Skip to main content

UAD or Outboard Compression

Member for

13 years 5 months
Hi people

I'm a little confused by all the different views in which people have regarding compression.

I was considering getting the UAD PCI based Compression/EQ plugins for my PC DAW but was advised by someone to wait until UAD #2 comes out due to flat out processor intense issues some people experience using UAD #1, even with 1 or 2 PCI cards. Okay, that's fair enough I can wait.

However, I've been hearing from some people that they prefer outboard compression to the plugin variety, even though this means that what they've compressed is un alterable once recorded. Why is this?

I've a feeling it's to do with having some sound shaping and processing at the pre-DAW stage to leave less work during processing and mixing later. Is this correct?

Does outboard compression do a better job than plugins do? What are the pros and cons regarding sound, convenience and cost etc?




Member for

13 years 5 months

lostindundee Fri, 08/22/2008 - 14:56
Hi folks

Thank you very much for your replies. I really appreciate it.

Apologies for not replying sooner. Last week was my birthday and I'd had a few beers before I posted this question and clean forgot I'd did so. It wasn't until I saw it listed tonight that I thought - "Hell...I was gonna post this question, now I don't need to" - only to find out that it was in fact me!!! lol :shock:

I think the answers are fantastic and on the money. A real break down of the pros and cons and combinations of dabbling in each camp as and when I gain experience.

Again, thank you for advice. You've certainly given me an informed way forward. :D

Kindest regards


Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Fri, 08/22/2008 - 22:10
LOL LMAO! Happy birthday LiD! You gotta love those people that ask those intelligent questions just like you're going to. I'm glad you found our interchange useful. Bob brought up a good point. All hardware based items utilizes parts such as electrolytic capacitors that all age differently. Whereas plug-ins are far more consistent since the math doesn't change. Besides, you don't want to change all the capacitors in your compressors every few years. You can't just replace a couple of those. You have to replace all of them for consistent like new operation. It's kind of like getting a transmission job for your car. You don't just replace a single clutch plate. You replace all of them. So it's better to play a computer game "car" than having to fill your actual car up with gasoline.

Full of gas
Ms. Remy Ann David

er, excuse me.

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Sat, 08/16/2008 - 00:38
This becomes a very passionate issue. There are those of us old fossils, that experience a slight difference in perceptions. It really doesn't have anything to do with the post/mixing process, CPU load or saving time. We've been tracking analog for so long where we've compressed vocals to tape, we like it better that way. Even when tracking to digital. The simple fact that you can actually record both a compressed & noncompressed track at the same time, of the same source, means, if we don't like it, we don't use it. But we do. It sounds better to us. It's strictly an emotional impact. Were not worried about what we can't undo. Because, if it doesn't sound good when we're doing it, we don't do it. But we've done this so many times over the years I frequently prefer it this way.

Of course, numerous modeled plug-ins provide a marvelous facsimile of their original hardware analog counterparts. A popular example would be the Bomb Factory LA 2A/3A, 1176 plug-ins in ProTools. I like the 1176 plug-ins when the track wasn't recorded with it. Heck, even if it was already recorded with it and I want to crush it some more. Since I recorded & mixed numerous projects that were all recorded without any additional manipulation. You still can get a similar flavor. It's just one of those cerebral things.

So you're still confused? Bottom line is, you'll want both. You'll need both. It's never black or white when it comes to audio. I won't even get into whether you should track them with an RMS compressor/limiter or, Peak compressor/limiter. You'll want both also. , One when tracking and one when mixing. Be it hardware or software or, a combination of both. Maybe none!? The fact is, there is no hard and fast ways as I've created great mixes where everything was recorded pure raw and all dynamics processing done after the fact. Allot also has to do with the style of what you're recording. Generally I don't compress and/or limit operatic singers When tracking, just pop singers, I'll use judicious amounts of the real analog stuff. if I have any doubt? I'll double record the same thing to 2 separate tracks. But I rarely do that.

Cost, that's another matter. If you don't want to sink $1500 on an 1176 then the plug-ins may be the ticket? So, you'll purchase your self a reasonable & largely inexpensive DBX's and use the plug-ins that you can't afford the hardware for. It's the only way to go.. Let's face it, you're anaudio junkie.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Sat, 08/16/2008 - 05:10
My semi-tongue-in-cheek answer to that very common question is, "if you have to ask, buy the plug in."

More elaborate answer: all compressors sound and operate a little differently. So the outboards sound different from the plugins just like they sound different from each other. Ideally, you want to shop for a compressor you like the sound and feel of regardless of its technology. Saying that outboards sound better than plugins is like saying the Fender guitars sound better than Gibson guitars. Matter or taste. As Remy says - in the long run you'll want a lot of flavors, and you can get both.

Of course, there are other considerations than pure sound. If you are not already used to using the outboard units, that removes a big reason in their favor. Their remaining advantage is that they don't put a load on the CPU. For most people who are not already used to the outboard units that doesn't match the advantages of plugins: price, space, cables, price, ease of use, and price.

One advantage of plugins is large, but temporary. They are nondestructive and make it easy for you to experiment and really learn to use the tool. Nothing teaches you to use a compressor faster than looping a few bars of drum hits and twiddling the knobs for an hour. Of course, once you have done that a few times you just set the knobs and forget it just like you would on an outboard unit. (Yes, you can do this with an outboard unit, but it is trivial to do it with a plugin and a PITA to do it with an outboard. I don't know anyone who has actually wired it up and done it. Anyone? Bueller?)

So, that's the reason for my smartass opening line. Most people who ask this question haven't already spent years working with good outboard units and would benefit from the plugin as a teaching tool. If you are on that stage of the learning curve its a pretty easy choice. (There are several stages on the budget curve where it is an easy choice as well.)