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Plugin Compressor vs Hardware Compressor Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 12th July 2018
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Plugin Compressor vs Hardware Compressor

I did a comparison out of interest to see what differences I could hear between a plugin compressor and a hardware compressor.

Be interested to see what people hear as the differences? And which people prefer.

Attack, Release and Ratio were all set to the same settings for both. Gain reduction was also matched.

Files are in pairs. One of each pair is plugin one is hardware. Although they are not ordered (ie the 1st of each is not necessarily the plugin and 2nd the hardware and vice-versa, they are random)
Each pair is different in gain reduction, some light compression others a lot more.

Wensleydale & Cheddar

Camembert & Brie

Yorkshire Blue & Cornish Blue

Roquefort & Saint Agure
Attached Files

Wensleydale.wav (1.76 MB, 2799 views)

Chedder.wav (1.76 MB, 2799 views)

Camembert.wav (1.76 MB, 2764 views)

Brie.wav (1.76 MB, 2730 views)

Yorkshire Blue.wav (1.76 MB, 2697 views)

Cornish Blue.wav (1.76 MB, 2696 views)

Roquefort.wav (1.76 MB, 2680 views)

Saint Agure.wav (1.76 MB, 2668 views)


Last edited by PinHead12; 12th July 2018 at 03:07 PM.. Reason: Correction
Old 12th July 2018
  #2
Gear Head
 

For me a plugin will always trump a hardware compressor because I need total recall. When a client contacts me and wants me to make a change to an existing project I need to be able to load it up in my DAW, tweak it and bounce it down again quickly. I don't have time to spend an hour trying to remember what all the knobs were set to on my outboard gear.
Old 12th July 2018
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lanmonkey View Post
For me a plugin will always trump a hardware compressor because I need total recall. When a client contacts me and wants me to make a change to an existing project I need to be able to load it up in my DAW, tweak it and bounce it down again quickly. I don't have time to spend an hour trying to remember what all the knobs were set to on my outboard gear.
Sure thats definitely a major plus point for plugins in general.
Old 12th July 2018
  #4
I love plugins and I love hardware. I just find I need less processing with hardware to get what I want and more plugins with software to get the same sound or close.
In the end I don't think it matters as long as you get what you are after
Old 12th July 2018
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Limit54 View Post
I love plugins and I love hardware. I just find I need less processing with hardware to get what I want and more plugins with software to get the same sound or close.
In the end I don't think it matters as long as you get what you are after
Yeah I like both too.

I definitely hear some distinct differences here between the hardware and the plugin (I tested myself blind to avoid any confirmation bias). I always feel like the hardware is more open and less veiled. Be interested to hear which you prefer?
Old 12th July 2018
  #6
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PdotDdot's Avatar
My ears are simply not trained enough to really notice the differences unless they are relatively obvious. I suspect I do not have the most discerning ears in that regard.

That said, I agree with the conept of the fact that the plugins sound plenty good enough and they allow for a much simplified work flow. Also, it is rather handy as plugins can be used for multiple instances where hardware cannot.
Old 12th July 2018
  #7
Lives for gear
 

I love using really good hardware compressors but given the fact they really aren't needed to get great results I use them less then ever any more.
The exception is I may use them when tracking, they can influence a players musical performance.

Comps can be used as a corrective or automation tool to maintain dynamics and prevent transients but it can also be used as a sound effect making music rhythmically pump.

The biggest advancement plugins have over Hardware is their ability to look ahead and react before transients occur. Hardware can only react after the transient has occurred. Because of this look ahead capability, some plugins can even correct dynamics with no pumping at all. Attack and release times can be made to vary based on peak durations instead of fixed attack and release times which can capture things you don't want to compress or amplify.

As AI improves you'll likely find this ability to look ahead completely redefines how compression works. You no longer have to apply the effect in real time playback like you do with a hardware compressor. The entire track can be analyzed and each peak can have custom threshold, attack and release times applied, all at the same time. If you do want the sound effect or pumping it would be an easy matter for the plugin to sync to any kind of tempo you want and not merely rely on the musical content too.

As of today we've only seen plugins mimic what hardware can do. There's good reason for that. Engineers want to work with tools they understand. Slowly but surely we're beginning to see tools which are new to us. there will be analytical tools which will test everything from pitch to timing to dynamics and tone and the program will ask you if you choose to correct them. it always cones down to having a target for those automated decisions however. No engineer wants to admit a program can make smarter decisions then they can. Well, there's plenty of room for allowing creative decisions. Why not have the program analyze your previous works and compare it to other similar hit recordings and simply make suggestions on how you can improve things. Engineers tend to work alone and Never hurts to have a second opinion even if its just AI.
Old 12th July 2018
  #8
Here for the gear
 

So I'm guessing, people aren't hearing a difference so far between the files?

Anyone hear any differences or have a preference on the files?
Old 12th July 2018
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by PinHead12 View Post
Yeah I like both too.

I definitely hear some distinct differences here between the hardware and the plugin (I tested myself blind to avoid any confirmation bias). I always feel like the hardware is more open and less veiled. Be interested to hear which you prefer?
I have a/b'ed between my own hardware and software and in most cases the setting were slightly different on the software to match the hardware. I feel the same about the depth of hardware as well. That's the main reason I live hardware is because it gives me that sound I'm after instantly in most Cases.

I'll check the shootout later in my studio to see what I prefer .
Old 12th July 2018
  #10
I'll take a listen later tonight on my monitors. Difference are always subtle (and if the source sound isn't well recorded and hi-fi, I found the differences really don't matter as much). Also an outboard compressor in 2018 really needs to be a 'character' compressor in my opinion, otherwise I agree it doesn't make much sense vs. a plugin.

But to me the differences include:
1. Hardware has more open-ness on the top. Doesn't collapse in on itself especially at harder settings.
2. Hardware has more 'parasitic' properties. In addition to compression they add EQ, Distortion, Harmonics, Expensive sounding (interesting) Noise, etc.
3. Hardware has more non-linearites across its operation and you get 3 or 4 different compressors in one depending on which input range you operate in.
4. Hardware seems to always 'sound-like-a-record' quicker and get the desired effect faster vs a plugin. Less tweaking.
5. Hardware always has some random-ness and tolerance in the components which adds to a more sonic ally complex and rich sounding mix.

Go ahead and roll your eyes now. But its all true!
Old 12th July 2018
  #11
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by contramark View Post
I'll take a listen later tonight on my monitors. Difference are always subtle (and if the source sound isn't well recorded and hi-fi it doesn't really matter much). Also an outboard compressor in 2018 really needs to be a 'character' compressor in my opinion, otherwise I agree it doesn't make much sense vs. a plugin.

But to me the differences include:
1. Hardware has more open-ness on the top. Doesn't collapse in on itself especially at harder settings.
2. Hardware has more 'parasitic' properties. In addition to compression they add EQ, Distortion, Harmonics, Expensive sounding (interesting) Noise, etc.
3. Hardware has more non-linearites across its operation and you get 3 or 4 different compressors in one depending on which input range you operate in.
4. Hardware seems to always 'sound-like-a-record' quicker and get the desired effect faster vs a plugin. Less tweaking.
5. Hardware always has some random-ness and tolerance in the components which adds to a more sonic ally complex and rich sounding mix.

Go ahead and roll your eyes now. But its all true!
No I agree with you! I prefer the hardware here and like I said I tested myself blind. What I don't really understand is why hardware always sounds more open and defined against a plugin in my experience.

The differences here, although subtle, are particularly noticeable with the depth of the snare and the clarity of the hihat. Shouldn't really say too much as I don't want to influence people.
Old 12th July 2018
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Limit54 View Post
I have a/b'ed between my own hardware and software and in most cases the setting were slightly different on the software to match the hardware. I feel the same about the depth of hardware as well. That's the main reason I live hardware is because it gives me that sound I'm after instantly in most Cases.

I'll check the shootout later in my studio to see what I prefer .
Yes! I feel like this is one aspect of the whole hardware vs. software debate usually missed.

I agree that a software compressor can be made to sound like a hardware in a A/B in certain situations....BUT it might take 10x longer and it might also require adding a distortion plugin, a subtle EQ plugin, a harmonic plugin, a tone plugin, then tweaking all those to make sure the gain structure is matching etc. Vs just sending it to hardware unit with 2 knobs and your're done.

Not only does all those plugins add up and become expensive on your CPU or UAD card. Hardware is the ultimate FX card! Analog processing at continuous sample rate
Old 12th July 2018
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by PinHead12 View Post
No I agree with you! I prefer the hardware here and like I said I tested myself blind. What I don't really understand is why hardware always sounds more open and defined against a plugin in my experience.

The differences here, although subtle, are particularly noticeable with the depth of the snare and the clarity of the hihat. Shouldn't really say too much as I don't want to influence people.
Ok cool ill check it out
Hopefully I can hear it.
Old 13th July 2018
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
I love using really good hardware compressors but given the fact they really aren't needed to get great results I use them less then ever any more.
The exception is I may use them when tracking, they can influence a players musical performance.

Comps can be used as a corrective or automation tool to maintain dynamics and prevent transients but it can also be used as a sound effect making music rhythmically pump.

The biggest advancement plugins have over Hardware is their ability to look ahead and react before transients occur. Hardware can only react after the transient has occurred. Because of this look ahead capability, some plugins can even correct dynamics with no pumping at all. Attack and release times can be made to vary based on peak durations instead of fixed attack and release times which can capture things you don't want to compress or amplify.

As AI improves you'll likely find this ability to look ahead completely redefines how compression works. You no longer have to apply the effect in real time playback like you do with a hardware compressor. The entire track can be analyzed and each peak can have custom threshold, attack and release times applied, all at the same time. If you do want the sound effect or pumping it would be an easy matter for the plugin to sync to any kind of tempo you want and not merely rely on the musical content too.

As of today we've only seen plugins mimic what hardware can do. There's good reason for that. Engineers want to work with tools they understand. Slowly but surely we're beginning to see tools which are new to us. there will be analytical tools which will test everything from pitch to timing to dynamics and tone and the program will ask you if you choose to correct them. it always cones down to having a target for those automated decisions however. No engineer wants to admit a program can make smarter decisions then they can. Well, there's plenty of room for allowing creative decisions. Why not have the program analyze your previous works and compare it to other similar hit recordings and simply make suggestions on how you can improve things. Engineers tend to work alone and Never hurts to have a second opinion even if its just AI.
Just wanted to comment here......
I would say more often than not (50% or more) of compression you hear in popular music today is not there for technical purposes to achieve pump-free dynamic control. It is there for TONE and to add LIFE and as a creative effect. So I'm not sure I necessarily agree with you here. Otherwise Vintage Analog outboard would be long gone as even stock DAW plugins technically run circles around those classic units.
Old 13th July 2018
  #15
Ok here are my guesses.
I'm not sure you were actually trying to do a shootout here, or just find an excuse to list your favorite cheeses

Wensleydale & Cheddar [hardware]

Camembert [hardware] & Brie

Yorkshire Blue [hardware] & Cornish Blue

Roquefort [hardware] & Saint Agure
Old 13th July 2018
  #16
Lives for gear
 
chrischoir's Avatar
 

There are bad sounding hardware compressors, there are bad sounding plugin comps. There are engineers who do not really know how to use either.
Old 13th July 2018
  #17
If this is some SSL Clone for all examples at different settings....that was a waste of time lol.

I honestly like the new UAD plugin better or same than some of the SSL Hardware clones out there.

I wish you did Mono files. And I wish it was like classic units. LA-2A, 1176, DBX 160, 176 etc.
No offense but I don't think that is the greatest sounding drum loop either :/
To me hardware really stands out when the recording is top notch.
Old 13th July 2018
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
There are bad sounding hardware compressor there are bad sounding plugin comps. There are engineers who do not really know how to use either.
This is true
Old 13th July 2018
  #19
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by contramark View Post
If this is some SSL Clone for all examples at different settings....that was a waste of time lol.

I honestly like the new UAD plugin better or same than some of the SSL Hardware clones out there.

I wish you did Mono files. And I wish it was like classic units. LA-2A, 1176, DBX 160, 176 etc.
No offense but I don't think that is the greatest sounding drum loop either :/
To me hardware really stands out when the recording is top notch.
Thats ok no offence taken. The drums aren't the best drums. I can PM you the answers.

The hardware compressor here is the Tegeler Creme, you can here it on drums/vocals and mix buss on this video,

YouTube

Also Warren Huart shoots it out in a video.

Would be nice to try it out on some better drums I like what it does to the drums a lot in the video.

Last edited by PinHead12; 13th July 2018 at 10:15 AM.. Reason: Correction + Addition
Old 13th July 2018
  #20
Gear Head
 

IMHO plugin compressors are like photo copies of the hardware ones ..

Old 13th July 2018
  #21
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kakao View Post
IMHO plugin compressors are like photo copies of the hardware ones ..

Does that mean they don't have the same definition as the original?
Old 13th July 2018
  #22
I like this kinda stuff. Thank you. Please pm the results...

Cheers
Old 13th July 2018
  #23
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ilan View Post
I like this kinda stuff. Thank you. Please pm the results...

Cheers
Thanks will do.
Old 13th July 2018
  #24
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Swurveman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lanmonkey View Post
For me a plugin will always trump a hardware compressor because I need total recall. When a client contacts me and wants me to make a change to an existing project I need to be able to load it up in my DAW, tweak it and bounce it down again quickly. I don't have time to spend an hour trying to remember what all the knobs were set to on my outboard gear.
I have a hardware Universal Audio LA-2A and 1176, two Distressors, an API 2500 and a Smart C2. It takes me about 5 minutes to recall them in a mix. That time spent is worth it a hundred times over for me compared to not being able to track and mix with my hardware.
Old 13th July 2018
  #25
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apartment dog's Avatar
 

I think Cheddar, Camembert, Yorkshire Blue, Saint Agure are software; less clarity, veiled.
But not sure.
The last 2 were harder for me to choose. Thanks for the shootout.
Can you send me the outcome?
What plugins were used?
Old 11th September 2018
  #26
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monkem's Avatar
 

I made the listening test, the fat printed ones I liked more:


1. Wensdale / chedder

2. Camembert / Brie

3. Yorkshire Blue / Cornish Blue

4. Roquefort / Saint Agure

-------------------------------------

1. because it has more punch, crispiness and sounds warmer to me
the chedder sounds more thin and has a lack of dynamic

2. the camembert sounds a bit brighter here

3. here I was quite unshure - I thought the Yorkshire Blue had more Body and a nicer Hi-Freq but the Cornish Blue sounded better to me

4. here the Saint Agure has more body and sounds warmer to me


Its just my opinion!
Old 11th September 2018
  #27
I'll say my last thing about hardware. When use are using plugins lightly they usually sound close to the hardware but it's when you start to push the plugins and the hardware is where the HUGE difference comes in to play. This is where you can hear the difference and how much hardware sounds better. I tried my ass off to get the same sound out of the NI VC2A compared to the stam audio SA2A but I couldn't do what the stam was doing it just wasn't happening. So for me it's 100% hardware make a huge difference. The tegeler creme is off te charts good. I have one to and it's on my 2 buss in my latest track coming out and so is the rest of my gear
Old 11th September 2018
  #28
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PinHead12 View Post
I did a comparison out of interest to see what differences I could hear between a plugin compressor and a hardware compressor.

Be interested to see what people hear as the differences? And which people prefer.

Attack, Release and Ratio were all set to the same settings for both. Gain reduction was also matched.

Files are in pairs. One of each pair is plugin one is hardware. Although they are not ordered (ie the 1st of each is not necessarily the plugin and 2nd the hardware and vice-versa, they are random)
Each pair is different in gain reduction, some light compression others a lot more.

Wensleydale & Cheddar

Camembert & Brie

Yorkshire Blue & Cornish Blue

Roquefort & Saint Agure

Let me try and simplify your life by saving you time and money.

There is no hardware or software compressor that will make a song or performance better then what you record. It will just take on a certain character, tone or color.

A painting isn't judged by the paints that were used, but by who did which brush strokes when and where and what the painting ends up being.

That's where the focus should be, not the subtle differences that only engineers listen for and care about.

Unless you're trying to sell your services then all this doesn't matter, keep marketing for the money.
Old 13th September 2018
  #29
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PinHead12 View Post
Thanks will do.
Would you send me the results, too?
Thanks in advance!
Old 13th September 2018
  #30
Gear Addict
 
who?'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gas hoarder View Post
Let me try and simplify your life by saving you time and money.

There is no hardware or software compressor that will make a song or performance better then what you record. It will just take on a certain character, tone or color.

A painting isn't judged by the paints that were used, but by who did which brush strokes when and where and what the painting ends up being.

That's where the focus should be, not the subtle differences that only engineers listen for and care about.

Unless you're trying to sell your services then all this doesn't matter, keep marketing for the money.
A good HW comp can take a boring flat performance and give it punch and focus well beyond the original performance. Depending on the level at which you compare your mixes - while the original song is obviously the most important part - good sounding production can really make or break a track.
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