Old 10-05-2019, 12:43 AM   #1
Tubeguy
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Default Hardware reverbs vs. VST - programming

More of a technical question for someone who understands programming.
I use Lexicon MX300 for my reverbs. It's not super high end machine but good enough. But none of my VSTs or any other I've tried come even close to it.
What bugs me is VST is digital and hardware reverbs are also digital where the chip is programmed in same way as VST is (I think). So why can't VST sound as good?
I understand the limitation of VST compressors for example vs. analog compressors but when it comes to digital I think they should perform the same. Any ideas?
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Old 10-05-2019, 01:08 AM   #2
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My idea is this (presuming you use analog patching):
There is a AD in and DA-stage out. This will add something.
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Old 10-05-2019, 11:51 AM   #3
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VST reverbs can be significantly more capable for little CPU overhead because processing power is so much greater now than when most hardware DSP reverbs were designed, even when only using a tiny fraction of one core.

The VSTs can have mathematically identical code coupled to technically superior modes - such as in Eventide SP2016.

If you prefer technically limited old hardware it is a subjective choice which non of us can really fault.
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Old 10-05-2019, 03:25 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Tubeguy View Post
More of a technical question for someone who understands programming.
I use Lexicon MX300 for my reverbs. It's not super high end machine but good enough. But none of my VSTs or any other I've tried come even close to it.
What bugs me is VST is digital and hardware reverbs are also digital where the chip is programmed in same way as VST is (I think). So why can't VST sound as good?
I understand the limitation of VST compressors for example vs. analog compressors but when it comes to digital I think they should perform the same. Any ideas?
I have the MX300. And I mean this sincerely. The Lexicon PCM Native and Exponential Audio reverbs blow it so far out of the water it's beyond hilarious.

Maybe your reverb VSTs cannot compete but just saying Plenty of software options exist better than the MX300.
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Old 10-05-2019, 10:03 PM   #5
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Why would big studios still use multi thousand Dollar hardware setups when they could just use cheap plugins. Think about that.
But it also depends on music genre. For electronic music VSTs are good enough but looking at any serious studio that records rock or older music, they use hardware for a reason. I do 60's music and must say that using VSTs can be a headache to get it to sound like it should. I have to mix some analog elements in it, starting with recording through analog mixing desk, than maybe adding reverb, delay, distortion etc all through mixer or tube preamps just so I can get some mojo in the mix. Yes I have VST saturations and what ever but it just doesn't sound the same.
On the other hand, when I mix electronic music, it's only VSTs, ever VST reverbs. It can sound somewhat plastic but usually that suits it ok.
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Old 10-06-2019, 03:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowellben View Post
The Lexicon PCM Native and Exponential Audio reverbs blow it so far out of the water it's beyond hilarious.
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Originally Posted by Tubeguy View Post
Why would big studios still use multi thousand Dollar hardware setups when they could just use cheap plugins. Think about that.
The theory just don't support the claim. It's just putting the computer-program in an external box.
Ergonomics, yes. Shiny buttons, yes.
But, if the boxes are hocked up digitally, I see no logic in the claim. That doesn't mean I say you're wrong, but, then it's on the magic side of things, until there is a better explanation
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Old 10-06-2019, 04:53 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Tubeguy View Post
Why would big studios still use multi thousand Dollar hardware setups when they could just use cheap plugins. Think about that.
But it also depends on music genre. For electronic music VSTs are good enough but looking at any serious studio that records rock or older music, they use hardware for a reason. I do 60's music and must say that using VSTs can be a headache to get it to sound like it should. I have to mix some analog elements in it, starting with recording through analog mixing desk, than maybe adding reverb, delay, distortion etc all through mixer or tube preamps just so I can get some mojo in the mix. Yes I have VST saturations and what ever but it just doesn't sound the same.
On the other hand, when I mix electronic music, it's only VSTs, ever VST reverbs. It can sound somewhat plastic but usually that suits it ok.
When you are running a big studio you want to impress clients with something special and expensive. You don't want to give the impression that the only benefits are the special recording rooms and the expertise on hand. You want to sell the whole package, which could include expensive looking gear that can be name checked - some of which will still be better anyway.

Generally things don't just change overnight. Hardware is a workflow as much as anything.

Some hardware will inevitably be better to use than some software, or not perfectly emulated.

If you are used to a hardware workflow that is what you will want. If it impresses clients and keeps you happy..

You were discusssing DSP reverbs specifically.
If however you were to compare a real top reverb plate or spring or real sound chamber to a digital recreation that could be something else again. The real hardware brings more limitations but could sound more authentic on the recording.

Many businesses require a bit of smoke and mirrors to operate.
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Old 10-06-2019, 04:54 AM   #8
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What bugs me is VST is digital and hardware reverbs are also digital where the chip is programmed in same way as VST is (I think). So why can't VST sound as good?
The plugins could easily sound as "good" (good being a pretty subjective thing in the end) but the exact ways the DSP algorithms from Lexicon etc work are trade secrets. They are very difficult to reverse engineer just by listening and measuring what the hardware devices are doing. Companies like Lexicon or Eventide don't usually patent their algorithms, because that requires to disclose how they work.

Sean Costello from Valhalla DSP explains this stuff :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJLhqfHrwsw

It's too bad the audio in the video isn't that great...(They didn't capture the audio from his laptop directly.) Still an interesting watch.
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Old 10-06-2019, 07:13 AM   #9
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Why would big studios still use multi thousand Dollar hardware setups when they could just use cheap plugins. Think about that.
It's called differentiation. If the big studio doesn't have anything that sets them apart, why the hell go there? Do you realize how many people demand pro tools for no other reason than something popular was recorded using it?

Also, people emotionally attach themselves to what they grew up hearing, regardless of how good it was, it is good to them and burned into their memories. It's also a matter of what went through that gear, aka very good music/musicians/performers going through any gear makes the gear itself sound better - psychologically, that alone sells a shit ton of gear.
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Old 10-06-2019, 07:14 AM   #10
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Tubeguy,
If you were using a Bricasti M7 I might have been more inclined to agree. Even then I would argue the difference would be more subtle than many would be prepared to admit.

Much of it is shock and awe, as it is in big business, warfare, and religion.
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Old 10-10-2019, 02:49 AM   #11
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I can't agree entirely with that but yes, some it is a show too. But let me give you a great example. I pick Chris Lord-Alge because he's a perfect example and his work can be easily found.
I know he mixes well on hardware but once I've came across some YT tutorial video where he mixed a whole session in a box. I thing he was using Waves, maybe a promotion, can't remember now. It's long, you can probably find it.
It looked like he struggled a bit not being able to get the sound he wanted out if the plugins.
That's what I got out it it anyway, you might see it differently.
Edit: Found the video. To me the production sounds somewhat plastic with no depth to it compared to his 3D depth like sounding hardware work. Maybe he just had a bad day, maybe it's the plugins, who knows.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGlYgAv96bw
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Old 10-10-2019, 03:15 AM   #12
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Why would big studios still use multi thousand Dollar hardware setups when they could just use cheap plugins. Think about that.
But it also depends on music genre. For electronic music VSTs are good enough but looking at any serious studio that records rock or older music, they use hardware for a reason. I do 60's music and must say that using VSTs can be a headache to get it to sound like it should. I have to mix some analog elements in it, starting with recording through analog mixing desk, than maybe adding reverb, delay, distortion etc all through mixer or tube preamps just so I can get some mojo in the mix. Yes I have VST saturations and what ever but it just doesn't sound the same.
On the other hand, when I mix electronic music, it's only VSTs, ever VST reverbs. It can sound somewhat plastic but usually that suits it ok.
"Why would big studios still use multi thousand Dollar hardware setups when they could just use cheap plugins."

Because somebody still can't let go of that they paid thousands of dollars for something.

As for the MX300 being described by you as "Good Enough...", while you are knocking vst...

It sounds a lot like you have your conclusion, and are looking around for evidence that supports said conclusion.
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Old 10-10-2019, 08:53 AM   #13
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Tubeguy,
Thanks for the video link, but with so many variables to consider when watching one guy mix with plugins or hardware it really is worthless anecdotal stuff.
I will agree with Numberthirty here, you have some sacred cows you don't want to slaughter (or perhaps you even want to promote). This is harmless enough religion, if you can afford it.
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Old 10-10-2019, 09:23 AM   #14
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Tubeguy,
Thanks for the video link, but with so many variables to consider when watching one guy mix with plugins or hardware it really is worthless anecdotal stuff.
I will agree with Numberthirty here, you have some sacred cows you don't want to slaughter (or perhaps you even want to promote). This is harmless enough religion, if you can afford it.
In almost all of these discussions, I always wonder if people that worry about these things are listening to music and going, dammit that one has fake verb, OK this has good analog gear, ooohh, this one must have used an analog compressor, and that has to be an 1987 les paul with Ernie Ball strings. They probably do and are likely wrong 50% of the time.

I care about subtlety but testing one's self with A/B/X and other methods will really take a lot of this out of the picture so we can get back to work. I agree anecdote will get us nowhere and the most famous audio guys have a terrible understanding of digital and make claims they don't even understand. It also matters that if someone uses anything for 30 years (digital or analog) they get to know it so well, they can't replicate anywhere else and that has nothing to do with how good said gear/code is.
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Old 10-10-2019, 11:59 AM   #15
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It's called differentiation. If the big studio doesn't have anything that sets them apart, why the hell go there? Do you realize how many people demand pro tools for no other reason than something popular was recorded using it?

Also, people emotionally attach themselves to what they grew up hearing, regardless of how good it was, it is good to them and burned into their memories. It's also a matter of what went through that gear, aka very good music/musicians/performers going through any gear makes the gear itself sound better - psychologically, that alone sells a shit ton of gear.
I think it's because a proper music studio is like an instrument itself. It needs to accomodate different kinds of artists and engineers as some prefer to work in the box and others prefer to work with outboard equipment because it goes through a patch bay and WYSIWYG. No guessing about what plugins are there or not, and if they have a tape machine and a patch bay they don't need to turn the Mac on.
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Old 10-10-2019, 06:57 PM   #16
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As for the MX300 being described by you as "Good Enough...", while you are knocking vst...
Not knocking anything, it's what my ears tell me. I do use plugins as well, much more than hardware actually. But for important parts I use hardware. How many people that mix in the box own LA-2A hardware just to give the mix final polish, a lot. I wonder why they don't use LA-2A plugin instead of spending good money on hardware.
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Old 10-10-2019, 07:13 PM   #17
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Not knocking anything, it's what my ears tell me. I do use plugins as well, much more than hardware actually. But for important parts I use hardware. How many people that mix in the box own LA-2A hardware just to give the mix final polish, a lot. I wonder why they don't use LA-2A plugin instead of spending good money on hardware.
"How many people that mix in the box own LA-2A hardware just to give the mix final polish, a lot. I wonder why they don't use LA-2A plugin instead of spending good money on hardware."

If it's "A Lot...", how many are we talking? If it's a bunch, you could surely name off twenty or thirty. Right?

I'm not going to say that no one does it. This just sounds a lot more like it is what you want to believe than it is something that actually happens.
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Old 10-13-2019, 01:32 AM   #18
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I'm not going to say that no one does it. This just sounds a lot more like it is what you want to believe than it is something that actually happens.
Most of my friends have some type of gear to at least polish the finished product. If you ask Mr Google, I'm sure you will come up with countless numbers of people using not only LA2A but other stuff as well at home studio. I got a feeling that I've come up on people here that think that plugins are just us good or better than hardware. I can't help to wonder if they ever even had a piece of really good hardware unit to work with, otherwise how else they could make that argument. And I'm not talking about budget Miaudio, Behringer, Alesis and alikes.
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Old 10-13-2019, 03:17 AM   #19
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Most of my friends have some type of gear to at least polish the finished product. If you ask Mr Google, I'm sure you will come up with countless numbers of people using not only LA2A but other stuff as well at home studio. I got a feeling that I've come up on people here that think that plugins are just us good or better than hardware. I can't help to wonder if they ever even had a piece of really good hardware unit to work with, otherwise how else they could make that argument. And I'm not talking about budget Miaudio, Behringer, Alesis and alikes.
"I can't help to wonder if they ever even had a piece of really good hardware unit to work with, otherwise how else they could make that argument. And I'm not talking about budget Miaudio, Behringer, Alesis and alikes."

I got a box of jellybeans that says you would lose such a bet.
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Old 10-13-2019, 03:42 AM   #20
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Most of my friends have some type of gear to at least polish the finished product. If you ask Mr Google, I'm sure you will come up with countless numbers of people using not only LA2A but other stuff as well at home studio. I got a feeling that I've come up on people here that think that plugins are just us good or better than hardware. I can't help to wonder if they ever even had a piece of really good hardware unit to work with, otherwise how else they could make that argument. And I'm not talking about budget Miaudio, Behringer, Alesis and alikes.
With all due respect you actually started this thread singing the virtues of the dated entry level DSP hadware reverb MX300 vs current plugins!

The Lexicon badge doesn't necessarily signify that you have something special.

Entry level gear rarely (if ever) ages like fine wine.
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Old 10-13-2019, 04:11 AM   #21
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With all due respect you actually started this thread singing the virtues of the dated entry level DSP hadware reverb MX300 vs current plugins!

The Lexicon badge doesn't necessarily signify that you have something special.

Entry level gear rarely (if ever) ages like fine wine.
Along this line...

This whole thread started on VST being somehow inferior. A short while back, Reverb did this "Can We Recreate The Motown Sound?" piece. Watch it, and try to tell me with a straight face that the VST stuff that is going on is lacking.

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TysRGMSjtpQ
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Old 10-13-2019, 04:25 AM   #22
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Bias has so much to do with it, too.

I remember a while back someone posted a music video asking about how to get the sound. I don't remember who, but someone replied that it was obviously plugins and sounded all fake, not nice, fat, warm and analogue at all.

Someone had to break it to him that it was recorded in the 70's.
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Old 10-13-2019, 05:55 AM   #23
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...

Someone had to break it to him that it was recorded in the 70's.

Then they have the fall back of "YT compression must have messed up the sound"
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Old 10-14-2019, 01:19 AM   #24
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Watch it, and try to tell me with a straight face that the VST stuff that is going on is lacking.

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TysRGMSjtpQ
Wearing straight face - if it wasn't so harsh it'll be just fine.
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Old 10-14-2019, 01:24 AM   #25
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Bias has so much to do with it, too.

I remember a while back someone posted a music video asking about how to get the sound. I don't remember who, but someone replied that it was obviously plugins and sounded all fake, not nice, fat, warm and analogue at all.

Someone had to break it to him that it was recorded in the 70's.
Hehe, they guy who posted the video asking about the sound was me. It was 70's recording but I didn't mention it in the post because it was so obviously analog. Than I got the funniest reply ever. But goes to show, people hear stuff differently.
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Old 10-14-2019, 02:27 AM   #26
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Im not sure why but over headphones, IEMs and near fields software FX sound fine, but Im a live player mostly and software effects never sounds as good translating them to stage monitors or larger arrays.

Just recently bought a Strymon Big Sky and was loving that, at the gigs even its precise digital clarity was not getting the sound I wanted that is warmer without those excessive long canyon tails.

Broke out one of my old TC Fireworx and tweaked a good medium hall sound, as I want a splash of reverb, not a bucket of cluttery crap.

So I went from VST to DSP to Analog.
Should've known not to go around the cycle and just go to the Hardware.

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Old 10-14-2019, 02:58 AM   #27
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Wearing straight face - if it wasn't so harsh it'll be just fine.
This video proves nothing either way really but it was interesting to have a listen, and I bet they enjoyed making it.

I fast forwarded to the end to hear the final product. Compared to original Motown recordings on vinyl this replication is a little too bright and overly clean and transparent, the bandwidth sounds like it needs further reduction for a warm Lo-Fi sound. Basically this sounds too "Hi-Fi" and dynamic for absolute period authenticity. I don't know all the techniques they employed, I wan't prepared to watch the whole video.

Further mixing to soften the sound could get it closer to what we expect. That is if the aim was to truly fake up the sound of the recordings of the period.
One man's open and clear is another man's harsh and tiring.
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Old 10-14-2019, 03:04 AM   #28
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Hehe, they guy who posted the video asking about the sound was me. It was 70's recording but I didn't mention it in the post because it was so obviously analog. Than I got the funniest reply ever. But goes to show, people hear stuff differently.
Hehe, cool. I have to thank you for posting that (if I didn't already), because I didn't know about Blue Effect and that tune became one of my favourites, and it also led me to read some really interesting stuff about being a musician behind the iron curtain.
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Old 10-15-2019, 01:28 AM   #29
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This video proves nothing either way really but it was interesting to have a listen, and I bet they enjoyed making it.

I fast forwarded to the end to hear the final product. Compared to original Motown recordings on vinyl this replication is a little too bright and overly clean and transparent, the bandwidth sounds like it needs further reduction for a warm Lo-Fi sound. Basically this sounds too "Hi-Fi" and dynamic for absolute period authenticity. I don't know all the techniques they employed, I wan't prepared to watch the whole video.

Further mixing to soften the sound could get it closer to what we expect. That is if the aim was to truly fake up the sound of the recordings of the period.
One man's open and clear is another man's harsh and tiring.
While I'll allow for that they didn't set out to find the Holy Grail, this thread kicked of with the assertion that VST reverb is somehow fundamentally inferior to an MX300.

If there was any point in that video where you believed that to be true, it ain't because VST reverb is the issue. You went in looking to come out with that conclusion.
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Old 10-15-2019, 02:13 AM   #30
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While I'll allow for that they didn't set out to find the Holy Grail,
I didn't suggest they were. I got the gist of the video and gave an opinion on Tubeguy's assessment of the final sound. He thought it harsh, I wasn't suggesting that.
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this thread kicked of with the assertion that VST reverb is somehow fundamentally inferior to an MX300.
Which I refute too.
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If there was any point in that video where you believed that to be true, it ain't because VST reverb is the issue. You went in looking to come out with that conclusion.
You quoted me, I think you meant to aim that comment at Tubeguy?
Clearly VST reverb is not an issue here. All that is required to get this closer to the original sound of the recording is some more EQ.
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Old 10-15-2019, 08:17 AM   #31
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So a couple of things:

1. Your Lexicon is going multiple rounds of AD/DA conversion when used as an insert. That will impart a sound. Particularly older AD/DA converters like in the M300.

2. The idea that hardware verbs still outshine ITB reverbs just isn't true anymore. Sure, there's no Briscati plugin, but we're talking about a Lexicon M300 here. As pointed out by others, there are ITB reverbs that should sound as good, or better to some ears.

3. Michael Carnes from Exponential was THE Lexicon guy. Now he's taken all his knowledge and making new reverbs. Different story as to whether you'd prefer them, but I think he'd tell you they're objectively better. The M300 is one of the older Lexi's and these had a vibe due to quantization noise, converters, lower sampling rates, that Michael Carnes might view as flaws today. In fact, the Warp modes were added to the Exponential Plugins to degrade the signal back to those levels. But yeah, there's something cool about those old reverbs, hence why the Relab LX480 and Valhalla's VintageVerb are so popular.

4. With that in mind, it's probably a matter of looking at it differently. Does the M300 still sound good to you? Great! Do VST reverbs sound different? They should. Which is better? Well, whichever you prefer on a particular source. But those modern VST reverbs (thinking Lexicon PCM, Exponential Audio/Izotope, Relab VSR-S24) are probably cleaner, with better frequency responses, fewer errors, higher sampling rates, lower noise, less pitch-y (and more complex) modulation, etc. But all that stuff may not sound better to you. So it's not a question of "which is better" or "why isn't VST as good as" it's more of a question of "why do you like what you like and why?" You'd probably be better off comparing the M300 to something like Valhalla VintageVerb or LX480 if you wanted something with a classic Lexi-vibe. Whereas things like R4 and Nimbus or VSR-S24 might sound too hi-fi to your ears in comparison.
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Old 10-15-2019, 10:49 AM   #32
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No one has mentioned latency. Hardware boxes tend to perform all of their signal processing within one sample period, whereas plug-ins do their processing in blocks. So if real-time signal processing is important to you, the hardware boxes have an advantage.

Licensing models and privacy might be important too. The hardware manufacturers tend to get their personal gratification when you walk into a pro-audio store and buy their product paying cash; whereas the plug-in manufacturers aren’t satisfied unless they can collect your personal info and threaten to take the product away from you if you don’t stay in their game.

There is also the reliability issue. If you think your parents are going to buy you a new iMac Pro for Christmas, the possibility that the plug-in might not work on the new platform is very real, whereas the hardware will keep working as advertised.
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Old 10-15-2019, 10:58 AM   #33
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Hardware boxes tend to perform all of their signal processing within one sample period, whereas plug-ins do their processing in blocks. So if real-time signal processing is important to you, the hardware boxes have an advantage.
That is not so much an advantage when used with DAW software, though, there is going to be round-trip latency through the audio interface and the external hardware.
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Old 10-15-2019, 05:05 PM   #34
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...

You quoted me, I think you meant to aim that comment at Tubeguy?

Clearly VST reverb is not an issue here. All that is required to get this closer to the original sound of the recording is some more EQ.
There was a bit of both.

While I would agree with your assessment that it wasn't a "Dead On" copy of the Motown sound, it feels like there was a shift to "Sounds Harsh..." when there was no argument to be made for that the VST reverb sound in that video was inferior to something like an MX300.

It's already gone from that to something about "Polishing" a mix with a certain piece of hardware and the idea that no one on this board has ever used whatever would constitute "Pro"/"Has Mojo" gear or some nonsense like that.
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Old 10-16-2019, 02:24 AM   #35
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There was a bit of both.

While I would agree with your assessment that it wasn't a "Dead On" copy of the Motown sound, it feels like there was a shift to "Sounds Harsh..." when there was no argument to be made for that the VST reverb sound in that video was inferior to something like an MX300.

It's already gone from that to something about "Polishing" a mix with a certain piece of hardware and the idea that no one on this board has ever used whatever would constitute "Pro"/"Has Mojo" gear or some nonsense like that.
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Wearing straight face - if it wasn't so harsh it'll be just fine.
What I was saying is more akin to beauty is in the ear of the beholder. IOW some will find it too harsh because it is relatively clear and modern, not very bandwidth restricted and warm 'n' fuzzy.
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Old 10-19-2019, 03:07 AM   #36
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So a couple of things:
That was well said Funkybot. Yes I do like a bit of dirt in my sound.
Maybe that's why my pretty much only favorite VST till date is VeeSpringVerb. Somewhere between reverb and delay, I like it on guitars more than my Lexi for some songs. It's got a certain vibe to it and it's even free.
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Old 10-19-2019, 03:33 AM   #37
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Yes I do like a bit of dirt in my sound.
The irony being that most of that dirt coming from old digital reverbs is digital dirt, not any analogue mojo.

Just like the "magic" of early samplers - low bit depth, low sample rate, rudimentary variable sample rate, quantisation errors, aliasing due to poor filtering, audible jitter etc. etc...

Nothing wrong with that, it sounds great in the right context, IMHO.
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Old 10-21-2019, 05:59 AM   #38
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That applied to instruments and FX too, such as the original version of the DX7 ( 12 bit and noisy) and Lexicon's Prime Time delay with its characteristic lo-fi delayed signals being a memory saving exercise that gave it a kind of warm almost tape delay like quality.
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Old 10-21-2019, 09:15 AM   #39
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That applied to instruments and FX too, such as the original version of the DX7 ( 12 bit and noisy) and Lexicon's Prime Time delay with its characteristic lo-fi delayed signals being a memory saving exercise that gave it a kind of warm almost tape delay like quality.
Yeah man.

This thread has made me think of how great the Fairlight and AMS RMX16 sounded in Kate Bush's work.
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Old 10-21-2019, 03:45 PM   #40
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The plugins could easily sound as "good" (good being a pretty subjective thing in the end) but the exact ways the DSP algorithms from Lexicon etc work are trade secrets. They are very difficult to reverse engineer just by listening and measuring what the hardware devices are doing. Companies like Lexicon or Eventide don't usually patent their algorithms, because that requires to disclose how they work.

Sean Costello from Valhalla DSP explains this stuff :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJLhqfHrwsw

It's too bad the audio in the video isn't that great...(They didn't capture the audio from his laptop directly.) Still an interesting watch.
Great Xenakios, thanks
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