Plugin Quality

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by yodermr, Apr 2, 2003.

  1. yodermr

    yodermr Guest

    I searched on this but couldn't find it. Hope this isn't a rehash.

    How does one measure a plugin's quality? If the hardware equivalent is digital does it really matter? With hardware FX ADDA conversions doesn't that just add to the problem?

    I can understand for EQ & dynamics that a good analog unit would be better but analog gets very expensive very quickly. Not to mention that your again bouncing between analog and digital which I would think is not desirable.

    Before I expend a huge amount of reading, comparing subjective opinoins to be left with a guess...
    Without getting too technical, is there some common agreement on what (Reverb, Dynamics & EQ) plugins are great versus crappy?

    I just need a good Reverb, Dynamics & EQ for Sonar for mixing and mastering. Maybe the ones that came with it are of relatively the same quality of other more expensive ones? They seem so clunky compared to others I have looked at. Maybe all you get is a nice looking skin?

    Lost on this one
    Thanks
    Mark
     
  2. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mark,

    > I can understand for EQ & dynamics that a good analog unit would be better <

    I would dispute that. There's no inherent reason a plug-in compressor or EQ should be worse than an analog model, and I can think of several reasons a well-designed plug-in could be better. A plug-in has the potential to be much cleaner, and a plug-in compressor or gate can look ahead and see what's coming before it gets there! So while a good analog model can have a very fast attack time, a plug-in can respond even faster - literally instantly.

    > I just need a good Reverb <

    Reverb is by far the most difficult effect to implement, and this is where you'll find more variation between brands. As you probably know, reverb is really just many closely spaced echoes. But it takes a lot of computing horsepower to create those echoes, so designers have to balance density of the echoes with how much of the CPU power they'll use up. This trade-off happens with high-end stand-alone digital reverbs too, but in that case the entire CPU is available.

    That said, my favorite plug-in pack is the UltraFunk:

    http://www.ultrafunk.com

    I use it with Sonar and SoundForge, and all of the effects are very high quality. The reverb is excellent too. And it's affordable and not copy protected.

    --Ethan
     
  3. Hypothesis

    Hypothesis Guest

    Hi,

    The fact that both hardware units & softwareplug-insare digital, has actually nothing to do with the quality of the effects, except that the singnal is transfered digitally. What really counts as the QUALITY is the preciseness of the algorithm implemented in the unit (or the plug-in). It is really a huge subject, but I just wanted to break your illussion that the only thing that counts is the AD/DA conversion. Conversion is just the first ring in the audio chain, and indeed a VERY important one. But have in mind that every FX process (frequency attenuation, dynamics, delay/ reverb,..) has it's by-products (phenomenons as aliasing, combfilters caused by phase incoherence, etc. ) that significantly degrade the sound, making it loose the details it originally had. To put it simple, more expencive units or plugins have more sophisticated and better optimized algorithms, and therefore sound more natural and musical, retaining more details of the original sound. And, unfortunatelly there still are no good sounding Reverbplug-insin the DirectX/VST format. (the only good sounding plugins are those made for the dedicated hardware cards, such as Protools TDM systems and even the TC powercore card). And I agree with Ethan in that there indeed are some really good sounding software EQ's & Compressors (like the Wave's stuff, and especially the plugins for the UAD1 card I recently got). And do you really think that all those professionals around the globe would pay such enormous amounts of money for the expencive units orplug-insif those plugins bundled with the sequencer sounded the same ? :)
     
  4. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Hypo,

    I agree with everything you said except:

    > more expencive units or plugins have more sophisticated and better optimized algorithms <

    In my experience cost has little to do with quality. And not just with audioplug-ins but with most things including a can of beans at the supermarket. There's no reason a good plug-in has to cost a lot, and most of what makes the Waves stuff so expensive is advertising and greed. In my opinion, of course! :D

    --Ethan
     
  5. Hypothesis

    Hypothesis Guest

    Greetings Ethan,

    Unfortunately, cost has everything to do with the quality if you are talking professional gear. There indeed are some really inexpencive home/project studio solutions that sound GREAT (like the UAD1 card I mentioned earlier), but if you want to get that extra sparkle you hear on professional records, you'll have to pay a lot of money, and that is a sad & a prooven fact. For home recording, there are some great cheap plugins that surely do the job well, but my experience tells me that it just isn't quite good enough for the professional work. If it were the case, all the big names (like the mentioned Waves or Protools TDM) would very soon loose their jobs to the competition, which, as we all know, is not the case... I agree that advertising & marketing have a lot to do with it, but not all of the producers over the world are that stupid :)
    - By the way, you have my honest compliments for a very fine and usefull text on the control room acoustics ! (It was about time someone sit & wrote a survival guide like that, not a whooping 1000 pages long book on nuclear-laser-vibrometry in acoustics) All the newbies planing to make a home or a project studio control room should definitely read it ! Cheers !
     
  6. Hey Folks,
    Ethan, I second the motion that your acoustics forum is one of the best things on the web. If I end up adding a second room we will be good buddies!
    I agree thatplug-insCOULD be great for dynamics and eq, and there are some that are good (waves, bomb factory, UAD), but none ARE great. My outboard compressors wasteplug-ins(I have just got an 1176 and it is d'man, the Valley People 610 continues to amaze, and I am quite happy with my RNC).
    I don't believe that the computer power is there yet. I suspect that, like 2 inch Studer tape machines, it will still be a while until digital pulls even with analog.
    I find that the less I do withplug-insthe better things sound. I don't mean to sound negative, I do see a future forplug-ins but I think that good outboard gear is miles ahead in the race. Cheers, Doc
     
  7. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Hypo,

    > Unfortunately, cost has everything to do with the quality if you are talking professional gear. <

    That just hasn't been my experience. And again, the principle applies to all consumer items, not just pro audio gear. Lots of people overpay for lots of things. I think marketing people call this "perceived value" when you can squeeze more money out of folks for exactly the same thing that could be had for less. Or for something that may be slightly better but no improvement was necessary. Premium grade gasoline comes to mind.

    As forplug-ins I actually put the UltraFunkplug-insahead of the Waves stuff, even though it costs like 1/4 as much. It sounds every bit as good, yet for equivalent modules uses less of the CPU. So in this case you have superior DSP coders who are willing to sell their work for less money.

    At least that's how I see it. :D

    > you have my honest compliments for a very fine and usefull text on the control room acoustics ! <

    Thanks very much!

    --Ethan
     
  8. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Doc,

    > I don't believe that the computer power is there yet. <

    The raw power is more than there. Whether you think the software coders have done a good enough job at offering the kinds of sounds you like is another matter. Likewise:

    > I suspect that, like 2 inch Studer tape machines <

    I know that some people prefer analog tape over digital, and that's their choice. But in that case - like with your compressor comparison - it's a very subjective evaluation. I'd argue exactly the opposite, since a modern digital recorder is measurably and audible cleaner than any Studer could ever hope for. But I appreciate that a lot of folks prefer the sound of a Studer anyway. And I can't argue with that!

    --Ethan
     
  9. Opus2000

    Opus2000 Well-Known Member

    Hey guys,
    I'm going to jump in on this one if you don't mind, well, you have no choice..so there! :D
     
  10. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    hey guys, what are your preferences between:
    a)compressors: drawer, BF emulations , C1
    b)equalizers; analog channel, Q10, Eq sat
    c)reverbers: true verb, TC verb, reberb one
    d)multiband: c4, Master X, MC2000

    BTW.. Ethan´s manual is a must!
    :)
    :p
     
  11. yodermr

    yodermr Guest

    :roll: Great discussion but may have missed my request

    >>Without getting too technical, is there some common agreement on what (Reverb, Dynamics & EQ) plugins are great versus crappy?
    <<

    I read Waves and Ultrafunk. I assume that the UAD requires the hardware. Maybe the answer to take away is...

    >>unfortunatly there still are no good sounding Reverbplug-insin the DirectX/VST format<<

    So Waves is the common agreement for good sounding DXi plugins?

    I did mean to spark a debate on analog versus digital. Just an observation from much reading that ADDA conversions subtrack from audio quality and the fact that professionals are very much pleased by analog EQ and dynamics unit characteristics. Also, the insult when plugin companies sell there software as a duplicate of the sought after analog pieces.

    Anyway I was just looking for a quality sounding plugin recommendations. I played with a Ozone demo - nice and easy to use but I have no good frame of reference for quality.

    I downloaded some ultrfunk demos but I get a not Win32 application error when trying to run them.

    Thanks
    Mark
     
  12. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mark,

    > ADDA conversions subtrack from audio quality <

    Well, not nearly as much as even one generation on the finest analog tape recorder!

    > I played with a Ozone demo - nice and easy to use but I have no good frame of reference for quality. <

    There's always the bypass button. Does it sound okay or better as you A/B the original and processed versions? You can assess plug-in quality exactly as you would any other device. By listening and comparing.

    > I downloaded some ultrfunk demos but I get a not Win32 application error when trying to run them. <

    Wow, that's strange. I've used the UltraFunk pack with every version of Windows from 98SE to XP Pro, and I've never had a moment's trouble.

    --Ethan
     
  13. Blutone

    Blutone Guest

    Yeah, Ozone is pretty cool, but it's real CPU intensive(depending on how many features you use). Full-up it will add about 30% :D
     
  14. yodermr

    yodermr Guest

    I have been trying to get demos to do some A/B. So far I have Ozone and Ultrafunk. I also have a Waves demo getting mailed.

    The Ultrafunk guy said that my download may have been missing a chunk :d: Then he emailed them to me.

    I expect that all of these (at least based on price) will sound great. How to decide on the winner is the tough part

    Mark
     
  15. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Mark,

    > I have been trying to get demos to do some A/B. <

    Of course, I meant to A/B the original and processed version, using one plug-in at a time, to assess the quality and effectiveness of that one plug-in.

    > I expect that all of these (at least based on price) will sound great. <

    Yes, they do. It's not difficult to code an EQ and make it sound good. Again, I truly believe that price is set more by what the market will bear than by quality. Not to say there aren't crappyplug-ins because there are. But there's a lot of great stuff out there too, and it doesn't all cost a lot.

    I'll also mention, at the risk of being flamed, that a product's success is often due more to "momentum" than quality. Some famous engineer uses a Brand Rex Confabulator on a project, and all of a sudden everyone wants one so they too can make hits. I see this all the time in the audio biz. Too many folks wrong believe the gear is what makes a successful recording, when in fact the talent on both sides of the glass is far more important.

    --Ethan
     
  16. yodermr

    yodermr Guest

    I agree. Marketing includes relating the product to authority figures. Relating a product to a "star" does wonders - 4 out of 5 dentists prefer... Human instinct reponds regardless of the lack of logic.

    The capitalistic forces search for the bottom price that provides profit and peer balance.
    A company that sells significantly cheaper than its competitors is either very noble (without greed) or has less invested(overhead, programmers, etc...) or has not realized its peer group pricing structure. With software and its very nuanced quality edge the star power has significant weight.

    I would really like to find plugins that gives me good visual feedback. I am fairly new at recording at least when it comes to tring to master it. I like Ozone because of its informative interface.

    What I meant on A/B was with versus without and also product A versus B, an so on
    Mark
     
  17. This is a great thread, and I hope everyone will continue to follow it. Please keep the opinions flowing!
    Alecio, my prefs are this:
    -Waves for gates, Eq, verbs.
    -Bomb Factory for compressors, amp sim, and Moog stuff.
    I think we can all agree that some success is due to marketing or "percieved value". For instance, I think most people would agree that the RNC is better than anything else until the price range climbs above $600 (at that point you have to start asking yourself if the compressor you are considering buying is worth it's "weight" in RNCs- is a $600 compressor worth three RNCs?). Cheers, Doc
     
  18. sapplegate

    sapplegate Active Member

    I've only ever played with the demos of these products so take my opinion FWIW, but I concur with Ethan about the Ultrafunk pack. Very nice sounding. Another outfit I liked was the Sonic Timeworks plugs, particularly the mastering ones. Also, although limited in its variety, the Freeverb plug is a great sounding little (free) reverb.

    BTW, if you haven't already, check out the directxfiles.com site, download some demos and decide for yourself which sound best.
     
  19. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    Scott,

    > download some demos and decide for yourself which sound best. <

    One other important factor to consider is copy protection. I refuse to buy any software that is copy protected, and that policy has saved my bacon more than once. Rip Rowan, editor of http://www.prorec.com has a scathing online article there about the extreme hassles he endured with Wave's use of PACE copy protection. And Rip is not a pirate - he paid for it!

    --Ethan
     
  20. sapplegate

    sapplegate Active Member

    You're right Ethan, copy protection can be a real pain. We purchased the Waves Native plugs for Digi001/PTLE on Win98. It's a fairly stable system since it's audio use only, but we did have to reload the OS once, and having to get re-authorized was a drag. I couldn't say the PACE caused the corruption requiring reloading although who knows. We haven't experienced the problems Rip described in his article. That would be really infuriating.

    BTW, we hardly ever use the Waves plugs. PTLE is used mostly as just an audio editor. We fly tracks back and forth between the PC and an Alesis HD24. All tracking and mixing is done through an analog board with traditional outboard gear.
     

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