Audio Plug-ins vs Analog Outboard Gear


Digital audio workstations (DAWs) use software applications called audio plug-ins to process audio signals. They can be used to alter the sound of a recording or mix and are a digital representation of numerous audio processing instruments including equalizers, compressors, and reverb.

Analog outboard gear, on the other hand, is physical hardware that is used to process audio signals. These can be standalone units or racks of equipment that are connected to the audio signal path using cables. Analog outboard gear includes a wide range of equipment, such as equalizers, compressors, and reverb units, as well as specialized processors like tape machines and valve (vacuum tube) equipment.

In the past, audio plug-ins were thought to have inferior sound quality to analog outboard equipment. This was because computer processing power limitations prevented plug-ins from always precisely simulating the sound of analog devices.

However, in recent years, audio plug-ins have made significant strides in terms of fidelity and have even surpassed the sound quality of some analog outboard gear. This is due to advances in technology and the use of more sophisticated algorithms that are able to more accurately emulate the sound of analog hardware.

Because of this, the decision to use audio plug-ins or analog outboard equipment is now largely a matter of taste. While some individuals favor the convenience and versatility of audio plug-ins, others prefer the sound of analog equipment. In the end, the choice will depend on the particular requirements and objectives of the project as well as the mix engineer's tastes.