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Okay, so how much does hardware vs software compression really matter?
Old 12th May 2018
  #1
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Okay, so how much does hardware vs software compression really matter?

Okay, so how much does hardware vs software compression really matter?

Even though I have some okay outboard (COMP-2A, Behringer MDX2600, Tegeler Creme), I find that even though "initially" the comparable plug-ins might not sound that hi-fi, when one blends them careful into the mix, I find no fault with the plug-in sound. Of course I cannot compare to hardware sound in all cases, but for example today using NI Solid Bus Comp in master, rather than, say, Creme or Overloud Comp-G, I find that the sound is still like I wanted it.
Old 12th May 2018
  #2
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Particularly, without doing an A/B test, the Comp-G to me sounds frighteningly close to the compressor in the Creme.
It even has the kind of "bite" associated with hardware, which the NI doesn't have (it's noticeably tamer and clean).

The Comp-G also gives a bit of "good sound" magic that's usually associated with outboard.
Old 12th May 2018
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmodel View Post
Particularly, without doing an A/B test, the Comp-G to me sounds frighteningly close to the compressor in the Creme.
It even has the kind of "bite" associated with hardware, which the NI doesn't have (it's noticeably tamer and clean).

The Comp-G also gives a bit of "good sound" magic that's usually associated with outboard.
I hope you have all the basics in place before doing this test? A great listening environment and great converters etc. I often use software compressors, but I can almost always hear a difference in quality when I click to insert one of my mastering compressors instead.
Old 12th May 2018
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 01010110 View Post
I hope you have all the basics in place before doing this test? A great listening environment and great converters etc. I often use software compressors, but I can almost always hear a difference in quality when I click to insert one of my mastering compressors instead.
Yeah well, I wrote that I don't initially hear a difference. That is, I don't hear anything that I'd need to gain, because the software comps sound okay / as I want.

I could perhaps hear if I A/B'd, but can't I be happy with the software comp sound?

If it sounds good already, then why bother with outboard comps?
Old 12th May 2018
  #5
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if you're happy with the software comps, that's all that matters.

i'm pretty confident any plugin compressor is going to be better than anything with 'behringer' written on it. but even if not, if you're happy with what you have, then you're happy. the end.

i still prefer the (ancient, venerable) blockfish on drum room over any of my analog compressors, and i have some nice ones. whatever works!
Old 12th May 2018
  #6
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good is good

but better is better
Old 12th May 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scraggs View Post
if you're happy with the software comps, that's all that matters.

i'm pretty confident any plugin compressor is going to be better than anything with 'behringer' written on it. but even if not, if you're happy with what you have, then you're happy. the end.

i still prefer the (ancient, venerable) blockfish on drum room over any of my analog compressors, and i have some nice ones. whatever works!
The MDX2600 is great for 90s style drum & bass / jungle. It's not clean or "elegant", but slightly dirty and lo-fi, but it gives the 90s jungle distortion on drums very well. So it's character comp, albeit a bit "low fidelity" one.
Old 12th May 2018
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Apostolos Siopis View Post
good is good

but better is better
+1
Especially when talking professional mastering services.
PlugIns are pretty good these days and you have to invest serious money in hardware to come close, especially when talking"clean" compression.

Plug Ins are often have strengths as a swiss army knife for a lot of specific tasks, but when it comes to pure sound high quality HW often adds this little extra.
Old 12th May 2018
  #9
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In this world i know two pro who record and masterise without compressor.

The crap sound is king and the future will be the more more crappy.

Strange era.
Old 12th May 2018
  #10
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for dynamic control sôme software are fine , actually in many case software with not much limitation beat limited hardware . for color , tube , transfo and overall sound some hardware can t be replaced with a software comp.
I rate high juste a really few soft comp , but this is more about taste ...i don t like most of the limited émulation i tried ...and for clean lot sound similar/décent but not great, a very few stand out

Last edited by Fred_Abstract; 12th May 2018 at 07:28 PM..
Old 12th May 2018
  #11
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Many of the songs on the radio that sound EXCELLENT/ AMAZING use mostly or all software. If anyone disputes this, I can at the very least find at three songs on the radio within the last two years that sound AMAZING using all software. And that's proof, software is all you need. Period!
Old 12th May 2018
  #12
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--

Last edited by JP__; 12th May 2018 at 09:25 PM..
Old 13th May 2018
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JR Mastering View Post
Many of the songs on the radio that sound EXCELLENT/ AMAZING use mostly or all software. If anyone disputes this, I can at the very least find at three songs on the radio within the last two years that sound AMAZING using all software. And that's proof, software is all you need. Period!
Old 13th May 2018
  #14
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send 5 songs of different styles to 5 mastering studios that are differently equipped and then do a double blind test & you will know it.

it's also interesting to hear the masters of the other studios on shot outs.
this will open up to you over time, which is probably due to the technician, his listening situation and his chain.

i do occasionally trainings for music colleges in the field of mastering & the biggest surprise for the students again and again is what first-class outboard has in comparison to software.
Old 13th May 2018
  #15
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The main limitation of digital is that the rate of feeback (measure volume, adjust volume) is limited to the sample rate vs. the speed of light (electricity).

That stated, a hardware compressor I really like is digital, the TCE M5000 MD2. It is a great multi band compressor from 20 years ago.

Depending on the digital compressor design, and if working with existing recorded material, look ahead solves this problem.

In real time, and to help out the converters with a stronger signal (more bits used) this is where analog is the only way to go.

If doing all compressing after the fact, a plug makes sense for ease of control, recall, and cost.

If you want to hear the compression in real time while singing, in the box is a poor choice.

Each has it's place and sound. Use each tool to maximum benefit and to fit your budget. There are no rules be creative!
Old 13th May 2018
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elegentdrum View Post
The main limitation of digital is that the rate of feeback (measure volume, adjust volume) is limited to the sample rate vs. the speed of light (electricity).
...

If you want to hear the compression in real time while singing, in the box is a poor choice.
I agree with the theory , but the speed of sound is a little slower than the speed of electricity. So just standing a few feet from a loud guitar amp adds a few millisecs delay, does it not? (eg 11 ft = +10 msec). But in reality it gets to the point where it just doesn't matter.

Doesn't something like UAD Apollo Unison preamps and channel strips ( eg Manley Vox box ) minimize that to the point where its indistinguishable (time-wise)?
https://www.uaudio.com/uad-plugins/c...ey-voxbox.html
Old 14th May 2018
  #17
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nothing matters other than the client and how they feel about it.

Also no one gives a crap what you use. In a nice way.
Old 14th May 2018
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmodel View Post
how much does hardware vs software compression really matter?
To me, the action of compression isn't so hard to have duplicated in software, but the sound or boxtone of compression is a bit more complex.. almost like an amp sim compared to a real guitar amp, ..which isn't always too hard to hear or feel the difference between sw, and the real thing, if you're familiar. Both have their place.
Old 14th May 2018
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
To me, the action of compression isn't so hard to have duplicated in software, but the sound or boxtone of compression is a bit more complex.. almost like an amp sim compared to a real guitar amp, ..which isn't always too hard to hear or feel the difference between sw, and the real thing, if you're familiar. Both have their place.
I'm actually waiting for plug-ins to sound more and more like expensive hardware. Because then it's nice to get multi thousand dollar sound with just few hundred at most.

Millenia TCL-2 and Vertigo VSC-2 are pretty good at this already. Lindell and airwindows stuff also.

I think they could be getting there.

Previously people have argued that digital "quantization" and such could make it impossible to "match" analog tone, but I believe that given sophisticated and complex enough computations, it will eventually be able to approximate analog tone well enough.

Some digital things have even surpassed the analogue gear. E.g. U-he Diva was preferred in a blind test over hardware, analogue Oberheims and stuff.
Old 14th May 2018
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmodel View Post
Icould make it impossible to "match" analog tone, t will eventually be able to approximate analog tone well enough.
.
there you go, you 're already addressing your own concerns
Old 14th May 2018
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Apostolos Siopis View Post
there you go, you 're already addressing your own concerns
But to say that an approximation can't be good enough because it cannot be 100% the same is wrong thinking, because approximation can well be good enough in order to "trick" the human ear, which is not 100% accurate anyways and is subject to biases.

Also the Diva example proves that digital technology can also sound better than analog.
Old 14th May 2018
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmodel View Post
But to say that an approximation can't be good enough because it cannot be 100% the same is wrong thinking, because approximation can well be good enough in order to "trick" the human ear, which is not 100% accurate anyways and is subject to biases.

Also the Diva example proves that digital technology can also sound better than analog.
as previously stated, if it's good then it's good
Old 14th May 2018
  #23
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I don t think about comparing a hardware comp to a soft comp , with soft there is not much limitation ..for color i would use a very clean soft comp and just use one or 2 or 3 plugin to mimic transfo tubes ... It doesn t matter if harware comp is better just the end result matter, the thing is that you first need to know what you like with sôme hardware before trying to archieve the same with soft if it s possible .... You have to check , frequency response , limiting / soft cliping , the action on transients , the harmonic added ect ...
Old 21st May 2018
  #24
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In my opinion, only the result is important.
If your client is happy with itb-mastering, then the client is happy to pay less and have what he was looking for.
But for sure, there are also clients that hear a difference and ask for certain analog aspects in the process.
Why?
My "esoteric guess" is as follows: Digital processes re-calculate on every step the whole track and therfor loose parts from the original. Analog processes add to the signal without loosing from the original information but changing it.

To me this gives me quite good advise when to use digital and when analog.

Again, my personal esoteric point of view...
Old 21st May 2018
  #25
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For me personally, I've still never found a software comp that comes close to hardware, so in my case, it really matters a lot.
Old 21st May 2018
  #26
...

Last edited by Arthur Stone; 21st May 2018 at 11:56 AM.. Reason: Didn't realise it was the Mastering forum.
Old 21st May 2018
  #27
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I still use hardware. I've never heard a software comp give me what it is that I love about my favorite hardware. Same reason I still use analog synths. I haven't heard a VST that can come close to what analog synths can do.

Everyone's ears are different. For some people it won't matter. For some people it will matter. For some they can hear the difference but they might or might not care and for some they can't hear a difference and might or might not care. In the end just go with what your ears tell you and what you like. That's what I've done and it's served me well.

Go with whatever your gut tells you and get back to work. Any choice is a good one as long as it keeps you away from the rabbit hole of testing and measuring all kinds of gear, synths, hardware, plugs, and vsts and basically wasting your time and life instead of producing output. People always want a concrete answer..."Is X better than Y?" You can't answer that. All people are different in relation to their ears, talent, ability, what's important to them, etc. There can't be one singular answer.

In the end maybe you're the kind of person who's fine with software compression. That's OK. Maybe I'm not. That's OK, too. Maybe you're the kind of person who thinks a VST sounds identical to an analog. That's fine. Maybe I'm not. That's OK, too. Neither one of us is superior. Neither one of us is inferior. What it means is that both of us have chosen tools that we're comfortable and confident in and no longer have a need to second guess, or be concerned or distracted. Because in the end, no one cares about what tools you chose. All they care about is the quality of your output.

Choosing a tool you believe in, whether it's hardware or software is solely for our own peace of mind.
Old 24th May 2018
  #28
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Already exists the Weiss......when you mix analogue things get literally hairy......
Old 24th May 2018
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundmodel View Post

Also the Diva example proves that digital technology can also sound better than analog.
Cause people voteed what is analogue is thé one with fater sound ..not listening to transtient , punch , dynamic, thé pocessing needed to sit in the mix ... This just prouved lot of people have no idea about analog and may like digital more , they might have grown with digital sound so enjoy it more. It s just like when i listened some shoutout with slate and other plgins, it s often easy to spot digital with thé transients , but many/most people like these itb transients more than analog by judjing with the votes, i guess it s cause it s juste not full mix , on a full mix or song the result migh be different or maybe thin 2d mix with no depth and irritable sound are what people like these day , cause it may be what sound best on ****ty speaker with no dynamic most people use.
In the end maybe we juste adapt to the sound of the speakers used by most , no dynamic details , no depth so popular music doesn t have any depth or dynamic cause this doesn t translate on popular speakers anyway..bring back quality hifi with big speakers to most ..and the dynamic and depth will be back

Last edited by Fred_Abstract; 24th May 2018 at 09:02 PM..
Old 24th May 2018
  #30
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Quote:
good is good

but better is better
Agreed. The improvement I get when I switch to analog outboard I can't put into words.
The signal path seems so much richer and fuller.
I only use the inboard for small stuff.
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