Plug-ins VS Hardware

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by mdb, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    In this day and age, is it better to invest in DAW plug-ins or in rack gear? I was browsing the Sonnox site and they are so expensive. My problem is that I know that the plug-ins will eventually become obsolete, require upgrading etc. Is it a better long term investment to get external gear? Is it better value to get software?
  2. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    i'd have to say that pound for pound, plug ins are certainly a better value. i dont have loads of 'em, but for about the 2 grand i have spent on plugs i have "racks" of gear. for decent outboard, i'd expect to pay close to that for one piece. although most of us certainly need a few pieces like a pre and a comp, this will depend on your application. i will say that the prices are many plug ins is crazy. i mean, $9k for waves plugs (or whatever the going rate is) is mind boggling. a mixer friend of mine has the whole waves set and only uses like 2 of them.

    believe it or not there are some very very good free plug ins out there as well. dont let the "well if they are free they must be crap" mindset deter you (like it deterred me). many of these programmers are brilliant (and some go on to work for the major plug in manufacturers)

    i think these are FANTASTIC free plug ins: - free audio vst plugins

    and Kjaerhus which you can get here VST & DirectX Plugins

    also stillwell plug ins are extremely cheap and very good.

    on the other hand...outboard gear is VERY ***y. sometimes i just look at my rack and get warm and fuzzy.
  3. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    geez... i can't write the word "***y"?
  4. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    If you are somewhat puzzeled by the costs of Sonnox plugs, you might want to wear dark glasse when you go shopping for pro audio hardware...
    Look at the UAD Manley Massive Passive plugin: it costs about 250 $ and you can run more then one instance and with the mastering type you get 2 versions to choose from.
    Its quality comes close to the original and exceeds the quality of a number of hardware EQs. The hardware Massive Passive costs about 7500 $ for one unit.
    Lexicon 960 = 15 K$, TC M6000 = 15 k$... As you surely know.

    I'd say, if you run a studio and you need those hardware devices daily or you don't want to work hybrid / ITB then you will have to go with hardware, for sure.
    If you are satisfied with the sound of plugins, and with some you can really be, those are the cheaper and almost-as-good alternative. That the better ones cost a few 100 bucks.. often it is what you pay is what you get.
    A minority of fine cheap or even free plugs excluded...
  5. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Hardware is expensive, but most of the time you can get most of your money back when you sell it, sometimes not, really depends on the piece. Plugin's on the other hand are pretty much worthless once you buy them. Their only worth comes in their functionality until you are forced to upgrade and shell out more $$. So from an investment standpoint, I find that hardware is the way to go.
  6. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    Thanks guys. I don't like upgrading software and I'm not a fan of the iLok thing which a lot of professional plug-in companies use. UA is great, but of course I don't want to purchase a UAD card although maybe I'll have to. I'll browse the plug-ins because I obviously can't afford half a dozen pieces of high-end gear and the sonic quality and audio enhancement potentials have to be better than of the stock Logic plugs.

    Any other suggested companies to look at or stay away from? Is iZotope even a contender or should I wait until they upgrade Ozone and better the audio quality of their plug?

    UA, Waves, Sonnox, ... ??

    I'm on a Mac so they have to be Mac compatible (Kjaerhus is in an *.exe file).
  7. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    I agree that most hardware does a better job sonically than plugins.
    But the gap is closing and is by far not as wide as it was 8 years ago. With some it is closed, already.

    The other thought: Whenever you have to send a piece of hardware off for repair (after 3 years, ...) you are in for a nice invoice and shipping costs.
    Valves wear out...replacement is ugly expensive.You buy one unit you get one unit to use.

    Plugins... you buy it and you can use multiple instances simultaniously and at the location of your choice.
    Many Plugins are being well maintained for years and updated to fit new OS for free.

    There is no black & white....

    UAD rules... if it is plugins, you look at. Rock solid drivers, absolutley useable plugins, easy to buy-install-update, excellent sound, good and generous customer service.
    Other than Waves who are squeezing ya out, you get free vouchers to the tune of 70/80 $ over the year from Universal Audio, who also build fabulous hardware, bzw.
  8. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    So is it UA over Sonnox? I've heard the Sonnox Limiter is insanely good, but it requires an iLok and it looks like UA doesn't.

    If I consider UA, is the UAD-2 Solo sufficient in processing power? It's much cheaper than the other cards. I'll be installing it into a Mac Pro so I would need a PCIe card.

    Is the UA Cambridge EQ the best one?
  9. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Bets to visit their site and watchg the vids.
    UA Online Store | UAD Powered Plug-Ins Library | Universal Audio
    Cambridge is a cleaner EQ, also good for surgical jobs.
    Pultec is a warmer and real vintage one.
    Well, so it goes down the list...Neve console EQs, Trident console EQ, Harrison.., Manley...
    All different and well engineered, like their compressors and others.

    UAD2 is a PCIe card. UAD2 single gets you quite far, already, and has 2.5 times the power of the UAD1.
    If you can, get the DUO. If you want to us Manleys Massive Passive ( pure ear candy) you need a lot of capacity from the card.
    That product is one of a handfull I could hardly do without and never regretted to buy.
    There have been rumours that UAD might go native, but I would not wait ... and those bundles are a real bargain.
  10. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    If you over-tax the UAD-2 card processing capacity with multiple plug-ins will it transfer and use some of your computer's CPU to compensate? If that's the case my Mac has 8 cores and could handle it. I did watch some of the UA videos, but I'll browse their site a little more.
  11. SASman

    SASman Active Member

    Most studios have a mix of hardware and software. I know I could work software only personally and I think whilst analog kit is nice it is grossly overhyped for unknown reasons. Analogue is not a panacea for all mix ills. Knowledge and skill is closer to the mark. Many jobs are not practical (or impossible) in the analog domain.

    It is also about the engineers ability to discern, not all analog is good, not all digital is bad and vice versa.

    Ultimately it's about good audio and you need to discriminate against hype.
  12. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    No, the UAD card does not take any CPU power to compensate.

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