To OTB or not to OTB
...that is the question.
Thanks in advance for your time and expertise.
Context: I'm a serious amateur, doing the best I can on a limited budget, no formal training, and an over-the-garage studio. I do straight ahead pop-rock, with drums coming out of Reason Rdk and most other tracks via real instruments. I have some Waves goodies(I use the Renaissance stuff a lot). I have a rack mounted Delta 1010, and an old Tascam m216 from the days of Footloose and Top Gun.
Im considering upping my game somewhat with about a $1500 budget in the EQ and compression department. My research has led me here:
Option A: a UAD duo card-the option where you get to cherry pick 3 extra plugins.
Option B: go E-bay-ing and pick up 6-8 channels of used, mid grade hardware EQ's and comps, since there seems to be lots out there(Ashley, dbx, Rane and PreSonus are names that come to mind).
Well you know I am 100% OTB as much as possible. ITB is where we all end up but the magic happens OTB. Plug-ins just don't have that open airrrrrrrrrrrr aaahhhhhhhhhh (tails, space and such) in the same way.
The problem I find (huge challenge) , how do you preserve that lush hybrid sound at the end of the day. With all these loudness wars you either join the war or sound quiet. All people have to do is turn up your mix and they would go wow, but that's not an easy thing to do these days.
You can't make digital sound analog but you most certainly can make analog sound digital real fast by limiting and compressing your masters and uploading your music (digital).
The magic is in the transients. The transients that we all truncate to get as loud as possible is where the definition and sparkle sits. Uploading your music instantly kills some lush sound I get from OTB mixes. So, the question is, how do you preserve it all at the end of the day? This has been a learning curve for me for years. And that is what costs money. So, to answer part of your question, To OTB or not to OTB ( well), get your wallet out to do it well.
Unless you are ready to drop thousands. I'd suggest staying ITB for most of your processing. Cheap hardware sounds terrible, its noisy and muddy. But, possibly a nice analog mixer might be the ticket. If it was the right one.
If that doesn't scare you off, or knock some sense into you, I'd be more than happy to continue chatting about OTB. Hybrid is the best of both worlds. No question about it.
i see it like this. hardware lasts forever (so to speak). software (plugs) will last at best through 3 or 4 cycles of computer / os system / DAW software updates. then you usually need to 1) get an update for the plugs or 2) buy new plugs.
hardware requires you have at least 8 channels in and out to the DAW. a simple 2 channel interface will not work. your 1010 should be fine but you may want to look at 16 channels of ins and outs. they get used up real fast when mixing with outboard hardware. ob hardware sounds better. jmo
the final caveat is; good hardware sounds good. cheap hardware sounds cheap (like BT said).
unless you want to spend to get to purchase "the good stuff" just stay itb.
Okay. Thanks. I get it. However it begs further discussion regarding my current situation:
Option a)-the "It's a poor carpenter who blames his tools" option: Live with the Waves stuff and spend the money on some training a-la tracking, mixing, listening, etc.
Option b)-the "oops, sorry I got drool on your shoes" option. Get the UAD plugs and hope I get a lot of good years out of them before they landfill the current cards.
I have another OTB question, but I think it warrants a new thread to keep things from getting confusing.
I come from all of this in a completely different direction. I'm not out to try to out best George Massenburg, Ed Cherney, Elliott Shiner or any of that lot. I just want to recording that's pleasing and fun to listen to. Specifications notwithstanding.
I say stay with your Waves plug-ins. If you wanted equalization that is musical and recognizable, it ain't any of the cheap ones. You're talking API 550/560's, Neve along with its limited capabilities, Massenburg parametric's. Anything else is just everything else. The UAD, just another trinket. These are synthetic models which to some, sound like the real deal and to others, like myself, not so much so. This is like telling somebody that surimi is real crabmeat. It's not. It's a plug-in. It lightly resembles the real thing to some. But we all know better don't we? Right. I certainly don't think their EMT plate reverb plug-in sounds anything like an EMT cold rolled steel plate. But everybody who thinks they know what an EMT plate sounds like will swear it's an EMT plate. It's quite a bit far removed from that sound in fact. I've personally owned two and worked on plenty more. It's BS, this emulation modeling crap. It's just to get you to purchase something by giving it a cute little cartoon face that makes it look like the original piece of hardware. Well except for the plate which you wouldn't want to look at anyhow. Except for the remote control for your decay time. I find most of the stock processing built into Adobe Audition to be more than adequate for 85% of my work when I don't use my actual outboard hardware. And I like the versatile capabilities that software does have to offer. Because there are things you can do in software that cannot be accomplished in real time. So there most definitely is a place for it.
I think you'll find that most smart recording enthusiasts today, utilize hybrid technologies. So your best bet might just be purchasing yourself a couple of decent transformer coupled microphone preamps more than someone's silly equalizer. Because it's that first stage input that really makes the most significant audible difference in and above any equalizer.
When it comes to choosing an equalizer, you really have to know what you want it to do for you? Equalizers found in classic audio consoles over the years, were known as program equalizers. These types of equalizers were basically there for enhancement purposes rather than corrective purposes. For corrective purposes, you'd most likely want a sweepable, variable Q, parametric equalizer. Or, a simple graphic of nine bands. You might want an equalizer that is a reciprocal device or you might want one that has variable Q, such as the API 550? You might want one just for its sound like a simple Neve, where you simply have a 12 kHz high-frequency shelf, a few mid-band and a couple of low frequency shelves and a high pass filter? Those made plenty of rock 'n roll hits also along with Opera and everything in between. So those add a lot of color, in their sonic signature. And most everything else is hardly worth owning. I don't go for technical accuracy. I go for peak performance pleasure. There is a difference there. If you understand everything about sound and you understand everything about the equipment you are using, then you might want to approach things from a slightly more clinical manner? I've been doing this so long, to me, it's just like breathing. So the sound I want to get, is already in my head. I just need to translate it from my perceptions to something that can come out of any sized speaker and still sound good. From 1 inch notebook computer speakers to full-blown large control room monitors. It shouldn't play back any differently. Where anything that you can hear or perceived on one system is audible and perceptible on another system regardless of quality level. And a lot of that comes from cheap SM-57/58 microphones and not a whole lot of fooling around with the sound. Sure, plenty of compression and limiting. Some corrective equalization such as high pass filtering which is pretty much standard on virtually any audio console built. And pretty much... there you go. Then anything else you add is nothing more than those sweet multicolored sparkling things. Reverb, flanging, time delays, Doppler shift, Haas effect. And there's your stereo imaging. Also don't forget noise gating/downward expansion. These are all tools that augment your sound, tightens up your sound, controls where in the mix you find this sound.
Recording enthusiasts are not actually real brain surgeons.
Mx. Remy Ann David