold off on the 1176 while I have some reasonably good sounding proximates.

    Truth be told, I have been patiently waiting for a good deal on the CL2A and or the Vari-Mu on Ebay. My next comp will more than likely one be of those two. Thanks again for your answers.

    P.S. - I have also been very interested to hear the new Glory comp from Groove Tubes. I own a Vipre which I love, I am interested to hear what it sounds like.
  7. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Not that it really matters, as they all have the 1176 sound, but I own one of each UA and Urie-Black.

    Also got the ViPre, The Glory to me is the ViPre with user controled gain reduction. Or the next logical step for GT since the last comp they made, the CL1/CL1s which I also own, make much use of, and love despite it's short commings.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have a 1178 (stereo) a Manley EL OP, a pair of Blackfaced LA4's ... along with the comp sections in my ORIGIN and my new Sebatron Thorax !!!. I had some others ... a pair of LA3's an older LA 2a .... when I decided to cash out my analog gear (console and tape machines) a few years back, Dan Alexander called me up and asked me "Hey, what are you going to do with all those great compressors?"

    The hardware compressors all sound better than any plug I have heard ....

    Let me make it clear that the plugs don't sound bad ..... just that the hardware sounds better, that's all. But the plug in comps are better at controlling over shoot and digital overs. Unlike the hardware comps, once a threshold is set the plug ins do not allow an over to occure.

    I think each has its use and place in the production chain. The hardware for adding a little pleasant coloration and to help tame dynamics on the way in, plugs for mixing and mastering. That's how I use them.

    So instead of it being an "either / or" situation, I try to take advantage of the best of both worlds.
  9. Digger

    Digger Guest

    Thanks Kurt , that is some good feedback that I can use. I have rec'd similar feedback from an enginerring riend of mine. I currently have my eye on a used Vari-Mu with the T-bar modification.
  10. Dave62

    Dave62 Guest

    Thanks again to Audiogaff for constantly coming off as a rich studio snob. One wonders why he would get to be a moderator when he consistantly insults peoples' equipment choices on this forum. I like my TL and my 1960 and at the moment it's all I can afford. They are still much better than any software compressor.
  11. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I admit I'm a gear snob. No doubt. That has given me the expertise and experience to know the difference between what is good or what is not. Mabe if you had used or owned over 30+ channels of pro quality good to great sounding compresors, you would have a much better perspective to speak from.

    I didn't insult anyone about their gear, What I did do is make a personal comment to convey that the general threshold for a good sounding compressor in the pro community is higher than what 1960 and TL units are. Words that do describe those units would be average, useable, small, crap...
  12. Digger

    Digger Guest


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