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plug-in sound quality on different DAW's

Discussion in 'Recording' started by audiokid, May 1, 2012.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I know this is a really broad question, and I think I know the answer but I'm wondering how it will evolve over time.

    Anyone that has tried Reaper, you know it is a really impressive DAW. Not the prettiest and most complicated but definitely fast and stable. I've never used plug-ins for it but I know the DAW itself is really impressive and I would expect it to sound as good as the ADC. If I used Pro Tools and the same ADC, I would expect both DAW's to sound so close it would be hard to tell the difference, correct?

    Would UAD or Wave plugins be sonically the same on both DAW's?
     
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    A lot of plug-ins have their own characteristic sound. Some of this is deliberate in order to emulate external hardware or to get the manufacturer's sonic character into it, a bit like a pre-amp. Other differences may be to do with style of coding and implementation.

    Plugins apart, I can hear no difference in straightforward mixes between Reaper and most other quality DAWs such as Logic or Vegas. The exception is PT. A PT mix tires my ears faster than almost anything else. This is not bias, as I can pick it out reliably on a blind trial, even when the test was between OTB and ITB mixing rather than just between different DAWs. Incidentally, not all the OTB mixes were better than the ITB ones.
     
  3. Laurend

    Laurend Active Member

    Plug-ins are alogorithmic. 1+1 will always ends to 2 whatever is the host application.
     
  4. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Hi Chris. howdy

    Laurent has the right answer. Most DAWs and plug-ins use 32-bit floating point math, and they'll use the same math regardless of which host they run under.

    --Ethan
     
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Hi Ethan, good to see you here!

    Thanks everyone for the clear explanation and Boswell, the Pro Tools comparison is very interesting. What version of Pro Tools was that and why do you think?
     
  6. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Yes, what version of PT? Didn't they recently switch from 40 bit fixed to 32 bit float?
     
  7. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Is there a 40 bit? They just went from 24 bit to 32 bit float. A lot of people argue that it's the converters in most older Pro Tools rigs that define their mixes. Personally, I think it's the engineers and the fact that they all strive for a similar sound. Generally meaning, squashed to oblivion. That's not always true but often is. Avid have improved their converters recently or so I am told.
     
  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I would have to check with the studio where it was done, but it was probably PT8. It was a mix comparison only, so no converter (A-D or D-A) differences were being tested.

    I don't buy the argument that all DAWs can add 1 and 1 to make 2 and therefore they all sound the same. The actual algorithms used in the design and implemention of the digital filters have a big bearing on the resulting performance and hence the sound. I've been involved professionally in a fair amount of digital signal processing for audio, and we have had to be very careful to select implementations that give the best compromise between performance and resources used. The sonic differences have in many cases been very subtle, but, as we have discussed in other threads, if you process 24+ channels all using the same implementation of digital filter, shortcomings that may be inaudible in a single channel start to stack up and can become the defining sound of the final mix.
     
  9. Laurend

    Laurend Active Member


    The question was about the plug-ins, not the DAWs.
    I don't know the thread you're referring. But I'm sure all floating point arithmetic based (native) audio engines output the same results for render/bounce/export. Early ProTools and their fix point arithmetic audio engine using a lot of dithering were different.
    The only difference I've ever heard between different DAWs was when using the real time audio engine. I was very disappointed when discovering my Cubase3 wasn't as good as Pyramix or Reapper on playback despite the rendered files can be perfectly nulled.
     
  10. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    We have to differentiate between the simple math the DAW itself does, versus the math used by plug-ins. DAWs mostly send blocks of data to the plug-ins for processing, then simply add (sum) and multiply (gain changes) the results to create a mix.

    Stacking as usually considered is mostly a myth, because any linear changes to the audio can be countered exactly using an opposite process. For example, if you run 24 tracks through a preamp that has 2 dB of boost at 1 KHz, a single 2 dB cut after all the tracks are mixed will exactly counter that boost. But distortion cannot be countered after mixing. So it really comes down to what specifically do you mean by "shortcomings"?

    --Ethan
     
  11. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Reading up a little it looks like parts of the system (plugins) were 24 fixed and other parts (mix engine) were 48 fixed. It seems to be all floating point now, either 32 or 64 bit depending on the system.
     
  12. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Pro Tools has yet to go 64 bit. We are all waiting for the next version which, reportedly, will finally be fully 64 bit.
     

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