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The Great Divide - plugins vs. hardware

I have a feeling things are about to change. Its too expensive to produce high end hardware at these prices during our recession if its not selling. And the stuff that is selling is the second hand gear by the thousands of wankers on ebay. So where does this leave the manufacturers and boutique shops? Well, if you are only making a few high end products a week, the price has to go up.
Its going to be special orders and a wait. I'm not saying its all going to hell but the writing is on the wall.
Downsizing, offshore production shifting and the DAW revolution tells me, quality built hardware is not going to be as affordable as it once was. But it will be gold to my thinking.

It will be convenient for the less informed to let it go because most of us are all caught up with the marvel of digital editing and trying to survive but yikes... I fear for some of those top heavy manufacturers too. And there is so much mis information being posted by people that are so confused over what they bought, its a total gong show. How are manufacturers keeping up with all the BS being posted about their gear by wankers. Its not helping the situation. Some 16 year olds come across on forums like they have been recording all their lives.
Right now thousands of users are scrambling to get the next best plugin but there will be a time when the true value of copper will be out of reach for most in the NEW recording economy / industry. It will cost much more to build all quality hardware.

But I also think the cream is rising and good things are developing. This ass kicking is making us all think harder and reflect.
If you are taking sound serious and planning to invest in top level mic preamps , vocal, bus and mastering compressors, save your pennies and buy the quality stuff that's still around, affordable and available. Its a buyers market indeed but it will change.
Interesting times ahead.

(y)

Comments

sdelsolray Fri, 10/07/2011 - 17:42
In the past three years or so, I've picked up many quality items (6 mics, 3 preamps, 3 eqs, an 8 channel AD/DA, 2 pair of monitors), all in excellent to mint condition, all used, at 1/4 to 1/2 of the street prices new. The only new items I bought were some 3 Zigma CHI mics. There is a ton of decent used gear on the market.

RemyRAD Fri, 10/07/2011 - 19:18
Situations are getting bad. Studios are closing. Record companies only exist for contracts written years ago.

Recently I have been forced to downsize. So I have to sell a boatload of quality gear. The time is here for those of you who want to get their hands upon quality pieces of consoles. We don't all need 36 NEVE inputs like I have (70 if you consider the fact that I have 2 desks and only need one), Along with 20 API 312 microphone preamp's as well. This isn't exactly an advertisement but it could be. I've also promised a number of Auditronics 501 modules to a few people here months ago none of which I haven't shipped yet, due to circumstances beyond my control. That's basically because I have just moved out of the nine room, 3 story, four bedroom townhouse I've been in for over 30 years. Crap! So while I seem to be a schlep for not having shipped out these winning 501 modules yet, I am now gradually starting to get back on track to some better disorganization. I am a man and/or woman of my word and I'm still will be shipping those units out. And there are other 501 models also, at least 40 more. These are affordable pieces of classic sounding electronics that are easily modified or left as they are. Many people still want those sounds they grew up listening to and that doesn't come from most of the state of the art equipment available today. That's a new sound that while being technically superior doesn't necessarily sound like we want it to. And that's why you need a couple pieces of classic stuff. Good transformers or bad Transformers, it really doesn't matter as long as there are some of them in their. There were a lot of crappy American-made, UTC microphone transformers and a lot of famous consoles & UREI Limiters and nobody is complaining about those even when they complain about those. It's finding the right kind of distortion to enhance your sound through otherwise neutered sounding electronics we call state-of-the-art sound. It's so pure, so clean, it's just like falling off of your ice skates onto your ass on the ice. While some people like that sound others don't. The same reason why we still have orchestras with the advent of only needing a single loud electric guitar. I just don't think that Mozart's fourth violin Concerto would sound the same on a Stratocaster. It might be cool but it may not be the sound you want to hear.

Has anybody here ever played a tromboon?
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Fri, 12/23/2011 - 10:22
I'm told the price of some hardware is going to increase by up by 33% this next year (2012). The great divide is happening. Starting Jan 1st, an LA-2A will retail around $4000 now.
Price increases are Worldwide, and are caused by an increase in component prices. In particular, sourcing some of the more obscure 60's style components ( opto electric cells, etc) is becoming more difficult.
I ordered an LA2A yesterday. Oo la la.
If I could buy ten I would.
Hang onto your gear Remy! Plugin city is looking more and more like McDonald's to me and no other option for most people in this industry and economy. Plugins may or may not be the best but they are certainly timely.

RemyRAD Fri, 12/23/2011 - 11:13
Yup, and so the rich, who are now richer can afford that stuff while we mostly have to deal with digital tampons. Which ain't bad mind you. Hey remember in 1979 when a 2 track Scully 280 B, were still $2500. So we had to settle for those TEAC 7030's, pretending they were Scully's or Ampex's. I don't think I'll ever own a LA 2 so I'll have to be content with my LA 3's. Besides in my tight quarters here, it doesn't make real estate sense to pull out my pair of LA 3's along with an 1176 to accommodate a single LA 2. That might increase my quality but reduce my creative capabilities. Again a compromise trade-off or is that a compressor trade off? That just squashes my compression dreams, in a manner of speaking. I'm not speaking, I'm typing.

Mr. Watson come in here I need you...
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Fri, 12/23/2011 - 14:02
I've been planning this for 6 months ( well 9 years actually but that's another story). I'm in Canada so you have different options, many more than me! Find a dealer right now and grind. Be very assertive and don't wait. I know you can get a new one somewhere between 2600 and 3000 now across the board. Not many people are aware of the pricing that is going to start happening ( I warned ya). I predict it to be a domino effect in the Pro Audio Hardware sector. Once one company starts, others will follow. Manufacturers simply can't help this. Times are changing for more low end and plug-ins for the wanker world, driving the costs to produce real gear. More low end, more room for us to rise above the crowd and this is what I want. I know this hurts for those caught up in plugin city but I would rather have one LA-2A than 100 plugins and a Digi setup. Its a whole different world using the real thing.
I've been told by a few dealers now that the LA-2A is definitely going up a lot!

Jeff, there were a few on GS this last week and one good one in Canada. See the guy selling the one from Toronto. He wants 2350 but had it on Ebay two days ago for $2200 and NO ONE BIT! So he re listed it again for 2350. Its a 2001 build and hardly used from what I can tell. Buying new... Whomever has 2011 stock is who you find and grind.

In Canada HHD is the distributer. To name a few Canadian dealers, Studio Economik and L&M have them. In the UAS, Atlas, Sweetwater and Full Compass http://www.fullcompass.com/product/260841.html . Mercenary has them but they have always been more expensive for no other reason than because of shill hype.duh

If the list on them is 3,599.00 add 33% Jan 1 2012, then shipping and tax coming to you sooner or later ... The Great Divide is here.

I'm so excited I'm finally getting one.

Hope this helps.

thatjeffguy Fri, 12/23/2011 - 15:21
Thanks audiokid. I'm looking around online right now. Front End Audio is offering a 1-day 10% discount off their already discounted $2999.00 price, bringing it down to $2699.00 US$. What to do? I'm torn between this unit and the one by George Massenburg that you posted the vid of a while ago. His is 2 channel and an altogether different beast than the classic LA2A, (and more $$$) but either one (or both, if I were rich) would be welcome additions to my studio. Did you ever personally audition the Massenburg unit?

Thanks for your input!

Jeff

audiokid Fri, 12/23/2011 - 15:26
I've never been more certain.
If you are buying this just for vocals, do the LA-2A.thumb Its the one piece that is going to go up in value. The LA-2A is a magic piece that sets vocals apart. If you don't like it, you will be able to sell it for what you paid for it, in a month from now. That's a pretty sweet deal. Get them to toss in the shipping.

DO IT! You cannot loose.

Mine is on its way oolala. This is too much love at one.

audiokid Fri, 12/23/2011 - 15:32
No, never heard the Massenburg but its doesn't take rocket science to know its really nice. But, that is a different beast than this. Its transparent and more surgical. The LA-2A is a one trick pony really. But a really good one. They way I look at it. Vocals are something that I want to deal with all on their own. I don't want a jack of all for vocals. I want the best thing that is going to put the lead over and above anything else. If the vocals ROCK, mixing is wayyyyyyy easier.
All the other gear can utilize other products and do it good enough. But vocals.... I want the best thing going. LA-2A is a good one for this.

make sense?

Get this and then save up for the the Massenburg or an STC-8. I just got one of those this week too. And also a A-Designs Nail is another beast that is great for many things.

thatjeffguy Fri, 12/23/2011 - 15:34
Thanks, audiokid, I'm gonna do it!

Yes vocals is what I'm shooting for. I hear so many great vocals that have been compressed with such transparency and smoothness... I'm just not getting what I want from my Avalon 737sp nor from software. So, I guess it's "Merry Christmas to Me" !

Thanks again for your input, plus your numerous equipment posts, always informative.

Jeff

audiokid Mon, 12/26/2011 - 13:46
Jeff.

If you haven't seen this, here is what they say is the ultimate (hardware or plug-in) configuration/chain for both LA-2A 1176 combo's. It makes perfect sense.
I plan on getting the 1176 too but I do have other comps that are fast that fit for me. The 1176 is more versatile but the LA2A is not only the creme de la creme vocal god, it is the one comp that will keep its value and is the smartest move in regards to an investment right now. There are thousands of 1176's and similar out there compared. Its also why you hear more comments on the 1176 than the LA2A.

RemyRAD Mon, 12/26/2011 - 14:18
Boo-hoo... I've always had to settle for my DBX 165A or, LA 3A with my 1176. I guess I'll live... Actually I found it funny that Universal Audio didn't compare their software version to their hardware versions in that demonstration. I guess they feel they sound too much alike? Wouldn't they rather sell the higher priced items? Obviously the software isn't labor-intensive since it always exists in code. And probably a heck of a lot less money so that more people can own what they cannot own. That's where I've occasionally used my ProTools with the Bomb Factory 1176 emulation when I want that in software or I'm just working ITB. And isn't that 1176 Bomb Factory emulation still included with ProTools? I'm still utilizing 7.0 & 7.4. Maybe that cool emulated picture makes all the difference? That's where I've always been leery about software. If it looks the part, it must sound like it also, right? They say a picture is worth $1000. Right? Or do I have that wrong?

Let me change the channel... hold on.
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Mon, 12/26/2011 - 15:03
I think imaging is a big part of plug-ins. I'm so done with it all I can hardly keep my mouth shut. I think UAD is doing it well on both sides but find it hard to believe they are making an LA2A plugin that sounds as good as the real deal.
In the end, if the song sounds great, people are happy and buying it all, who cares, right?
When the economy picks up, it will revert back somewhat I'm sure. Who is promoting what they can't afford? In the mean time... I'm trying real hard to not get influenced by our current economic China supporting strategies. I'd rather have one real deal than a thousand a something not quite there.
If I was a pro audio manufacturer and needed to keep feeding my family, I would be making plug-ins too. I'm convinced some plug-ins are perfect for the task and others are more pretty than beneficial.

Melodyne as an example is excellent. I think clinical tools are for the most part better in the digital world and vibe and colour are better in the hardware world.

smoke

thatjeffguy Mon, 12/26/2011 - 16:35
Thanks for posting this, audiokid. Very interesting!

Remy, I'm with you... why not compare the software version to the hardware version? THAT would have my ears perked up.

I think I prefer the hardware because I know I won't have to change in out / upgrade 3 or 4 times over the coming decade. In the past decade we've gone from PCI to PCI-X to PCIe... had to change soundcard each time. Plugins have gone from VST 1.0 to VST 2.0 to VST 3.0 during the same period (I use Cubase). But you know what? The hardware unit still plugs into a standard electrical outlet and hooks up with the same XLR plugs we've been using for decades. With proper care the hardware units should perform for decades without needing much attention.

Assuming that the 1176 is as quick on attack as the software version apparently is, that would be handy to have. I haven't had the opportunity to actually use one. What's your experience in that regard, Remy?

Love this forum!

Jeff

audiokid Mon, 12/26/2011 - 18:00
Agree with your opinion on hardware Jeff,

I think high end analog hardware will stay the same for years and will have a spot in the Pro Audio arena for years to come. Its going to be harder and harder to afford, plus its going to be harder to understand how to use it without other products that work with it.

But! Digital gear like the $10,000 Weiss DS1 could possibly be replaced by a $200 plugin any day ... so, I personally wouldn't invest in any digital hardware device that can be replaced in a plug-in unless I didn't care about losing money. Obviously, if its what the job calls for and satisfies the client who is paying for it at the time, who cares. If you're making money with it, its absolutely a great investment until its time to upgrade.

As far as comparisons, I'm to a point the majority would have to do an A/B in their own studio. I find it difficult to trust most opinions at this point unless it came from someone well versed in vintage and plugins including knowing they are using very similar gear to boot. People all hear and approach things differently. Converters, room acoustics, power, monitors, mood and age effect so much of what we base opinions on. What I think is golden for my chain could be a total waste of money for someone struggling to eat or coming at music from a totally different POV. Its all so subjective.
There are so many people chiming in on topics that have never even used something, including me at times but I do research heavily before I buy something and at least understand why I am doing something long before I do it.
Comparisons are so subjective, don't you all think? But they are fun!

From all I've read since plug-in became, my sources and my personal understanding of this is, hardware compressors are the one tool noticeably better than the plugin. Remy knows this. She's just playing the devils advocate :)

But here's the deal on plug-ins vs hardware for this particular setup:

Remy, I know you used to track with comps? Do you still ?
If you track with a comp in line and want to take advantage of the LA2A 1176 combo, you need the 1176 first to catch the fast peaks before they hit the LA2A. Plug-ins won't help you in some tracking applications. Or am I wrong?

But I see myself using this gem ever so lightly, so the subtle but stellar effect it has on its own too.

On a side note, thousands of opinions from people say plugins are better, hardware is a waste of money or plugins are a waste of money, hardware is better. But in all honestly, how many people have actually used most of the high end hardware to even form an accurate opinion.
Its always fun to get a good quality rant going.smoke

Paul999 Mon, 12/26/2011 - 23:36
If you are correct and hardware rises in price like you predict you may not be sitting on the gold that you think you are. We are now at a time when guys like Phil Tan and Dave Pensado can do complete ITB mixes and make them sound fantastic. This creates a situation where hardware is not as valuable. People that can pull great ITB mixes out are valuable. I wish I was one of those guys but I am not. The people that can pull off awesome ITB mixes will have an even greater economic advantage over the guys that can't. The more engineers are forced to use ITB stuff the better they will get at it and the more the public gets used to hearing it. None of this looks good for hardware IMO. The pubic is used to hearing modern music that is much brighter then in years gone by. In 10-15 years people will ask me to create that vintage digitally cold, dry, distorted sound circa 2001.

I wish quality would rise to the top but an hand crafted sword made with the utmost care in the hands of a Ninja is no match for a 22 cent bullet from the gun of a punk kid that only cares about getting high. Bullets will be the weapon of choice for those in law enforcement, military, criminal and other violent activities. The sword maybe more elegant, quieter more precise with less collateral damage but because it is more expensive requires more training and can't be put in your pocket it will be rarely used as a weapon of choice. It might make your sword more valuable but it will make a lot more people less eager to buy, less buyers, higher prices for some in quite a few years but quite a few worth nothing as they flood the market being sold.

I am usually not so "glass half full". It my be all the boxing day shopping;-)
Paul

P.S. Congrats on the LA2A

audiokid Tue, 12/27/2011 - 00:08
Hey Paul,

I agree you can do it either way, I think I actually have a good handle on the digital world more than the analog scene but love the direction I'm going right now. I finaly feel like I am hearing things the way I want it to sound. Its getting better and better for me.
I say this over and over, if I find any of this a waste of time, I will drop it all in a heart beat with no regret. But for now, I don't see this happening anytime soon and I don't see hardware getting lower in price or dropping off the face of the earth. Hybrid is so cool and growing.

I think hardware has pretty much bottomed out and is now finding its place in the DAWworld. I think its turning around and as I said in the OP, the great divide is happening.
I also believe the harder something is to get, the more in demand it will become.
Tape is returning in some ways too. Its not going away, its growing and has a crowd of its own. I wouldn't be surprised if we see new 8 tracks coming in the next year or two.

Thanks for the congrats, and Jeff too!

Paul999 Tue, 12/27/2011 - 00:28
Man I sure hope you are right. For right now most successful studio's are hybrid that is for sure. I think that more analog gear will get digitally controlled and hopefully will lead to more automation. About 10 years ago I made the decision that I would stop buying plugins(had UAD 1 at the time) and invest everything in hardware gear if at all possible. My mixes got better and better as well as faster and faster. I track to tape(not even a real high quality deck, Fostex G16s) and my DAW at the same time. Whenever I let the client choose no one ever chooses the DAW. Even my wife can hear the difference. I hope we see new tape decks in a little while.

audiokid Tue, 12/27/2011 - 09:55
Hardware being added as a plugin is being discussed for Sequoia. Only one instance but it makes hybrid routing more logical.

I had a G16, sold it to the tech guy at L&M in Edmonton years ago to help pay for a 20 grand Pro Tools 24 mix plus system that sits in a closet. duh Then I added a Yamaha O3D to the mix that made it even worse. Then I tossed that and bought the Waves crap. Then I started realizing I should be recording a lot lower in levels and use less plug-ins, then I tossed it all in the closet and started over.
Now I am hybrid and using Sequoia 11 with Dangerous Master and SPL MixDream summing. No comparison to ITB.
Now I am looking into the Liaison and a few comps like the LA2A to add the spice to everything. Using RME ADI-8 QS's and Lavry converters.
A nice 2 track tape deck would be pretty cool for drums but my comps and the summing amps are great as is. I'm much happier and feel like I am in the best of both worlds.

Paul999 Tue, 12/27/2011 - 10:07
My G16s was on an interesting journey. I bought it used from mothers music in the mid 1990's and sold it when I saw how "superior" digital was. I used mine to fund some stage lights which I still have. About a year ago I noticed one on sale on kijiji and it turns out to be the exact unit I sold to L&M in about 1999. I bought it and it is still in great shape. Owning it is more clinging to the past then owning an amazing piece of analog. However it still gets use.

Paul999 Tue, 12/27/2011 - 12:03
audiokid, post: 381360 wrote: I wouldn't doubt that G16 was mine originally. I have a feeling the tech guy traded it in at Mothers. Wouldn't that be unbelievable! Very cool story, sounds like that G16 is your soul mate lol!

That is what I was thinking. When I bought it from mothers they said that it was one of their tech guys that had it. I never know if I should believe it when they say stuff like that. Too funny. Did yours have the Midi sync card?

thatjeffguy Tue, 12/27/2011 - 17:33
I used to have the Fostex 8 track reel-to-reel, don't remember the model number, it used 1/4" tape. Now I have an old 1/4" Teac A-6300 (4 tracks - 2 in each direction). I bought it so I could transfer some old band tapes from the '60s into my DAW.

But I'm going to do some experimenting with tracking (or re-recording) some drum mixes through the thing just to see what it might do to the sound. It has a switch to toggle the monitoring from "source" to "Tape", so I can go straight into my DAW with only a slight delay. I'll have to calculate the delay using 7.5 ips tape speed and whatever the distance between the heads is.

Jeff
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