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mccumba says

What’s going on AJ? How do you feel about using plugins vs outboard gear..or using them together? Do you think client’s hear any difference and prefer one or the other?

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AlumoAudio says

Provided the end product sounds great, convincing and fits the client’s project, I very much doubt they’ll give a monkeys.

Personally, I use a mixture of both outboard and virtual kit in my productions. I’m still yet to receive any emails from clients complaining that I used Alicia’s Keys virtual piano rather than a real Steinway Grand! In most cases, they simply wouldn’t be looking for a difference.

However, when it comes to guitars used in rock or pop for example, I’ll always choose to record the real thing, especially if they’re be used as the main focus in the mix. I’ve always found guitar VST’s to sound a little on the fake side, and can cheapen the quality of a track greatly – even when played incredibly well. So subconsciously, this may have an impact on the client’s decision to choose one track over another.

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jhunger says

However, when it comes to guitars used in rock or pop for example, I’ll always choose to record the real thing, especially if they’re be used as the main focus in the mix. I’ve always found guitar VST’s to sound a little on the fake side, and can cheapen the quality of a track greatly – even when played incredibly well. So subconsciously, this may have an impact on the client’s decision to choose one track over another.

+1 (or so I keep telling myself :))

Like Matt I use a combination, mainly because I don’t have space for 10 different pianos/electric pianos. But for guitars/uke I always record the real thing.

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cyclopticr says

Great thread, mccumba. Agreed with AlumoAudio and jhunger. I don’t watch a lot of TV, partially because when I do, I spend the majority of the time listening to the music in the commercials, wondering if what I’m hearing is real or synthetic. If you can’t tell, does it matter?? I’m sure there are some pianists who have been playing for years who can instantly tell the difference between a sampled piano and the real deal. Same for violins, etc. To me, some of the fake instruments sound great (specifically, I’ve heard some really convincing digital Rhodes piano reproductions). And then, I’ve been a guitarist for almost 20 years, and to me, no sampled or synthetic guitar sounds the same as the real thing. Same for banjo, uke and mandolin. Something about the nuances of picking/strumming/fingerpicking, perhaps. Probably is totally based on what you’re the most familiar with sonically.

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mccumba says

Thanks cyclopticr. It has always been interesting how this subject easily and quickly ties into many others. I agree with alumoaudio and jhunger also. Many instruments including guitar, as well as brass(non-cinematic), seem to be virtually dull and fake sounding when using even the best vi’s out there in today’s market. I am a pianist and have difficulty hearing what is real vs. virtual when it comes to pianos! I choose use analog gear to breath life into my virtual instruments as well as play the actual instrument when possible. I’ve even gone as far as sampling my own instruments and mapping them out in Kontakt. The reason why I use analog gear is because I believe the subconscious mind does notice. The problem I see, however, is our generation’s subconscious mind may quite honestly believe that the “virtual” sound is in fact the true acoustic sound. Think about it…How much of what we hear today, on the radio, internet, on TV, and in the theater is actually a real musician playing a real instrument? Lastly, at the end of the day, do I think this will help when trying to achieve new clients? Though I wish it would, I sure don’t :/

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windyhill says

Mccumba, what analogue gear do you use? I’ve worked with people who absolutely swear by their analogue eqs and compressors in the mastering portion of their work for the added “warmth” but I’ve found it difficult to hear much difference apart from the added hiss. :) In saying that, when going for a big, wall of sound type vibe allowing an analogue compressor/limiter to clip can sound quite pleasing whereas with digital it always seems to sound nasty.

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mccumba says

Hey there windyhill. I believe that you are spot on with your observations. Many engineers and composers have their toolbox and some, larger than others. The way I feel about gear is simply that. Who wouldn’t want to have all the tools in the world, right? What’s silly to me is the fact that some engineers and composers have “secrets.” Lol there really aren’t any secrets when it comes to engineering as well as composition. Rather, simply developed technique. All of us alike had to start someone, and I’m pretty sure we’ve all come a long way. Taking all this into consideration, my mastering chain is almost 100% analog. When called for, I run my 2 buss through an Inward Connections mastering EQ. Deq-1 ( I believe). For compression, I use the summit audio DCL 200 or, also my favorite :D, the Innertube Atomic Stereo Squeezebox. I then route back in to my DAW, Protoools, and lightly limit to bring to commercial loudness. Then I dither via external converter. I don’t bounce to disk, I record. When it comes to driving a plugin into the red zone, it’ll never sound right because it is digital aka math. The analog overdrive sound is great especially with tubes because they change in character depending on their age, hours they’ve been on, and many other variables. Anyhow, when looking at any analog gear, pay attention to the THD. You’d be surprised by some units readings.

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GarryONeal says

Actually, I just got Bolder Sounds Bluegrass Banjo VST and it sounds like the real deal as far as rolls go. I haven’t mastered rolls yet, so I use the software for that and play chords and single notes on a real banjo. You really can’t tell the difference in a mix.


Great thread, mccumba. Agreed with AlumoAudio and jhunger. I don’t watch a lot of TV, partially because when I do, I spend the majority of the time listening to the music in the commercials, wondering if what I’m hearing is real or synthetic. If you can’t tell, does it matter?? I’m sure there are some pianists who have been playing for years who can instantly tell the difference between a sampled piano and the real deal. Same for violins, etc. To me, some of the fake instruments sound great (specifically, I’ve heard some really convincing digital Rhodes piano reproductions). And then, I’ve been a guitarist for almost 20 years, and to me, no sampled or synthetic guitar sounds the same as the real thing. Same for banjo, uke and mandolin. Something about the nuances of picking/strumming/fingerpicking, perhaps. Probably is totally based on what you’re the most familiar with sonically.
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cyclopticr says

Actually, I just got Bolder Sounds Bluegrass Banjo VST and it sounds like the real deal as far as rolls go. I haven’t mastered rolls yet, so I use the software for that and play chords and single notes on a real banjo. You really can’t tell the difference in a mix.

That’s awesome! I will check it out. Forward rolls are my nemeses. Of course, my banjo is a 1960s Silvertone with inch-high action, so it all sounds about the same, really. :)

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jhunger says

Forward rolls are my nemeses.

No kidding :P I thought I’d take to banjo easily because fingerpicking’s kind of my thing, and my fingers just refused to do it! That reminds me that I need to pick it up again – my banjo is just collecting dust at the moment.

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