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Software versus Hardware

I'm wondering how the software plugs stack up against the hardware. I'm fairly new to recording and I just want some sense of how close the software is to the real thing. eg..if the ultimate hardware reverb is 100 in terms of sound quality, would the software equivalent be 70,80,90? This is simply to give me a sense of perspective as I assemble my computer based home studio. And to better appreciate where to put limited funds.



tmix Wed, 10/08/2003 - 03:06

In my opinion the better software reverbs only get about 60 to 70 % as good as the better hardware units. On the other hand for softer non- percussive tracks many software reverbs beat the pants off of the inexpensive hardware units and are generally very workable if used sparingly. Software reverbs tend to sound spattery and grainy on strong or percussive tracks (to me). I'd love to try one that did not. I'd rather keep everything in the box if I could.

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AudioGaff Wed, 10/08/2003 - 03:14

This is not a black and white answer. It depends on who you ask. I think hardware is still better. But outboard digital hardware processors are custom software with customized hardware. Many of the modern software packages or plugs are as good or better than some of the older or even some of the newer cheap budget outboard and effects processors including those that are analog.

For audio recording, it is not so much which is better as it is which is better for each person and their working style. For the amount of money you'll spend, you'll get more features out of software and a PC then you will with any other type or hardware/software combo. I think it takes way more effort, is more frustrating and in general is much harder getting great sounding product by using a digital only approach. I like many others, prefer the combo approach where I use great analog gear for processing the input signal before going to digital into the DAW (PC), then the software is used for audio editing, MIDI sequencing and control, some level and mute automation but use a real mixing board for the mixing stage to avoid the digital mixing bus and plugs issues, using very good outboard effects and doing even more analog processing before going to the final 2-bus mix which is often into digital again and then to the Mastering stage where it might be further processed in both digital and/or analog before the final digital made finished CD.

Great analog hardware gear processing is a much different thing and I don't forsee that being outdone by software or plugs for quite some time in the future, if ever.

For most of this analog or digital stuff these days, you pretty much get what you pay for.

Mikka Wed, 10/08/2003 - 03:45

Thanks to you both....I appreciate your replies.
I believe I'll end up combining analog and digital in a similar way. This helps me sort out my spending priorities.

I've got a semi-pro 8 track tape machine (TEAC 38B) and an old Teac DBX unit off a 38. I was planning to record vocals to tape first, then transfer into digital. Any comments on this? If this is a good idea, what other instruments do you think would sound better recorded to tape first? Obviously I've got to experiment myself....I'm just seeking feedback and a little guidance.

drbam Wed, 10/08/2003 - 06:17

Assuming that your recorder is operating well, just about everything will sound a bit warmer and musical recorded to tape. However, if I were doing pop or rock, I personally would record drums, bass and guitars to tape and then transfer. If I had only 8 tracks of tape I'd try to get the drums and bass (if possible). I'd do the rest in the DAW.



Mikka Wed, 10/08/2003 - 13:52

Thanks for vocals, would you put those on tape or go direct to DAW (via a decent preamp)?

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AudioGaff Wed, 10/08/2003 - 16:44

so vocals, would you put those on tape or go direct to DAW (via a decent preamp)?

Depends? For the most part, I try to take the simple and direct path when possible. But if the tone I need, like or want can only be gotten by tape, then that is what I use.

Sometimes it is not even what I think or want, it is what the client wants - for better or worse!