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YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:23 pm

And there was I expecting Hugh to write a highly readable essay on anti-aliasing, and he managed to chip in the perfect response with one word :headbang:

Bravo Hugh! :clap:


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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:02 pm

Sorry... been away... too tired to write essays this morning...

But basically this bloke is saying that using a plugin designed to sound nasty makes it sound nasty... I'm not really going to get very exited about that.

Any well-designed plugin will ensure it complies with the Nyquist requirements. Most decent plugin these days employ oversampling and proper anti-alias filtering of the output specifically to ensure that. Some less well-engineered plugins might not -- in which case they are, technically, BROKEN!

Sometimes broken things make noises that some people like -- and I so know some people that really like the sound of aliasing.

But aliasing isn't rocket science. Both the reasons for it occurring, and the solutions to prevent it, are very well known.

If you have plugins that sound nasty, and you don't want nasty, don't use them. Use something that works properly.

Or, process your audio through them at a much higher sample rate and then use a decent sample rate conversion tool to apply the required anti-alias filtering back to the base-band sample rate of the rest of your project.

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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:05 pm

Most decent plugin these days employ oversampling and proper anti-alias filtering of the output specifically to ensure that.

How can you tell? Can you give us some examples of what you consider 'decent' plugins? I'd have considered Soundtoys 'decent'?
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Elephone » Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:23 pm

I don't understand why no one is actually seeing whether the emulations do the job.

Has absolutely nobody got the hardware and (at least a demo) VST of the emulation (or a preset on a non-specific analogue model that is suppose to emulate a real unit) to compare the two? Then, simply put the exact same digitally-recorded audio file through both and do a spectral analysis and provide audio examples.

I understand that different analogue hardware units (of the same brand and model) will produce different results, but some kind of consensus as to what to expect should be reached. If not, we need to compare different hardware units and then compare an average to the VST

Then, we wouldn't need to rely on our ears as much for an opinion. I say 'ears', but we can't separate the brain from the hearing system because we are prone to all kinds of biases that make us actually hear stuff differently.

In actual use, of course use your ears, but for these comparisons, we should really be using the scientific method to negate opinion.
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby desmond » Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:39 pm

Elephone wrote:I don't understand why no one is actually seeing whether the emulations do the job.

Has absolutely nobody got the hardware and (at least a demo) VST of the emulation (or a preset on a non-specific analogue model that is suppose to emulate a real unit) to compare the two? Then, simply put the exact same digitally-recorded audio file through both and do a spectral analysis and provide audio examples.

Well, I don't know where you have been, but if you frequent the common audio forums such as Gearslutz, KVR, and others (inc YouTube), you'll find people are *always* doing these comparisons and tests.

They mostly become meaningless, for a variety of reasons. People just use the results to convince themselves of the outcome they wanted. If the outcome shows otherwise, then they just poke holes in the tests. It's a no-win situation - and there's very little objectivity - regardless of what the facts and figures demonstrate.

I can go into more details, but there are lots of variables in these things. Let's face it, with analog synths for example, very few sound identical from one unit to another - so what's the "reference" point anyway? Put up a recording of a Minimoog, and ten people go "that doesn't sound like mine". If you can't even get people to agree on a reference point, then comparisons are never going to draw general concensus. It's like if you ask 20 different people what the sound of "tape" is, you'll get twenty different answers, tastes, biases and preferences.

Elephone wrote:In actual use, of course use your ears, but for these comparisons, we should really be using the scientific method to negate opinion.

Welcome to the very flawed and biased world of human opinion... :mrgreen: :wave:

For some people, the very mention of using *science* turns them off straight away....
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Elephone » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:13 pm

desmond wrote: Well, I don't know where you have been, but if you frequent the common audio forums such as Gearslutz, KVR, and others (inc YouTube), you'll find people are *always* doing these comparisons and tests.

Yes, but for the reasons you've pointed out, they're hardly James Randy if they're using Youtube to convey results.

desmond wrote: They mostly become meaningless, for a variety of reasons. People just use the results to convince themselves of the outcome they wanted.

That's what I'm saying we need to avoid. So equivalent hardware brands & models differ so much that no consensus can be made as to what the defining characteristics are in terms of measurable behaviour (spectral analysis, etc)?

desmond wrote:If the outcome shows otherwise, then they just poke holes in the tests. It's a no-win situation - and there's very little objectivity - regardless of what the facts and figures demonstrate.

But can't demonstrations prove no difference between the actual modeled hardware unit (used to make the VST) and its emulation, at say... an audio tech trade fair, for instance?

I think if software companies really believed they'd 'nailed it' (e.g. Slate VTM) they'd be 100% transparent and demonstrate the exactitude of their plugins at live events.
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Elephone » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:34 pm

Can anyone provide links to such comparisons please? I'd be very interested to listen.

Perhaps the session for effects should be something like:

*100% dry audio [.wav] of Guitar, Bass, Snare, Hats examples.
*100% through wet audio hardware Settings A, B, C, D
*100% through wet audio VST equivalent Settings A, B, C, D

Incidentally, there are numerous comments on White Sea Studio Youtube with regard to his complete lack of consideration for gain-staging and how this might affect his judgments.
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Jun 29, 2019 2:37 pm

Elephone I agree. No reason why a competent AB comparison can't be done say on YT. Not just the audio but the spectrum display at the same time. I don't use tape sim tools but I do have good quality analog tape machines and tapes. Today I sent a pure tone into a Nagra and did a source/tape comparison, listening and watching the analyzer. As I suspected, their are only a few significant harmonics, not a huge series. Very different from simple clipping. The harmonics may differ somewhat between tapes and speeds but I suspect they will be basically similar at least with pro tape gear. With that as a reference, tape sim tools could be compared to it, both by ear and on the visual display. On YT I found a dem of a tape sim of a Studer J37 and old EMI tape but they barely pushed the " tape"into saturation so all rather pointless IMO.
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:13 pm

What a pointless thread.......

I don’t care if a plug-in actually replicates a particular piece of hardware. If it does what I want it to do - I use it, if it doesn’t - I don’t!

Or to quote the overarching rule which applies to any aspect of recording - if it sounds good - it is good, if it doesn’t - it doesn’t.

(Hint: to achieve success, use the stuff that sounds good).

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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Elephone » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:46 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:What a pointless thread.......

I don’t care if a plug-in actually replicates a particular piece of hardware. If it does what I want it to do - I use it, if it doesn’t - I don’t!

Or to quote the overarching rule which applies to any aspect of recording - if it sounds good - it is good, if it doesn’t - it doesn’t.

(Hint: to achieve success, use the stuff that sounds good).

Bob

Well, why spend your time wading through generic plugins if a piece of hardware you love is extremely well emulated? There are people building studios deciding whether to go with hardware that they're used to, generating results they expect, or VST emulations of that hardware doing pretty much the same thing. If the emulations are 95% spot on, then they might be better going with VSTs.

I suppose, sometimes, people are disappointed that the results don't sound 'archaic' enough, but of course, a tape delay VST on slap-back setting isn't going turn your bright, digitally-recorded Telecaster into a 1950's studio sounding one, both because it's not recorded on tape or mastered on vintage vinyl. That's why Audiority Echos T7E used a 1960's Kennedy speech to demonstrate it.
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby CS70 » Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:23 pm

Elephone wrote:There are people building studios deciding whether to go with hardware that they're used to, generating results they expect, or VST emulations of that hardware doing pretty much the same thing.

These days I suppose fewer and fewer people are used to any kind of hardware. Actually often I find that many people talking the most about analog hardware have barely touched any...
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:42 pm

As an addendum to my previous comments on softsynths, having read the nice review in the current SOS I just upgraded my old Arturia V4 collection to the full V7 set, bought a license for Pigments and ordered a KeyLab 61 MKII (in black, naturally) to go with it all.

Actually, I owe a shout out to Arturia here. I emailed them with the list of their stuff I own and have registered, suggested that a favour would be much appreciated and they offered me a fantastic deal which I couldn't refuse.

I still prefer hardware, hence the KeyLab controller, and will always have a roomful of it but I can't fault the softsynths in any meaningful sense sound-wise.

That said, if anyone wants to deprive me of any of my Prophet-6, OB-6, Kronos, MatrixBrute, Trinity or SY85 ... forget it (and I'm very excited about the upcoming Behringer clones of the Jupiter 8, CS80, TR909 and ARP 2600) ;-)
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:35 am

CS70 wrote:
Elephone wrote:There are people building studios deciding whether to go with hardware that they're used to, generating results they expect, or VST emulations of that hardware doing pretty much the same thing.

These days I suppose fewer and fewer people are used to any kind of hardware. Actually often I find that many people talking the most about analog hardware have barely touched any...

This is true and, speaking for myself, I haven't used much esoteric hardware gear at all.

Elephone wrote:Well, why spend your time wading through generic plugins if a piece of hardware you love is extremely well emulated?

Now this is a good point and one I subscribe to - even though I may not have experienced the 'real thing'.

Let me explain - I have tried to research/analyse the attributes of specific pieces of hardware and on that basis acquired and use emulated plug-ins. I don't much care if they're accurate provided they deliver what I want. I am not into trying a million plug-ins (at least not these days), I have a handful of compressors and EQs which give me all the processing I need.

One particular benefit, from my point of view, of using emulated hardware plug-ins is that the GUI, generally speaking, encourages one to use one ears!!!!

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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:52 am

This whole discussion has been of interest to me.

20 years ago, rightly or wrongly, I would have discounted soft-instruments/FX as a joke, or at best as 'poverty last resort'.

15 years ago, I started to understand the potential, and rightly or wrongly I didn't think they were anywhere close yet.

10 years ago I spent a lot of money on soft-synths. Some of those purchases were unwise, others not so much.

8 years ago I started adding other plugins (compressors, delays, reverb etc).

Today, I've got multiple thousands invested in softsynths/other plugins that absoutely nail it as far as I'm concerned.

I love some of the things that software provides but tomorrow, I'm still buying hardware as a preference, because I love hardware. There are hardware devices I desire and will buy without hearing them based on reviews, pedigree and/or reputation. I'm not there with software yet, it's trials/evaluation all the way but for those software packages that I've tipped over the edge with, no regrets whatsoever.

I'm sure that will change in future as software continues to improve.

The only issue I really have remaining is the amount of e-mail I get as a result. I don't want to opt out completely as now and again something really interesting pops up that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed but on the other hand I think there's way too much fluff and padding involved on the marketing mail front.

It's not an easy balance to strike but some companies go way over the top. If I get a mail every 2-3 days with this-that-or-the-other promotion, and if after a month or two I've not seen anything that grabs me, I'm unsubscribed. I used to keep track of my licenses and logins in a text document. Today it's a spreadsheet, soon it'll be a database. My hardware collection continues to expand in the meantime.
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jul 01, 2019 9:22 am

I'm not sure the technical comparison between hardware and plugin is as helpful as some imagine it to be, nor how practical it would be to achieve.

Clearly, obvious faults like aliasing would be revealed, but it doesn't take comparative testing to find things like that!

The plain fact is that hardware is built with tolerances, and no two notionally identical units will ever measure exactly the same. So comparing a randomly selected hardware unit with a software emulation of the nominal thing won't produce identical results either...

Consequently, some intelligent and experienced interpretation would be needed to assess how close the results need to be for the units to function and sound sufficiently close to do the required job in an adequate way.

I had the pleasure of reviewing the Focusrite Liquid Channel several years ago. It turned out that Focusrite had hired a number of classic compressors from a well known London hire company to derived their convolutional data, so we were able to hire the exact same units for A-B comparisons.

I can't remember the precise details now, but I do recall that the accuracy of the tonal character, control range, and general behaviour and response was phenomenally good, to the point where I was genuinely struggling to tell them apart, especially when using 96k sampling. (44.1 imposed a noticeable difference in the extreme high end -- not something that affected use in any way, but it did reveal itself as a subtle but consistent difference in an A-B comparison).

However, there was one compressor where two units were in a rack -- I'm thinking it was probably a pair of 1176s but can't be sure now -- and one sounded identical to the LC emulation, while the other had noticeable differences both in character and in settings -- yet both were genuine original vintage 1176s...

What matters with these things -- which is what I think Bob was alluding to above -- is not the 'accuracy' in absolute terms, but whether the plugin gets the job done in the appropriate way. Whether it bestows the processed track with the kind of effect or character that you chose the plugin to deliver in order to create a sound with the desired characteristics.

It's also the case that the vast majority of users have never seen the original hardware anyway, let alone used it in earnest, so have no valid basis for comparison (or opinion), and some seem to expect a grossly over-egged version to satisfy their imagination of what a vintage effect (or tape emulation) should be...

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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Elephone » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:18 pm

CS70 wrote:These days I suppose fewer and fewer people are used to any kind of hardware. Actually often I find that many people talking the most about analog hardware have barely touched any...

True, but if you're a massive fan of recordings that used a certain collection of gear, it wouldn't be a bad idea to acquire the well-emulated plugin equivalents if you'd like to try to approach some of those characteristics, surely?

Eddy Deegan wrote:Today, I've got multiple thousands invested in softsynths/other plugins that absoutely nail it as far as I'm concerned.

Could you list which synths? I've heard the uh-e Diva and some of the presets (like the Wendy Carlos ones) and they are astonishingly close.

I suspect the more 'stable' the original synths were, the more successfully they can be emulated. Similarly, I suspect crappy reel-to-reels and cassette recorders are more difficult to emulate than high-end tape machines (and tape) which, by the 80's probably didn't introduce as many 'tape characteristics' as people expect.

Analogue synth VSTi-s, such as the Oberheim OB-X emulations, are actually almost identical to the original keyboards, but they're also some of the synths I like the least. Others, like the Korg MS-20, I'd suspect are more difficult to reproduce. If you analyzed a static tone with a modeled one, there probably wouldn't be much in it, but then there's the ADSR envelope and filter instabilities that I think probably accumulate to make the hardware synth more like a 'living' beast.

A comparison:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWWTkaRRbaY

Discussion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzJYRfSPj7E
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:29 pm

Elephone wrote:True, but if you're a massive fan of recordings that used a certain collection of gear, it wouldn't be a bad idea to acquire the well-emulated plugin equivalents if you'd like to try to approach some of those characteristics, surely?

Possibly... but acquiring the same composers, arrangers, musicians, studio and balance engineers would make any attempted emulations much more accurate than a plugin of some of the hardware...! ;)

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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Elephone » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:42 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote: Consequently, some intelligent and experienced interpretation would be needed to assess how close the results need to be for the units to function and sound sufficiently close to do the required job in an adequate way.

What matters with these things -- which is what I think Bob was alluding to above -- is not the 'accuracy' in absolute terms, but whether the plugin gets the job done in the appropriate way. Whether it bestows the processed track with the kind of effect or character that you chose the plugin to deliver in order to create a sound with the desired characteristics.

To negate opinion where possible and move towards a purely scientific emulation I think would be a better approach than relying on experience of expert ears. I don't think audio experts are necessarily more discerning than musicians, especially in terms of knowing what sounds 'authentic'. I just think they've made a more conscious effort to categorize the characteristics they're comparing and so are better at ticking the boxes when comparing. But this could actually get in the way of mentally filtering-out some of the audible characteristics that do not fall into boxes that can be ticked.

Actually, I suspect the ability to 'discern' is to some extent innate... similarly, not everyone has Drew Pritchard's ('Salvage Hunters') eye for vintage/antique authenticity, I think it's the same with all the arts (CGI, etc). It obviously a talent that needs to be honed, but it could also be a personality trait to some extent. Everybody has a different threshold.
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby CS70 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:52 pm

Elephone wrote: I don't think audio experts are necessarily more discerning than musicians, especially in terms of knowing what sounds 'authentic'.

The point is that audio experts understand that there's no "authentic". Different instances of the same box sound a little different, and progressively more different as they age.

The only thing whose all instances sound consistently the same and don't change over time are plugins. So if you sampled a Pultec in 1960 and made a perfect plugin emulation, testing it today you would conclude it's totally out of whack.

There's a similar discussion in photography for lense quality. Loads of people say "this lens is great" or "this lens suck", completely disregarding we're talking of physical items with relatively large tolerances - both in the lens and the camera body you pair it with - so even the same instance of lens will be amazing when paired with a certain body and meh when paired with another.

It's all this computer thinking: we think of everything as software. :-)
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Re: YT vid 'explains' why analog emulations don't sound as good as they should? Any truth in this?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jul 01, 2019 12:53 pm

Elephone wrote:To negate opinion where possible and move towards a purely scientific emulation I think would be a better approach than relying on experience of expert ears.

I'm with you on the importance of objectivity over subjectivity... but what I'm trying to highlight is the extreme practical difficulty in the 'purely scientific' approach you're espousing.

If you measure the level of third harmonic distortion (for a given input level of applied effect) from one vintage unit at 0.03%, say, but the software emulation generates 0.025% under the same conditions, then the emulation is clearly inaccurate... at a scientific level...

But that tells you absolutely nothing about whether the software emulation actually sounds like, and effects signals with, the same kind of results as the general model (rather than specific unit) of hardware.

And you could extend my simple example to a whole raft of technical, scientific measurements and still be none the wiser... because you'll never get identical measurements. Consequently, you need to introduce some intelligent tolerances and margins, and that's when you get back to experience and ears... to know what is important in 'the sound' and what isn't.

I don't think audio experts are necessarily more discerning than musicians...

I don't think anyone ever claimed they were, did they?

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