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Cheap/expensive plugins difference??
Old 28th January 2013
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Cheap/expensive plugins difference??

I understand that quality plugins are based on people's opinions of what sounds good, and how well they are modelled after prized vintage hardware, but what I REALLY want to know is the actual difference between cheap/free plugins and the expensive ones.
For example: The stock EQ and compressor in Pro Tools, etc. versus the waves and UAD plugs.
If all they do is control the volume and freqencies, how can one plugin sound "bad" and another one "good"?
Can cheap ones degrade the overall quality of the audio?

Please only answer if you REALLY know the technical differences.
Old 28th January 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Wolf LeProducer's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
1. Not all vst plugins are modeled after, "prized vintage hardware."

2. A lot of vst plugins, "cheap and expensive," are not worth anybodies time.

3. There is way, way, way too much software around.

4. What you really need to make a great mix, is a lot of practice, and a bit of knowledge.

In terms of EQ and Compressors, cause that is what you are asking about... Its more like, "certain products will effect the sound differently," rather than, "better or worse."

You might have a compressor, that is modeled after some vintage gear, and it will give you a nice soft, "tube style," compression. You might have a compressor, that is a total vst plug, completely digital, and its named, "the slammer," and it will give you a hard and pumping, overly aggressive compression.

The art of music production and mixing is, "shaping the sound of your records." Its not about, "which tools are better, or worse."

If you like the way a plugin sounds. Buy it. Learn it.

Is there a quality difference between a $200 software comp, and a $20 software comp? Often times yes. Often times no.
Old 28th January 2013
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
For the most part, all EQ plugins are doing exactly the same thing. The controls might not be exactly the same, but the underlying algorithms are. see more here. There may be differences in ringing but frequency-wise, any digital minimum-phase EQ can recreate the same frequency response of any other digital minimum-phase EQ.
Old 28th January 2013
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
JayFalcon's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I only use body parts to my noises.
Old 28th January 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Dr. Mordo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Yeah, with eqs what's important is finding an interface you like.

I have used cheap plugins that are amazing.
I have used expensive plugins that are amazing.
I have used cheap plugins that suck.
I have used expensive plugins that suck.
Old 28th January 2013
  #6
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
I really choose plugins for their interface.
For example I hate nothing more than twisting virtual knobs...
Theres are so many compressors and eqs that all sound good, so using the trial licenses and choosing the one you feel most comfortable with is the right way. Who cares if the plugin grafics look like a vintage device. Furthermore the kind of copy protection matters. I wont use an Ilok, so many plugins arent an option.
UAD is nice (also a copy protection, that even limits you to a certain number of instances), especially some unique plugins like the verbs, the studer, the fatso and the latest 1176 EMUs. But I never bought any of their EQs. Same reason as mentioned some posts before.
Many of the vintage emus are limited in the choices you can make for sound sculpturing, so they might be easier to use at first... Might be an advantage or not.
Vintage Emu compressors often have some distortion and saturation algos to add some mojo but most of the actual comps included in sequencers you can achive pretty decent results (Skills and ears are more important here). Same limitations in choices here.

A totally different beast are software reverbs. IMO high quality matters (often high price though)

Greets.
Old 28th January 2013
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Plug-ins are tools. Each one does "something". Your job is to pick the ones that do that "something" that you want to hear.

I've got free plug-ins that I use on every session. I've got a couple of relatively expensive plug-ins that I've used once or twice... but may never use again.
Old 28th January 2013 | Show parent
  #8
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jroode ➑️
Plug-ins are tools.
Exactly!

If a $1.59 hammer pounds a nail into the wall and gets the job done, buying a $400 'premium' hammer will not do you any better.

Use. Whatever. Works.
Old 28th January 2013
  #9
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Do the cheaper ones degrade the audio quality at all compared to the "good" ones??

I understand that it all comes down to what sounds good to each person, but I want to know if there are any technical differences.

I've heard something about cheap plugins that have some sort of phase problems, and some that introduce unwanted distortion.

For example, I know a $200 AD converter is gonna sound like crap compared to a multi-thousand dollar one. Are plugins the same way?
Old 29th January 2013
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Sometimes I WANT the plugin to degrade the audio quality.

Sometimes I want it to ENHANCE it.

Again, every processor has it's purpose. It just depends on the effect that you are trying to achieve. Use your ears... and your imagination.

Why would someone want to degrade the audio quality? Ask Keith Richards... and the hundreds of thousands that followed.
Old 29th January 2013 | Show parent
  #11
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by marksquier ➑️
I've heard something about cheap plugins that have some sort of phase problems, and some that introduce unwanted distortion.
Not true as a rule but possibly true on a a case by case basis. There are a couple of supposed high end plugins that I think are terrible. There are a couple of cheap ones that smack my gob.

There are plenty that just do loathsome damage to audio and there are others that enhance in as good a way as anything in digital land.
Old 29th January 2013 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Dr. Mordo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by marksquier ➑️
For example, I know a $200 AD converter is gonna sound like crap compared to a multi-thousand dollar one.
No offense, but I doubt you'd be able to tell the difference between converters. I doubt I could, and I've been doing this for many years.

Two of the best compressors I've heard are by sknote and cost ~$30. They blow away far more expensive software I've wasted money on. More expensive *certainly* doesn't mean better sounding.

I think you are worrying about stuff that doesn't matter. A good song that's well recorded will easily overcome any minor phase problems you might encounter.
Old 31st January 2013
  #13
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Why do people even make free plugins anyway?
Old 31st January 2013
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
depends. I feel that there's a decent amount of companies that do freebies as kind of a "demo", or just for promotion. You download the free one because "why not?", and then if you like it, maybe they'll be on your short list next time you're looking to buy a plugin.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
JayFalcon's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TimOBrienFlorida ➑️
Exactly!

If a $1.59 hammer pounds a nail into the wall and gets the job done, buying a $400 'premium' hammer will not do you any better.

Use. Whatever. Works.
A cheap hammer will fall to bits once you have to work it hard.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
tzujan's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassniac ➑️
UAD is nice (also a copy protection, that even limits you to a certain number of instances), especially some unique plugins like the verbs, the studer, the fatso and the latest 1176 EMUs.
Is this true? I think the limits are based the the number of UAD processors / cards you have, not a copy protection scheme. Though only being able to run on UAD hardware is their copy protection scheme / hedge.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by marksquier ➑️
Why do people even make free plugins anyway?
why do they even have plugins that aren't free? is the question.
Old 1st February 2013
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Ain't Nobody's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
There is no link whatsoever between price and quality. Over half of the plugs I rely on most were $0 to $100... and I've used the most expensive ones out there extensively to settle into the current short list.

There are some great expensive ones, and some equally great free or low cost ones. Has nothing to do with price.
Old 1st February 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
 
Funny Cat's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by marksquier ➑️
...what I REALLY want to know is the actual difference between cheap/free plugins and the expensive ones....

Most of the time...graphics.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Ain't Nobody's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Funny Cat ➑️
Most of the time...graphics.
And yet Stillwell's got some of the best looking plugs out there... and for dirt cheap.

You're paying the price the developer believes will yield maximum profit. That's it. There is no other relationship to money.

There are fixed costs associated with development, distribution channels, copy protection schemes and the like, but if a developer believed he'd sell 5x as many by dropping his per unit margin in half, he'd be a fool not to. Some companies in particular bank half their marketing strategy on people's notion that "you get what you pay for." Better believe it works for them.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
Ain't Nobody's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayFalcon ➑️
A cheap hammer will fall to bits once you have to work it hard.
Pentagon expense reports show just how much people can abuse the naivety lurking in the over-application of such notions.

I've yet to have a plugin fall to bits on me. I HAVE, however, had a couple of expensive PITA copy protection schemes fail in a laundry list of ways causing me to not be able to work for hours, days, even weeks at a time. I have also had packages that cost more than my first car take YEARS to update in ways that made them useless to me. I can think of a number of times in which more money has specifically bought LESS utility with plugs.

This notion is almost completely backward in this realm. Many of the best sounding, most useful plugs are still some of the cheapest... and also tend to be the ones with hands-on developers who are quick to respond.
Old 1st February 2013
  #22
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
You shouldn't judge the quality of a plugin by it's price...

But in my view a lot of the best stuff isn't super cheap.

I also think that.. what I put in my studio is a very personal matter: It has to do with what I value. It was to do with what my goals are, what I'm trying to do, the sound I'm looking for.

So some of the pieces of the puzzle.. for what I want.. are expensive.. and some not.

One of the things I think is kind of difficult... is getting to a point where you feel secure about what you're doing and what you want. Especially around here.. everyone has an opinion.. every tool gets bashed, and maybe tools get praised.. there are times when there's a tun of hype around stuff..

At the end of the day you, your ears, and your mind are your most valuable tools.

Very often.. a piece of gear can be like a musical instrument.. and how good it sounds will depend greatly on how well you know that tool. There are lots of people who are really great at this stuff.. whom in places use gear that seems not the best.. simply because they know how to get the results they are looking for out of that tool..
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aint Nobody ➑️
There is no link whatsoever between price and quality. Over half of the plugs I rely on most were $0 to $100... and I've used the most expensive ones out there extensively to settle into the current short list.

There are some great expensive ones, and some equally great free or low cost ones. Has nothing to do with price.
To be fair though, plugins like Waves SSL and some other such emulations or modeler type plugins are pretty much impossible to be coded by the average developer in a home/small office environment. Not that that particular developer is any less talented than someone at a big company, but the independent developer doesn't have access to an SSL or the original gear so it's virtually impossible to model it and then code it. Big companies have $backing$.

With companies like waves an UAD and others you are paying for R&D and analysis. Coding a generic comp or eq or even algorithmic reverb plugin does not require R&D or analysis overhead. Hence the difference in price.

That being said, freeware plugins can be every bit as good as their expensive big plugin company counterparts. If you look at plugins like Waves Renaissance comp or their r-verb or their Q1-10 eqs they are actually pretty average if not below average. There are lots of shareware/freeware plugins that are much better.

But stuff like their IR1 verb and their SSL emulation are killer, but they must have done a lot of research. That costs money. You are never going to see a freeware SSL emulation that sounds good. Maybe in 5-10 years when people start modeling plugins. the thought of that can make you cringe modeling a model. Has any used a Kemper to profile a pod? ouch
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
JayFalcon's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aint Nobody ➑️
Pentagon expense reports show just how much people can abuse the naivety lurking in the over-application of such notions.

I've yet to have a plugin fall to bits on me. I HAVE, however, had a couple of expensive PITA copy protection schemes fail in a laundry list of ways causing me to not be able to work for hours, days, even weeks at a time. I have also had packages that cost more than my first car take YEARS to update in ways that made them useless to me. I can think of a number of times in which more money has specifically bought LESS utility with plugs.

This notion is almost completely backward in this realm. Many of the best sounding, most useful plugs are still some of the cheapest... and also tend to be the ones with hands-on developers who are quick to respond.
My point still stands.
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Addict
 
ontariomaximus's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aint Nobody ➑️
This notion is almost completely backward in this realm. Many of the best sounding, most useful plugs are still some of the cheapest... and also tend to be the ones with hands-on developers who are quick to respond.
can you post a few of your fav plugs?
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
Ain't Nobody's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayFalcon ➑️
My point still stands.
Yes, it does... for $1.59 hammers where the physical materials required for production of a quality hammer cost more than the sale price... and it can't be endlessly duplicated for near zero cost creating an entirely different dynamic between price and overall profit.

The economics at work in digital distribution are very different than in the sales of physical products. Just because some developers don't understand concepts like price elasticity or the difference between profit and margin doesn't mean they don't apply.
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #27
Lives for gear
 
Lenzo's Avatar
 
6 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by emitsweet ➑️
why do they even have plugins that aren't free? is the question.
I think most plug in makers have more business sense than some musician's and would like to make a living selling their product instead of giving it away. Unlike the trend in music now...people so desperate to be heard that they give away their work for free. I doubt UAD would or could make such great tools if they gave everything away. Of course they could trash up this site with a thread like "I'm gonna sell a million plug ins" and maybe that would help their cash flow.
L.
Old 2nd February 2013
  #28
Lives for gear
 
login's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
RThe plug in markets is excellent, tons of stuff at many price points. The user has tons of choices.

And lately the small companies are giving the big ones a run for it's money with many specialized developers bringing very good stuff. Waves offer a lot of options but in each filed (eq, comp, filters, reverbs, delays) it has some competition from the small guys.
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Ain't Nobody's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ontariomaximus ➑️
can you post a few of your fav plugs?
There's barely a plugin compressor I haven't used out there, and I still choose The Glue for most of my buss applications. Got it when it was $50. At $100, it's still a steal. Great dev that's helpful, quick to respond, and knows his stuff inside and out.

One of my most used lately for dance music effects is Tal Flilter (free). Does a better job in multiple ways than any of the paid plugs I tried.

At $139, Flux pure limiter is not only the best brickwall out there, but does some things others just can't for several times the price. Hint... the frequency ranges are quite useful, but the real MAGIC is in the variable program dependent release.

There are many others, but these are some of the more common workhorse examples.
Old 2nd February 2013
  #30
Lives for gear
 
steveswisher's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Are Nike's really better than unknown Walmart shoes? They both get you around. Some are, some aren't.

Plugs are plugs. They're all just pieces of software code. Big name developers ie Waves, Izotope, UAD can charge more because of their exposure in the market. Small time developers can't charge as much because they're not as established. With the bigger brands you're also paying for the support. Sometimes the little guys ie Exferrecords have better support than the big names.

Price has nothing to do with plug-ins IMO. Some of the free stuff is just as good or better than stuff I've paid for.
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