Plugin FX Mix Settings

I’ve recently sold my old hardware fx units and started using a DAW for recording and additional fx processing. I’m happy to have gone this route as I find the fx plugins more versatile, but I’ve noticed something a bit odd about using them.

The overall mix settings on the plugins don’t seem natural at all. Like there’s some kind of separation between the audio & fx. The hardware fx just seem to envelope the sound in a much more natural way. Doesn’t matter if I’m processing the audio live or processing a recording.

Does anyone understand what I’m getting at?

What effects? How are you routing them? Need more info to give you some advice.

It’s most noticeable on reverbs and delays. No particular plugin or manufacturer. No special routings, just simple inserts or sends.

I think you’re just describing how a lot of software fx sound compared to well made hardware FX. It’s something you don’t tend to hear with UAD.

Yes possibly. The hardware FX i sold were (old) high end TC Electronic units (Fireworx, M3000)

I think the plugins “sound” brilliant. Just this subtle but weird detachment from the source audio will take some work & adjustment.

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Could you explain this?

As i tried to explain in the original post, the FX don’t seem to envelope the audio recorded into the daw in a natural way.

It’s really tough to explain it.

When using my hardware fx send/return on a hardware mixer everything gels together. Nothing weird or noticeable. Started using a daw/plugins and it sounds like there’s a level of separation between the audio & fx.

Terrible way to put this but in my mind i see an object in water, completely surrounded & wet. With the Plugins i see the object has a layer over it. It’s still surrounded by water but it’s not actually wet.

& i’ll just add, this “separation” is only apparent to me when the mix setting is more dry than wet. A totally wet signal is fine, although i’d very rarely ever use that setting.

So this anomaly (to my ears) appears at the settings i’m most likely to use.

Now I get you … the water example makes it pretty clear.

But it’s not that you have a send/return to FX and the return of the FX is only week compared to your hardware setup?

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I can’t compare now as the hardware fx have been sold, but things were not setup in a different manner. I wish i’d made a comparison video/demo now.

But as mentioned previously it’s still apparent to me when using the plugins as inserts, as opposed to a send/return configuration.

How many layers of processing occur when processing audio/sounds in a Daw? Is that even a valid question? haha!

I think this is quite linear … audio --> in FX-1 --> in FX-2 --> main --> … nothing secret in the background … just what we insert processes the audio, like with real hardware.

I remember a case, where I had the impression that a return signal was quite thin. After some searching I found that a plug-in, which I used in this chain, had the dry/wet knob somewhere significantly below “100% wet”. This made the whole FX thin in the mix. Cranking up to 100% wet made me smile again … :wink:

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Might just come down to the never ending hardware versus software debate.

I’ve been making music with hardware for other 30 years & now i’ve got a hybrid setup i’m adjusting to a few things.

I’m happy though.

Thanks for your input.

I notice similar things. It’s there with old fx units like the Quadraverb, I hear it on cheapo stuff like the Lexicon MX200, but also on my Eventide H9…
Not sure if it’s a real phenomenon or if it’s only in my head, but maybe it comes due to small differences between left and right channels?

I should really run some blind tests with H9 algos I have the vst version of…

I often wonder this. For such a long time i was opposed to DAW’s for anything other than midi sequencing. Just a personal thing, as friends of mine could use them to great effect. My oldest friend Gary (Dub Techno Producer G.R.I.T.) only uses Reason & i think he does a great job. But i do remember him back in the early 90’s envisaging the day when this type of software was possible. That was his desire because he never had the room or money for gear, whereas i was extremely lucky to have access to hardware. But i never like or appreciated what DAW’s could do, until this point. Still use hardware for the core of my tracks but happy to use the DAW for additional duties.

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Dude, I’ll run some blind tests. Maybe ask my wife to do the test as well.
Hofa offers a free software for this…

Have to think about how to best approach this…obviously gonna use H9 algos, but want to include others stuff as well.

Maybe some tests with re-amped (miced and looped back) signals vs. ITB to get a sense of what exactly is happening there.

The phenomenon is actually pretty noticable I’d say. I also hear it on the fx from my AK, with OT not soo much.

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You very well could be perceiving the difference between compounding tolerances of your old hardware set up. Various input stages of your mixer, AD/DA converters and “low” sample rate on your old racks, everything summed through a single analog output; across all of these connections and routings the audio path is bound to be colored in subtle ways that are likely not happening in a simple insert/send configuration in your DAW. Although I wouldn’t discount the psychological effect of changing your workflow from something you’ve been used to for 30 years, either.

You could attempt to emulate this type of low level signal degradation by placing sublte saturation plugins throughout your signal path (that aren’t CPU hungry of course), or even see if you can reduce the sample rate of the effect plugins you are using.

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Yes that’s something to ponder, as i didn’t think my old(ish) ears would be able to perceive these differences.

I’ll give this a go. Thank you.

I‘ve actually tried that, with good results even. Various saturation plugins across tracks in my daw can really ge me near that ‘vintagy sound’ (for the lack of a better word).
I usually have a return channel setup for my drum buss - that return channels seperates lows and low mids/ highs and mids and processes them indivually with saturation and reverb and/or delay.

Same technique is sometimes applied to other busses as well, but mostly the other tracks just get several stages of mild saturation treatment.

Maybe I should apply this technique to all return fx and insert fx and see if I can get there…