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Clone Hardware vs Modeled Plugins Dynamics Plugins
Old 6 days ago
  #1
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TexasCat's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Clone Hardware vs Modeled Plugins

Lots of discussion lately about ITB vs OTB vs Hybrid and it seems allot of folks are going to Hybrid route to utilize classics like the SSL Bus Compressor, LA2A, Pultec, 1176, etc...

One thing I've noticed though is that many are using clones of classics and not the actual hardware.

Since Modeled Plugins are clones as well, I gotta wonder if using a plugin LA2A wouldn't be just as good as a hardware clone LA2A? They're both clones and with the plugin you avoid the additional AD/DA and get the added benefit of recall.

I gotta believe for example a UAD or Waves LA2A would hold it's own against a WARM or Golden Age.
Old 6 days ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasCat View Post
Lots of discussion lately about ITB vs OTB vs Hybrid and it seems allot of folks are going to Hybrid route to utilize classics like the SSL Bus Compressor, LA2A, Pultec, 1176, etc...

One thing I've noticed though is that many are using clones of classics and not the actual hardware.

Since Modeled Plugins are clones as well, I gotta wonder if using a plugin LA2A wouldn't be just as good as a hardware clone LA2A? They're both clones and with the plugin you avoid the additional AD/DA and get the added benefit of recall.

I gotta believe for example a UAD or Waves LA2A would hold it's own against a WARM or Golden Age.
The question posed is conceptually incomplete. 'Clones' are no more than a different choice on the shelf. It comes down to quality and experience. Always has. Plugins don't 'sound' worse or better at this stage. They sound how they sound depending on all the remaining factors. Sometimes perfect, sometime less perfect for the gig. - The 'optimum' hardware signal chain requires support for best results. And clones of hardware are not 'digital' clones and can't be compared as the same type of clone - many hardware clones are 'sonically' better than the original, but sometimes the choice isn't about the 'sonics' but rather it's a flavor, intent, familiarity, vibe, connectivity or sound that supports the choice (or simply whats available to you).

Some software plugins sound 'sonically better' than hardware but it may not be what you are after and finally some hardware has never been duplicated by plugins though some great plugins have been birthed from them. 'Hybrid' makes the most sense to me, but that's only me and the music I produce...I use many tube amps (Some as old as 1939) and also an AXE FX on the same track. It works when it works, for me.

Nearly every quality piece of gear 'holds its own' in the right hands.It's a matter of experience and decision making but the key term is 'quality'. Presonus Central Station does not 'hold it's own' against a Dangerous Bus' for instance and unless you have experience with both (as well as a supporting chain), it may be hard to convince someone. 'Quality' often takes experience to discern.

I recently had a record mastered in the A room at a world-class facility here in Austin. Despite a 40 year chain of hand chosen modern and classic analog EQ at the ready... one, often 'go to' EQ for precise surgical cuts/boosts 0.25 db etc..happened on a 10 year old software EQ. It had the right function and sound. You'll hear it forever...know your tools. That is the key to the best results, originals or clones and all things being equal (which they are in the right hands).
Old 6 days ago
  #3
Gear Nut
 
ilalin's Avatar
 

Also, I personally believe there is not that many clone plug-ins that are doing what they are supposed to do compared to the hardware. In my opinion if you're going ITB it's very important to watch your gain staging since plugs are generally very sensitive to the input levels and sound horrible when driven hard unlike analog equipment.
So finding a sweet spot and the right plug-in for the job is the key. This is especially true for compressors where even UA LA2A does not behave at all like its hw counterpart according to some Plugin Doctor tests done and published on this forum by very knowledgeable people and developers.
I like plug-ins that do digitally and audio wise what they're supposed to do. All TDR plugs, Arousor are some of the best. Regarding clones, to impart some analog 'mojo' Brainworx HG2, Softube's, UA tape or bx_console N is what I use. PSPE27 sounds sweet too as an analog emulation.
But when it comes to optical compressor emulations for example, I feel we're not there yet. Even the users of the HW HG2 are claiming that it sounds different then the plug-in version and imparting a special 3D atmosphere and warm sound hard to match ITB.
Old 6 days ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Maybe its because I recorded with analog gear before switching to digital but I suppose I found analog gear easier to work with when finding its sweetest spots producing tones. You could push it up to the edge where it started to sound bad or distort then back down and know that was the best you were ever going to get out of it. You could pretty much rely on that spot on the knob being reliably ideal too unless something drastically changed then tweak it from that point. you could even tell when a recording wasn't up to par when you had to push the analog gear to far beyond the norm, it failed to make the music sound good.

Digital - Even with my 30 years experience recording analog, it was a long learning curve for me, to first match then supersede what I had been doing using analog gear. Some of it was getting to know the plugins and working with a mouse instead of knobs, but there was more to it. I suppose its because I'm an electronic tech by trade. I learned my audio electronics to the point where I could visualize the entire flow of a signal I worked with. Tweaks had a direct one on one impact on the signal.

Digital only has the illusion of analog gear. The GUI isn't exactly convincing and the small time delays and glitches that occur tweaking things are constant reminders you Aren't in Kansas Any More. You aren't manipulating a signal flow like you would turning a water tap on an off. You are manipulating numbers in a computer that have no flow and no touch sensitivity. You are acting as a bean counter running a calculator program that manipulates numbers, that's all. The changes you make are binary and when you understand how binary samples construct and destruct an analog waveform plus its movement in packets its more like having grains of sand create and move sand dunes via the wind. Analog waves are more manipulating water in a pipe. Its more tangible I suppose.

When it comes to actually mixing, I haven enough experience using digital now where I can produce the same results or better then I did using analog gear. I owned and still own some decent pieces of analog gear. I never owned the kind of analog gear you'd need to have a world class studio so matching what that analog gear could do wasn't as big a challenge as other engineers might face if they were used to using the best gear available (and knowing how to use it well)

For anyone new to recording I would say its foolish to try and take the analog path to recording. It takes too many years to become competent as an engineer. If you buy expensive audio gear you'll inevitably wear it out just learning how to make it sound good. Its your second recording which is typically an upgrade where you begin to make beautiful music, not the first budget setup out of the box. Seeing they don't make tape recorders any more its a stupid path to take in any case. By the time you become competent using the gear you'll be spending more time just keeping that worn out hear running then you do actually recordings.

On the flip side you'd be loosing years of experience that could be refined recording and mixing digitally. You have to realize just how new digital actually is.
Edison made his first record in 1877 so there is 141 years of improvements which have occurred over that time. Digital has really only been feasible since hard drives began to get bigger and affordable. I started early in the late 90's when you could buy something larger then a 1 megabyte drive for $100. I saw a 10 megabyte drive sell for nearly $4000 in the early 90's Now a single multitrack song can easily use 60 Megabytes or more.

Could you imagine spending $24,000 on hard drives just to record a single song?

Anyway the technology really didn't become as plentiful and affordable for most people into home recording before the turn of the century so we have maybe 20 years worth of improvements going on when it comes to digital recording. Can you imagine how good it will be in another 20 years if it keeps up its current pace? How bout 141 years? Will we even be using our ears. I can see electrical jacks being installed in the necks of people where they simply plug in and have their music piped in direct. They do it already for people who have lost their ears.

I wouldn't mind being around in another 30 years to see how audio winds up improving but at my age I'd be lucky to see half that.
If I were young I'd be taking digital to its max, just like I do now. Even during the hay day of analog engineers creating modern music became famous by pushing the technology to its limits and doing things with it no one ever could before. What digital lacks is that very same spirit. The technology is as good or exceeding what's been done with analog already. What's needed is some gifted engineers setting trends and pushing the need for the technology to follow. Right now most engineers are simply taking what's being handed to them instead of demanding what they need. Maybe they will wise up, maybe they wont. Has to be a market and money for it to be profitable first and that's simply not happening at this point.
Old 6 days ago
  #5
Gear Nut
 

We are at a point where even if plugins are not as good as the real deal they are good enough.

good enough that I can fit and entire studio in a bag and happily make a hit song on it.

This verses that days are slowly becoming redundant because actually the general discussion now is less affected by a huge divide in things. Whilst there are differences there are not enough to get in the way.

Which is good cause now producers and engineers can focus on the actual roles rather than the tools letting them down. There are no excuses in my view these days.

So clone/plugin/real deal? What are you after? I've got plugins that are clones that sound different to each other and they are now to me their own thing. For example the Waves Vs Duende Vs UAD Vs The Glue SSL clones all sound different and I use all of them (yes just lucky to have them all even Ableton Live includes the Glue). Why have them all? I don't know I just ended up with them all from different offers. But what I have found is one doesn't do what the other does. Funny really but I imagine each clone is a creation within itself.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
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DeadPoet's Avatar
I got into recording with only software - because that was what I could afford. Got me a nice setup going with what were then the best plugins possible. Once I got the opportunity to try out some hardware originals it quickly came to me that you don't always have to fight your audio to get a good result.
Enter the golden age of DIY outboard: kits like SeventhCircle, SoundSkulptor, CAPI, AML, ... make it 100x easier to get into high quality outboard without spending the amount the originals cost.

As to quality of the clones: I remember being used to the UAD Pultec (MkI) and getting a good deal on a Manley stereo Pultec. The price was so good that I could resell it if it weren't better than the plugin.
I don't know if you know but the Manley has not so good a reputation on these parts - "lacks balls", "too clean", "has nothing in common with a EQP1a besides the name", ... When I first tried it on a number of sources I didn't know what I was hearing. Finally I "got" why everyone and their mother is using Pultecs on kicks, vocals, 2bus, etc.

Fast forward some 10 years to early 2017 when I decided to get me a pair of AML EQP-1a's. The difference between the AML and the Manley is again as big (to me) as going from plugin to Manley.

Is this gear as good as the original? I don't know, but I don't really care. To me the clones I have sound better than plugins, they don't lose as much of their value as plugins and frankly: it looks a bunch better to have some outboard instead of a single USB drive.



Rebuilding my studio starting next August. Outboard will be approximately 32 chanels of dynamics and 24 channels of EQ - of which 85% is DIYed/clones.



Herwig
Old 5 days ago
  #7
First of all clones don't sound like the original machines, and then plug-ins sound also a bit different than the real deal. So you're basically comparing 3 different products. For example, there is a difference between a real SSL compressor, a G-SSL and a SSL bus comp plug-in. However, I've built several G-SSL units and to be honest, I don't think it's worth the hassle and time. Now we have great bus compressors plugins like the new UAD SSL for example, I actually think it sounds better than a G-SSL, but not as good as a real SSL. Plug-ins are getting better and better and even if they're not exactly like the real deal, they get closer each day. I think you can work 100% in the box with great plug-ins and get a professional sound if you know what you're doing. There's just the master bus where I think there is a big difference between hardware and software, especially because we're working on the whole mix so you can push more the gear without having the stereo image or depth collapsing nor losing punch.
Old 5 days ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joulss View Post
First of all clones don't sound like the original machines, and then plug-ins sound also a bit different than the real deal. So you're basically comparing 3 different products. For example, there is a difference between a real SSL compressor, a G-SSL and a SSL bus comp plug-in. However, I've built several G-SSL units and to be honest, I don't think it's worth the hassle and time. Now we have great bus compressors plugins like the new UAD SSL for example, I actually think it sounds better than a G-SSL, but not as good as a real SSL. Plug-ins are getting better and better and even if they're not exactly like the real deal, they get closer each day. I think you can work 100% in the box with great plug-ins and get a professional sound if you know what you're doing. There's just the master bus where I think there is a big difference between hardware and software, especially because we're working on the whole mix so you can push more the gear without having the stereo image or depth collapsing nor losing punch.
Off course you can work 100% ITB - most popular example around these parts is Andrew Scheps.


As to wether the clones sound like the original or not: I wrote that that doesn't matter *to me*. To my ears the hardware I have sounds a whole lot better than the plugins and the cloning allows me to get more hardware pieces than if I were to buy the originals.

A few examples:
- I have 4 LA-3a clones that together cost me less than one original. It continuously beats any of the plugin versions (by miles, not by inches)
- I have tried to use the Waves API plugins for quite some time but I found no good use for them, wondering why people like "that api sound". Then I built myself a pair of CAPI BT50's and LC40's and it fínally made sense. Took them to a studio that runs a 1608 and compared them to the 550B's they have and while they're different they're actually closer to each other than to the hardware.


I could go through my racks and give you examples for every piece I have but that could seem like showing off.
My point is not that clones are 100% as good as the originals but (always IMO) come a hell of a lot closer to the original than a plugin has ever done.


Herwig
Old 5 days ago
  #9
I actually think that Waves plugins sound pretty bad and don't use any of them, UAD and Slate are much better. Never tried LA-3A clones so can't comment on that but between G-SSL's and plugins (good ones) there's not that much of a difference except if you have a badass clone (with transformers, super high quality components, etc...). I guess it all depends of the quality of the clone.
Old 5 days ago
  #10
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It really just DEPENDS.

EQ? Yes.
I've seen people replace a hardware Massive Passive with the plugin and sell hundreds of thousands of records.

Reverb? Yes.
I've never had a real Lexicon 224 or an EMT 250, but I have the UAD plugins and they sound incredible, I want for nothing.

Compressors? No.
I've tried every plugin I could get my hands on, but they are miles away from the sound of my Manely ELOP (for vocals) or my dbx160A (for bass). So, although I haven't tried any LA2A hardware clones, I'm pretty sure the software clone would not come close to a decent hardware clone.
Old 4 days ago
  #11
Gear Nut
 
ilalin's Avatar
 

On the other hand, both Arousor and Kotelnikov GE carefully adjusted can impart compression qualities I am happy with. It is very easy to overdo compression with digital tools. Analog, I don't really know and wish could try one day.

From reading the forum it seems we are not at the point where a good opto compressor is offered but i think Empirical Labs is working on it. Also, Fabian is revising Kotelnikov and their mastering EQ to imbibe it with an analog feel.

I expect great things in the digital world...
Old 4 days ago
  #12
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I have had hardware and software sound very close, splitting hairs, in both blind shootouts, and my own non-blind comparisons.

At this point all bets are off, for me. Basically what people said before, know and learn whatever it is you have. Whether it's a plugin, a clone, or a big buck hardware piece.

Hybrid working really is the best of both worlds, since everything is now to you available.
Old 3 days ago
  #13
Gear Nut
 
ilalin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
I have had hardware and software sound very close, splitting hairs, in both blind shootouts, and my own non-blind comparisons.

At this point all bets are off, for me. Basically what people said before, know and learn whatever it is you have. Whether it's a plugin, a clone, or a big buck hardware piece.

Hybrid working really is the best of both worlds, since everything is now to you available.
Any recommendations regarding plugins and their settings?

Thanks
Old 3 days ago
  #14
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monkeyxx's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ilalin View Post
Any recommendations regarding plugins and their settings?

Thanks
If I had to make a very short list of companies to buy a lot from, it would probably be UAD (EQ, compression, tape, reverb, mastering, one or two good guitar and bass amps), Fab-Filter (EQ, Limiter, De-Ess), Sound Toys (effects and distortion). Then you could fill in the gaps with Waves stuff, stuff from your DAW. A couple cheap/free companies that stand out are Tokyo Dawn Labs and Klanghelm, I use several of theirs.

Of course there are some more very specific things but those bundles would have you covered broadly. Other than instruments and samples, which is another type of list.
Old 3 days ago
  #15
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasCat View Post
One thing I've noticed though is that many are using clones of classics and not the actual hardware.
and a few threads over, we have people discussing the thinking that well, it's Hardware - therefore it has to be some kind of magic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Way Of The Heart View Post
The question posed is conceptually incomplete. 'Clones' are no more than a different choice on the shelf. It comes down to quality and experience. Always has. Plugins don't 'sound' worse or better at this stage. They sound how they sound depending on all the remaining factors.
You are missing the point of Gearslutz! Which is to establish a point of view that makes trying things out for yourself and evaluating each device on its own merits unnecessary! Imagine if we had to actually honestly evaluate each unit and each plug-in individually! Tell us what to buy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joulss
First of all clones don't sound like the original machines, and then plug-ins sound also a bit different than the real deal. So you're basically comparing 3 different products
If you wanted, you could break it down into way more than 3 things vying for our attention. There's:

•the original "Famous" hardware,
•careful component-by-component 'clones' of famous hardware,
•devices that are "inspired by" the Famous hardware, but may be different
•units that telegraph their intent by having the same number ("73") as the famous hardware in the name,
•regular old "not as famous" hardware, high or mid or low end.
•meticulously modeled software clones,
•casually modeled software clones,
•software that is 'modeled' only to the extent that it has a similar skeuomorphic GUI,
•software that is not attempting to model anything in particular but might be great as its own thing.

How can you know which is 'best'? Or even 'best value'?

IMO, there is no generalized principle that will allow one to navigate all these products and make consistently good decisions on what to use other than to try them yourself and pay attention to what they sound like. On a case-by-case basis.

and as others have said, "good" in audio carries with it the sense of "appropriate" ... which means that 'quality' is a moving target, and is defined differently for each individual user and perhaps even for each individual song.

I can think of a few generalized principles that will probably not result in consistently good decisions: price, similar 'evocative' naming, similar color scheme and knob arrangement, internet 'buzz', online "clips", and (the subject of a nearby thread), silly 'principles' such as : any hardware beats the best software

Last edited by joeq; 3 days ago at 04:20 AM..
Old 3 days ago
  #16
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post

I never owned the kind of analog gear you'd need to have a world class studio so matching what that analog gear could do wasn't as big a challenge as other engineers might face if they were used to using the best gear available (and knowing how to use it well)
thats a good point.

most home studio people have never worked hi end, and the plugs are mostly way good enough for their level of skills.

an engineer who has spent 10 years mixing at hi level, with the very best hardware available, has different expectations, and may prefer the hardware over the software.

i have lots of hardware and lots of software. often the software is good enough, but sometimes i prefer a hardware solution.

whatever works for you is ok.

Buddha
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Old 3 days ago
  #17
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Quote:
My point is not that clones are 100% as good as the originals but (always IMO) come a hell of a lot closer to the original than a plugin has ever done.
The problem with claims like this is there is no way to know if this is just the result of confirmation bias. It is the reason objective testing is used such as actual measurements on oscilloscopes. As for subjective testing, the use of blind and double blind tests and such tend to eliminate the bias.

The other problem is that you are equating what you like with what is "better". Personal preference really has not much to do with value concepts of "better" in the audio domain.

The real point here is that you like it, use it. Don't like it, don't use it. Want to sell studio time, tell you customers that what you use is better than what Joe Blow uses at his ITB studio. But the one thing you cannot do is lay claim that just because you like something better that means it is objectively better.

Disclaimer - on this website, personal opinion more often than not passes for objective data. That is why there is and always will be another analog vs. digital thread.

One other thing. I record a good deal of acoustic music. The one thing I have found that makes the biggest difference is the room in which the musicians are playing. That more than the difference between this compressor and that compressor makes the biggest difference. I should add that I don't use a lot of compression. Don't care for it and only use it if absolutely necessary. I believe musicians should control their dynamics. Maybe an outdated idea but there it is. I am not unaware that some styles and sounds demand compression it just so happens that most of what I do doesn't.
Old 3 days ago
  #18
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazy4Jazz View Post
The problem with claims like this is there is no way to know if this is just the result of confirmation bias. It is the reason objective testing is used such as actual measurements on oscilloscopes. As for subjective testing, the use of blind and double blind tests and such tend to eliminate the bias.

The other problem is that you are equating what you like with what is "better". Personal preference really has not much to do with value concepts of "better" in the audio domain.

The real point here is that you like it, use it. Don't like it, don't use it. Want to sell studio time, tell you customers that what you use is better than what Joe Blow uses at his ITB studio. But the one thing you cannot do is lay claim that just because you like something better that means it is objectively better.

Disclaimer - on this website, personal opinion more often than not passes for objective data. That is why there is and always will be another analog vs. digital thread.

One other thing. I record a good deal of acoustic music. The one thing I have found that makes the biggest difference is the room in which the musicians are playing. That more than the difference between this compressor and that compressor makes the biggest difference. I should add that I don't use a lot of compression. Don't care for it and only use it if absolutely necessary. I believe musicians should control their dynamics. Maybe an outdated idea but there it is. I am not unaware that some styles and sounds demand compression it just so happens that most of what I do doesn't.
What does 'objectively better' mean, in regards to audio?
Old 1 day ago
  #19
Gear Nut
 

It very much depends on cost, requirements and taste. Functionally you can achieve everything in the box with stock plugins, for most processing needs. If gear sells a studio and it makes it worth having that's great. If you work better with hardware that's also great. I don't use hardware - but I know it has a quality that is different and potentially harder to achieve ITB. But it does not really equate to being worth it for me. That's where subjectivity sits. Even if I had hardware I'm sure I'd be too lazy to use it that much when I know I could use a good plugin and get similar results and work faster. We are at a great point - good hardware and software - what more do you need?
Old 1 day ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichardNolan View Post
We are at a great point - good hardware and software - what more do you need?
Maybe what we need now is some good music
Old 1 day ago
  #21
Lives for gear
Some designs and issues of gear are Magic. The manufacture did something right. But there is only about 100 of those designs out there and they are copied and cloned to death, but never recapture the magic.

Here is a few of the magic items I'm aware of:
U47, U67, U87, 1176, LA2A, LA3A, Hammond B3/Lesie. Stienway 9' grand, A strat (The violin), etc.....you get the idea. Some stuff is magic to the human hears evolution. The manufacture really dialed it in.
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