We’ve been showing a lot of love to emulation plug-ins recently, modelling has come a long way in the last few years and has put some cool stuff in the hands of most of us at greatly reduced costs. However, many make a classic school-boy error when considering them.
It makes sense for those who create emulations to have the real thing in the lab and to do all they can to get the emulation as close to the real thing, be that tape, compressors, channels, synths etc.
However, 99% of us are never going to see or hear the real thing, let alone own one; furthermore, even if we could own the stuff, then how many of us would be able to use more than one instance of a classic pre-amp or tape machine?
This is where many of us make a mistake by asking the question ‘is it the same as the real thing?’ Because most of us will never have the chance to find out, we have to take that claim at face value. A more appropriate question is to ask “is this something I like the sound of” and “is this going to be useful to me”. If we are not careful we start collecting ‘vintage’ plug-ins as trophies rather than tools, like some kind of audio boy scout with his badges.
What plug-in emulations offer is the chance to own a nice rendition of something we could never own otherwise, it also gives us the opportunity to use, let’s say, a vintage compressor on 24 channels, that seldom happens in the real world, it’s not our style but hey whatever floats your boat. Whilst the cool look-alike GUIs can help us visualise the real thing, we are in danger of getting seduced by the nostalgia and then not using our ears, if that happens then we’re in trouble.
I thank companies like Universal Audio, Slate et al for their tireless work in bringing classics to the masses, I know they do all they can to be faithful to the original, but does it matter that it may not be exactly like the real thing? Not really, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Discuss.