When striving for sonic excellence one uses the best tools and abilities available to you. Your own skill set, the room you have and your years of experience contribute to that hugely. You also use the equipment (using your judgement) to get "the product".
On the whole, with todays lower budgets, that often means using your own place rather than hiring a mix room. Even with the joy of your own space, recall is very important. When budgets allow, OR if you own your own high end studio, you can have the luxury (yes it is a luxury) of working with top end gear to get things "just so".
It isn't about being able to tell that something was done on an 88R or in Reaper... it's about the ends justifying the means - or more accurately - the means to get to an end.
In my case -
a) sometimes it means recording at Abbey Road, sometimes it means recording in my place
b) sometimes on location, sometimes at a clients place
c) sometimes it means mixing at a triple A facility, sometimes at mine
d) sometimes it means mixing on my console, sometimes ITB
e) sometimes it means using a UAD plate, sometimes a real one.
f) sometimes to tape, sometimes in Logic/PT
g) sometimes it's mastered at Soundmasters, sometimes in Ozone
i) sometimes the budget is £200k, sometimes it's £5k.
Additionally, just because I don't own it doesn't mean to say it isn't useful. Equally just because I DO own it (and I own a lot!!) doesn't mean to say it's the only way.
More examples - the best monitors are not "what you own" (oh boy - the number of times I see Dynaudio BM15s recommended as a high end solution....) the point being - a lot of people defend plugins because it's what they use. Equally a lot of people big up consoles when they have no experience and assume it's a magic solution OR it's some kind of badge of excellence. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. The SSL4000 didn't make Andy Wallace but he sure as hell used 'em!! The B&W 800D didn't make my last score recording but sure as hell used THEM.
High end consoles and high end gear IS sonically better and the great majority of it is analogue (although Weiss, Katz and Sony have snuck a few digital lovers in there). Plugins haven't reached maturity yet - mic's and amplifiers reached it years ago. We are still some way off plugins and DAWs being able to match the capabilities and characteristics of a high end outboard solution. BUT - both solutions ONLY reach great results when used by those of experience, taste and with the right jobs..... that much we agree on. I enjoy reading most posts on GS but the constant striving for a justification of the low end bettering the high level equipment is amusing at best and, at worst, insulting to those of far more experience as well as designers of the wealth well designed hardware. ONLy when plugins provide us with something not available in the more expensive world are they actually a preferable choice! A great example is the Duende X-Eq. Or the Fabfilter delays.... Nothing like either of them in the "real world".
I've yet to attain the sonic excellence of some of the masters out there (and some in here) but my work is on over 200 million sales units as of this year and I've used the money from that to build a better work environment. Why? Because I can, because of competitive edge, and because of a drive to improve sonic quality. Nearly all of that has been spent on the rooms and on analogue hardware. Now I've made a lot of money doing this - and some of it was made with a bloody O2R.... but times have changed and competition has moved back into quality results.... hardware is on the up, plugins are raising their game. My company is developing a range of plugins for professionals (if you know me you'll understand that a little better
) but that's mainly because my target market (oooh even more cryptic) cannot use outboard. So... I'm not plugin hater - but I am from a scientific background and by luck have a lot of experience in this game. Sonically : Plugins ain't it - yet! - BUT I use them daily. Work is always a compromise!
The limiting factor in my work is MOSTLY me but SOMETIMES it's the project budgets which invariably lead to corner cutting - no-one is getting a mix on my Neve without paying the right fees. I certainly won't go out and buy an esoteric bit of kit for a budget project - whereas I just bought a Red Rooster to stick on the percussion buss of my last job because there is NOTHING in plug in land to do it.....
So there we go - an unfocussed outburst from your old friend Narc....