I’m done with hardware multi effects. (Mostly)

VST, AU, etc. plug-in Virtual Effects discussion
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KVRAF
11256 posts since 26 Jun, 2006 from San Francisco Bay Area

Post Fri Sep 24, 2021 8:51 pm

So, I’m hardware/software agnostic, and the “mostly” part of the title means that I still have an Analog Heat, AxeFX III, Torcido and I guess you could count my Apollo as an effects processor. Last Christmas, I thought, “I should really try a knobby multi effect for some good ol’ fashion knob twiddling fun.” So I did.

First swing was a Dreadbox Hypnosis. The chorus sounded good, but not super good, the delay was just OK, and the spring reverb was super noisy and just sort of made everything sound the same. The noise could have been my super noisy environment, but when I angled things right I could get it fairly clean and I just wasn’t over the moon. I strung up Colour Copy, twice for chorus and Twangström, and I was instantly getting better results.

Then I got a Mod Devices Mod Duo. Meh. Noisy when hooked to the computer and you basically need the computer. Just not worth the price. Any number of free effect plugins are just as good if not better

Then I got the Zoia. Sounded great, but a few minutes trying to patch something together was basically as fun as Excel. Couldn’t deal.

So… Poly Effects Digit. Sounded… fine. Programming was… clumsy. Better than the Zoia, but still clumsy. Duplicated a patch I made in MXXX and got it sounding better and found the experience to be better in almost every way.

So, that’s that I sold the Digit and spent the proceeds on Thermal, Movement, Portal, and Other Desert Cities. Moral of this story? Uh… not sure if there is one, but man, I don’t think there’s a hardware multieffect that works better for me than a good plugin. At least not for creative type things.
Last edited by zerocrossing on Sat Sep 25, 2021 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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KVRAF
3673 posts since 29 Jun, 2011 from USA

Post Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:08 pm

I would agree when it comes to those units you tried. Most hardware multi-effects are just not very interesting sounding to me. I'd expect the old school rack units to be the most impressive as far as actual sound effects quality. Eventide, Yamaha, Lexicon etc. To me this is an area where plugins have the edge as there are such a large variety of very good, innovative and specialized plugins, oh and way cheaper. You can get a ton plugins for the price of one rack unit.

Where HW DSP effects are useful is in a chain of gear and when they have real time controls that lend to a more hands on approach, but that's usually again more specialized effects anyway, not multi-effects boxes.

Now, analog on the on the other hand, analog delays, or anything that distorts, that's a domain where HW gives me much more satisfying results. I've had a few units in euro rack such as analog mixers and VCA's that distort in a way I've not found an equal in plugins yet, maybe it's subjective, maybe not. So I feel like distortion and character is where analog HW shines over software.
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KVRian
974 posts since 30 Jun, 2014 from Pacific NW

Post Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:19 pm

I only have 3 hardware fx, and one doesn’t wow me. I keep them only for the times I feel like going “daw less”.

I do use the Acidbox 3 as saturation on softsynths (usually not bass though) and some LFO action. I quite like the Polymoon, but Quartz mode on Valhalla Delay sounds pretty close in some ways. The Mercury7 I like but don't love - but I’m really restricted on space, and having the cables go into the top not the sides. So it stays. The Meris pedals i control via MIDI when using them with the screen on more than I turn the knobs.

Generally speaking, software is better overall for most of the effects. I’d try a dedicated chorus from Meris and swap out the Mercury 7 for it. But only the Acidbox 3 has that gritty analog character (Polivoks!).

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KVRAF

Topic Starter

11256 posts since 26 Jun, 2006 from San Francisco Bay Area

Post Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:49 pm

Aiynzahev wrote:
Fri Sep 24, 2021 9:08 pm
I would agree when it comes to those units you tried. Most hardware multi-effects are just not very interesting sounding to me. I'd expect the old school rack units to be the most impressive as far as actual sound effects quality. Eventide, Yamaha, Lexicon etc. To me this is an area where plugins have the edge as there are such a large variety of very good, innovative and specialized plugins, oh and way cheaper. You can get a ton plugins for the price of one rack unit.

Where HW DSP effects are useful is in a chain of gear and when they have real time controls that lend to a more hands on approach, but that's usually again more specialized effects anyway, not multi-effects boxes.

Now, analog on the on the other hand, analog delays, or anything that distorts, that's a domain where HW gives me much more satisfying results. I've had a few units in euro rack such as analog mixers and VCA's that distort in a way I've not found an equal in plugins yet, maybe it's subjective, maybe not. So I feel like distortion and character is where analog HW shines over software.
I once thought the exact same thing about distortion, but even now I’m starting to come around on some plugins. They’re definitely getting a lot better. Still, every hardware synth that I own has an analog distortion component to it, except for the REV2, which has a digital distortion effect. Oh, my Dominion 1 doesn’t have built in distortion, but I run that through the Torcido, and I honestly had it for months before I read that it was digital. Sounds great to me. Of course, I do keep a tube drive pedal in my guitar chain. I’m not an animal. :lol:
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KVRAF
12444 posts since 7 Dec, 2004

Post Fri Sep 24, 2021 11:06 pm

Hardware really beats the pants off software when it comes down to super simple stuff like a clumsy FET phaser guitar pedal or lots of variations of tremolo, even the photoresistor ones are just hacky as heck and never work even `correctly`, let alone perfectly like a software sine tremolo.

When it comes to multi-effects though and especially the digital ones... as great as they can make them they've ultimately always been aiming for software with such stuff. In the past the CPU power just wasn't there, but we've gotten to the point with octa-cores and such that this isn't such a limitation anymore. So such a comparison is sort of like a steam powered mechanical computer vs. a calculator vs. a computer running scientific mathematics/computational software... the power is multiplied by 1000x at each step.

Distortion or any non-linear effect in discrete/sampled processing is a different medium, it has a lot of trade-offs. You get amazing flexibility and can do things that are impossible with an electronic circuit, but also have to deal with aliasing and such issues of band-limited signal processing. This is still a relatively young field in software and we're seeing remarkable breakthroughs in non-linear dynamical systems occurring more frequently as time goes on.

I think we've long past parity and are about to explore things we'd never imagined with our analog-based brains.
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KVRAF
2136 posts since 3 Mar, 2010

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 3:39 am

In my experience, software beats hardware when it comes to effects and midi generation/sequencing. There are some digital-based hardware effects - such as the Montreal Assembly Count to 5 pedal - that I have yet to find a true substitute for, but I am sure these types of micro delay pedals can be replicated on the computer. When I want to play synths OTB, I have been finding the Korg NTS-1 to provide the best reverbs and delays at a reasonable price.

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KVRAF
5861 posts since 9 Jan, 2003 from Saint Louis MO

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 6:29 am

My general preference is synths in hardware, effects in software. There are some exceptions in both directions. But I gave up on pedals, and don't see much point in getting into rack FX.

I do have a few effects in Eurorack for various reasons -- but I feel like if I sold them off except for Mimeophon and Beads I wouldn't really be missing out too much. Or even just Beads if I wanted to go minimal.

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KVRAF

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11256 posts since 26 Jun, 2006 from San Francisco Bay Area

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:24 am

aciddose wrote:
Fri Sep 24, 2021 11:06 pm
Hardware really beats the pants off software when it comes down to super simple stuff like a clumsy FET phaser guitar pedal or lots of variations of tremolo, even the photoresistor ones are just hacky as heck and never work even `correctly`, let alone perfectly like a software sine tremolo.
It’s been many decades since I had an analog phaser (MXR Phase 90), and never a Mu Tron (though we had one in a shop I worked in), but when I hear Arturia’s Bi-Phase, I honestly don’t think “the pants are beaten off this.” It just sounds great to me. I’m sure I’d be able to pick out the OG in a blind test, but that’s probably more due to how noisy those are than any major tonal difference. I couldn’t find a a/b comparison on YouTube. It’s just as well, as those things fetch huge bounties on the used market. I imagine it’s probably off about as much as their OB-Xa V is, which is noticeable, but doesn’t produce a bad result. I hope I never do hear an a/b, because knowing my nature, I’ll probably obsess over getting one… that I’ll use 6 times a year. :lol:
Zerocrossing Media

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KVRAF

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11256 posts since 26 Jun, 2006 from San Francisco Bay Area

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:33 am

foosnark wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 6:29 am
My general preference is synths in hardware, effects in software. There are some exceptions in both directions. But I gave up on pedals, and don't see much point in getting into rack FX.

I do have a few effects in Eurorack for various reasons -- but I feel like if I sold them off except for Mimeophon and Beads I wouldn't really be missing out too much. Or even just Beads if I wanted to go minimal.
Yeah, if I was the Eurorack type, I’m sure I’d have a bunch of effects as well. Having access to the parameters via CV is something I’m very interested in, though it’s Reaktor or Softube Modular for me. I tried Eurorack and I found the patch cable thing to be not for me. I found myself endlessly making patches and never actually playing any music.
Zerocrossing Media

4th Law of Robotics: When turning evil, display a red indicator light. ~[ ●_● ]~

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KVRAF
30776 posts since 27 Jul, 2005 from the wilds of wanny

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:14 am

zerocrossing wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:33 am
I found myself endlessly making patches and never actually playing any music.
Its a dirty job ... but somebody has to do it 😎

I picked up a Strymon Big Sky & an Enjoy Electronics Reminder last year. They both sound awesome to me, without any noise problems. YMMV

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KVRAF
12643 posts since 22 Nov, 2000 from Southern California

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:33 am

There's no equal to fuzz pedals in software. Also, the only way to get the uni-vibe into fuzz effect is with analog pedals because digital effects screw up the impedance for the fuzz. Then there's the interaction with the amp (also goes for boosts/overdrives/Tube Screamers).

Roland SDD-2000 sounds amazing. I don't know why. Plugins just don't do the same thing.

I got a couple of expensive Stam compressors recently. Overrated. The Drawmer 1973 and 1978, OTOH, are underrated and quite a bit better than the plugin.

My Roomer plugin uses impulses to emulate the Kurzweil KSP8 laserverb effect. I don't think any plugin emulates it algorithmically. You have a lot more control with the hardware.

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KVRAF
12643 posts since 22 Nov, 2000 from Southern California

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:53 am

thecontrolcentre wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:14 am
I picked up a Strymon Big Sky & an Enjoy Electronics Reminder last year. They both sound awesome to me, without any noise problems. YMMV
How does the JST Sky Box compare to your Big Sky?

https://www.jrrshop.com/jst-sky-box

I want to get the Night Sky.

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KVRAF
30776 posts since 27 Jul, 2005 from the wilds of wanny

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 9:02 am

Uncle E wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:53 am
thecontrolcentre wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:14 am
I picked up a Strymon Big Sky & an Enjoy Electronics Reminder last year. They both sound awesome to me, without any noise problems. YMMV
How does the JST Sky Box compare to your Big Sky?

https://www.jrrshop.com/jst-sky-box
Its a lot cheaper for sure :hihi:
I've never tried the Sky Box (first time I've heard of it), but will try the demo (if its iLok free).
(edit) I see it needs an iLok, so no-go for me.

KVRAF
8856 posts since 16 Aug, 2006

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 9:07 am

Uncle E wrote:
Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:33 am
There's no equal to fuzz pedals in software. Also, the only way to get the uni-vibe into fuzz effect is with analog pedals because digital effects screw up the impedance for the fuzz. Then there's the interaction with the amp (also goes for boosts/overdrives/Tube Screamers).

Roland SDD-2000 sounds amazing. I don't know why. Plugins just don't do the same thing.

I got a couple of expensive Stam compressors recently. Overrated. The Drawmer 1973 and 1978, OTOH, are underrated and quite a bit better than the plugin.

My Roomer plugin uses impulses to emulate the Kurzweil KSP8 laserverb effect. I don't think any plugin emulates it algorithmically. You have a lot more control with the hardware.
Roland SDE-2000 or Korg SDD-2000?

KVRAF
8856 posts since 16 Aug, 2006

Post Sat Sep 25, 2021 9:21 am

I've got a bunch of stompboxes (two large pedal boards worth, and a few more). Use 'em mostly for guitar when I'm playing OTB. I still think ITB distortion isn't quite there yet (Cytomic The Scream exclued - Audiority has some stuff I rate highly for ITB), but for just about everything else, good ITB plugins beat out my stomp boxes. I've also got some stomp boxes I just use for my Prophet-10 and that's a Strymon Ola (very good), Strymon Timeline (overrated), OTO BAM (under rated - excellent), and Eventide Space (sounds exactly like the plugins - but hardware Blackhole so...I like it).

I also have some Stam compressors (LA-2A clone and their 1176 ADG). They're not amazing compared to ITB, but it's nice to be able to track with the LA-2A clone. The 76 ADG has good tone but it's noisy and I don't hear the huge tonal changes between the 3 different circuits...I mean, it makes a change but I don't think it's quite the difference between a Rev A and a Rev D for example. I'd take TrackComp or the UAD 1176 for the less noise and near identical compression. I've also got the Stam Neve 1073EQ clone and that things been to the shop twice and should go back for a third time (EQ shitting the bed for the first two, grounding issue now), but I'm just done with using the EQ. I wouldn't buy more Stam gear, which is a shame because my first piece was terrific (their 1073 preamp only). I've got an Audioscape Bus Comp (SSL G clone) and that's nice, but again, compared to ITB SSL clones, I'd say it's on par with plugins - no better. I am curious as hell about their LA-2A clone, but I'm not buying more hardware.

I think hardware is just it's own thing. It's not to be fetishized. It's got a lot of cons in a mostly ITB world, but there's a few pros (tracking live instruments with compression and EQ). It's very seldom magic fairy dust for audio like some make it out to be. I think most of that comes from people who don't use any hardware and think that doing so would magically give their mixes a 20% boost in quality over plugins. It won't.

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