Lesson 32

Outboard Effects

When you look at pictures of professional studios, you’ll usually see a bunch of rackmount effects, such as compressors, reverbs, distortions.. etc. You might ask yourself what’s the point of having all this, when there are plugins that do the same thing?
Many professionals find that the plugins don’t do as good of a job as an analog hardware unit. They send the signal out from the daw, run it through whatever piece of gear they want to use, and then re- record it back into the daw. For instance, the Manley Slam is a famous mastering compressor used by a lot of studios. The way it would be typically used, in an “in the box” scenario ( see lesson 4.1.2 about in the box and out of the box) is as a compressor in the mastering stage. The uncompressed song would be sent out from the daw, and into the compressor. The engineer would tweak the settings to their taste, and then record the compressed song straight out of the compressor into the daw. 

The downside of sending the signal out, and recording it back in is the signal degradation. This is actually more of a theoretical problem than a realistic one. While going through the da and then back in through the ad, there certainly is a loss in audio quality, it is so very extremely small that it is not even a consideration. Let’s go over an example. Here’s a guitar recording I did for this demonstration. I recorded it at 24 bit, 44.1 kHz. Now, I’m going to play it, and record it back in. Can you hear the difference? I can’t. The original files are provided at iskrecording.com so you can listen more critically.
What if I take this newly recorded track, and send it out, and record it back in, and do that again and again again to multiply the signal degradation. Let’s listen to it after being re recorded 10 times. Now, 50 times. Now 100 times. Now, 200 times. Do you see, going out and back in just one time is of no consequence to the sound quality. And that’s at 44.1 kHz. Higher sample rates will yield even better results.