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Thread: DAW vs Physical Hardware

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    DAW vs Physical Hardware

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    When I first started recording, I thought to myself how lucky I was to be living in a time when I could buy a $200 DAW which came with what used to be external components (compressors, EQs, reverbs, etc.) and a $200 audio interface with mic pre-amp, which, all together used to cost thousands pre-DAW era.

    After recording for about five years now, it seems that that the DAW software plugins and entry-level audio interfaces are not in the same ballpark as their traditional- external counterparts.

    Question: Based on your experiences, are there certain types of equipment that tend to have a much higher quality than their DAW-digital equivalents? What about mic preamps on an audio interface vs a standalone?

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    another vote on what alterman said.

    I love some hardware and all that, but the DAW and PlugIns is fine and the deadhorseresponse is you get a LA2A and you can slap it on 100 tracks while not messing up the knob settings on the others etc.. the DAW&Plugs is so huge compared to fighting cassette tapes and MiniDisc transports that wouldn't kick the disc back out and become jammed by some small spring etc..

    the hardware has a beauty on tracking still but its pretty much a vibe thing, to plug into it seems to me.
    in all reality if I wasn't so lazy I could probably "simulate" the hardware with a few plugs.

    this past year I was kind of comparing a couple outboard $1000+ pieces to my $150 range pieces and having fun with that.
    I had the cash and credit to buy a few higher end pieces and wanted to see if the gear made the heavens open up and totally annihilate my cheaper stuff and plugs but they don't, annihilate. They are super built and supreme cool things, but when your a low level hobby entity, PlugIns are just the winner imo. Winner as in cost/ROI/ and again you buy something like Klanghelm compressors for $29, they never have repair issues, you can slap 100 of them in your tracks and save each setting....

    the hardware is like a mic+ preamp sound, together, a solid sound match or something.
    probably like the right guitar +pickups + amplifier for the entire sound as one tone in the track.

    I still think there is something to Mic X being plugged into PreAmp Y can give a entire different sound than Mic X plugged into PreAmp Z, or vice versa with the Mic being the variable.


    But if I had to choose it would be the INTERFACE(Preamps) + Daw+ PlugIns. I wouldn't want to go back to a TEAC 144 portastudio cassette and all outboard.

    if it's not happening in the room, it ain't gonna happen on tape.-H.Gerst

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    Quote Originally Posted by lastrenman View Post
    After recording for about five years now, it seems that that the DAW software plugins and entry-level audio interfaces are not in the same ballpark as their traditional- external counterparts.
    Do you have any evidence for this, or is it just your feeling?

    Quote Originally Posted by lastrenman View Post
    Question: Based on your experiences, are there certain types of equipment that tend to have a much higher quality than their DAW-digital equivalents? What about mic preamps on an audio interface vs a standalone?

    Mike preamps on an interface are not going to differ much from those on a standalone these days. However, price does make a difference.

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    I'm quicker, and more able to do what I want totally inside the computer. I still have the old external mixer, rack full of gizmos, sound modules and keyboards, but by and large, the mixer does nothing apart from feed left and right into my monitors and act as a volume control. I don't record it's output, and rarely have to use any external equipment and feed that back in. Quality wise, I feel today's system sounds better. I suspect my music is no better but it sounds cleaner, less noisy and to my ears nicer. Two keyboards are now plugins in the computer and sound the same to my ears. I don't need the clutter in my studio for work, but I keep it because it looks good. That's a terrible reason to have gear!

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    Quote Originally Posted by alterman View Post
    I'm wondering. I'm curious. If you would buy today A total package to start.
    Can anyone tell or estimate with small margin of error?

    What does a good computer cost when filled with the best daw and a pack off basically needed plugins in good quality?
    What does exactly the same cost in hardware?

    We can leave out the interface/table, as it's needed in both situations. Or if you wish, count that in too.
    Apples and Oranges mate! But say you start with Reaper? $60 buys you a superb DAW and (I bought it but rarely use it) by all accounts, a suite of really good pluggins and you can add more and better, many for free.

    I don't have any outboard but have read many times that each piece, reverb, comp etc, needs to be $1000 to equal or perhaps better the software?

    Then, you cannot ignore the interface. ITB any good AI will work. OOTB you need an interface or mixer with either shedolads of outs or inserts and a decent patchbay. Plus of course, as said, plugs can go everywhere and they never wear out.

    Dave.

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    So many fantastic comments, thank you all for your input- no pun intended! 😀

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    Embarrassing as it may be, I'm going to admit to the fact that I enjoy the USING of outboard gear as a justification, whether it sounds good or not.

    Maybe a VST sounds better. Maybe not. I dunno. The only ones I use exist because I can't duplicate them in hardware OR because the hardware (like a digital delay) is just software in the first place.

    I have a good space and pretty good ears, but because I deal less in recording and much more in sequencing, it doesn't matter. I LIKE turning knobs. I like bending over and stretching around and even leaning back to use my overhead EQ strips. I don't like mouse and keyboard. Sorry. I'd rather use a patch bay. It took me some time to work out all the bugs so I'm in no hurry to replace it, anyway.

    Maybe it's superstition, but outboard pre-amps seem to do better than any soundcard i've come across, rack or otherwise. Maybe it's Luddite, but tweaking a parametric EQ knob seems far more precise than entering a number, no matter the resolution.

    Is it all in my head? Maybe. Am I selling the client a load of poles? Possibly. Am I simply unqualified? I'll not argue. Not even on an 'adaptive surface' but genuine gear. It's just that I'd rather perform the acts of tweaking, patching, and adjusting much more than mousing in any combination. So for me, that makes the old outboard gear WAY better.

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    Dave had brought up the 'rule' (dont know if it's truth) about a piece of outboard gear having to be a grand to live up to a plug in counterpart.
    Don't know about that. I have two pieces that are cheap, but great so that I'd much rather use them than a plug in.

    1) Alesis quadreverb.
    A lowly 16 bit multi-effects unit. But I guess due to it's 90's 16 bit technology, it has a wonderful grittiness to it that can't be matched. It just sounds cool. I have two that have been in constant use since day one.

    2) Art pro vla optical compressor.
    Again, this is a cheap unit. But suprisingly many 'legit' real studios have one or two in the rack alongside of the high dollar comps.
    I have one and like it. It has some character but is clean enough to where I can use it as a final 2buss comp.

    I'm sure there are many such inexpensive but highly usable pieces out there.
    Myself I like using rack gear instead of plugs. I just like old fashioned knob twiddling.

    But then again, I like some of the plug ins with the versatility and functions available .
    Besides, who can afford a hardware 1176 on multiple inserts?
    With plug ins you can have that.

    Today one can have the best of both worlds.
    Last edited by RFR; 12-10-2018 at 22:10.

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    "Dave had brought up the 'rule' (dont know if it's truth) about a piece of outboard gear having to be a grand to live up to a plug in counterpart.
    Don't know about that. I have two pieces that are cheap, but great so that I'd much rather use them than a plug in."

    Apples and plums R mate! The $1000 is needed to match the technical specification of plug ins. The noise and distortion performance of software effects can be of the higest order and only approached by very well designed and expensise hardware.

    For sure you cna have a "grungifying" device that produce an effect you like. This is similar to the argument about boutique mic pres. Yes you can spend a lot of money to get a certain "colour" but that is not a "better" pre amp, just different.

    Dave.

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    It's all good.
    In the end music is not about the technical specs.......that's for engineers.
    Its all about the sounds. A piece of gear that an electronic wizbang might scoff at, might just be the perfect tool for the job......make the music you want to hear.
    You take a look at some of these street drummers, they're banging on plastic buckets, metal garbage cans, ect. Hardly a properly designed drum kit. But, boy oh boy, can some of them make some music.

    So we'll leave the specs to the engineers. In the context of the music, if it sounds good, it is good.

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