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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Quote:
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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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, 07:13 AM   #8
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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 10-10-2019, 11:59 AM   #9
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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, 03:15 AM   #10
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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.
"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   #11
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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   #12
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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, 06:57 PM   #13
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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   #14
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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 10-06-2019, 04:54 AM   #15
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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, 07:14 AM   #16
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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   #17
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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 10-21-2019, 03:45 PM   #18
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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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Old 10-26-2019, 11:39 AM   #19
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Anyone who has actually used a real plate reverb knows the difference. Same with classic REAL echo/reverb rooms. An absolute classic that I got to use years ago is the plate room in Rockfield.

I had used EMTs and many others, but Rockfields cowshed is something else. An old brick cow barn with a low-ish ceiling and rows of large glass plates on steel posts, which can swivel. Mic at one end, speaker at the other.
You set the reverb/echo path by swiveling the glass plates to the length of path (delay) you want & then swivel other plates to add sub- reverbs/echoes. Bloody amazing... and it sounds real because it IS real. You can`t get much more analogue than that!
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Old 10-26-2019, 11:47 AM   #20
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Anyone who has actually used a real plate reverb knows the difference. Same with classic REAL echo/reverb rooms. An absolute classic that I got to use years ago is the plate room in Rockfield.

I had used EMTs and many others, but Rockfields cowshed is something else. An old brick cow barn with a low-ish ceiling and rows of large glass plates on steel posts, which can swivel. Mic at one end, speaker at the other.
You set the reverb/echo path by swiveling the glass plates to the length of path (delay) you want & then swivel other plates to add sub- reverbs/echoes. Bloody amazing... and it sounds real because it IS real. You can`t get much more analogue than that!
Hi Ivan, the OP was only singing the virtues of an old budget digital hardware reverb vs plugins.
It sounds like you got your mitts on some cool classic gear though.
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