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Price
The price of analogue equipment can be anything from £100 to £5000+ depending on what you are after. A good mastering compressor for instance will set you back upwards of £2000. You get what you pay for. We paid £3400 for a Maselec MLA 3 and it’s worth its weight in gold. Nothing compares to the control this compressor has in the digital world. A plugin emulation will generally be 8 times cheaper than the hardware. If you are looking to get into building an analogue setup be prepared to spend from £50,000 – £100,000 on a decent one.

A/D D/A converters
Your hardware is only as good as its converters. You could have the best eq in the world but if you are inserting it through let’s say a focusrite interface ( not that these are bad they are great for the price ) your eq won’t be living up to its high quality potential. Converters are incredibly important in any analogue setup interfacing with a DAW. D/A converters are as much important over your monitor outputs as they are over inserts. An upgrade in converters I’d say would double the quality of your monitors. When upgrading the converters in my setup I noticed a dramatic difference in quality. The converters we use at Audio Animals are Solid State Logic’s XLogic Madi converters. Up to 128 channels of SSL A/D D/A conversion.

Recalling Settings
Unlike digital plugins recalling settings isn’t instant. You will need to save your settings using a printed recall sheet or camera. We opt for the camera option, as this way settings are saved within the session digitally and easier to recall. Some companies such as SSL offer total recall. A digital memory that will recall all your SSL hardware settings for that session. Hardware still needs to be recalled manually though.

Space
Outboard equipment will take up a lot of space. Be prepared to have to buy or build 19 inch rack units to house your hardware in. As well as space each unit requires a power supply which will take up space on your plug sockets.

Single Use
Unlike plugins which can load multiple instances over and over until you max out your cpu, an analogue unit will in most cases only be able to be loaded as one instance. If you want to use for example two of the same eqs in your mix you’ll need to buy two eqs. There is of course the option to record the audio source through the eq and then use it again on another audio source but this is never ideal incase you wish to change the eq you had originally applied.

Stereo and Mono
Most hardware units such eqs and compressors will come in mono format. Which does mean you’ll need to buy two of the same unit for stereo use. This will of course double the price of anything you buy.

Cables
Be aware that every hardware unit you buy you’ll need to buy cables for. Which can cost anything from £6 – £60 for a trs jack depending on brand, quality and length.

Maintenance
Good equipment rarely ever breaks but in some cases it can. Maintenance may be require with some hardware. For instance our reel to reels needs regular maintenance to achieve the best results due to its vintage nature. A lot of specialist hardware will need a knowledgeable electronics engineer to fix.

Tampering
You leave the studio for the night and someone’s come in before you and tampered with the dials before your session. This isn’t so much a big deal if it’s only you working in the studio as you can leave the session where you were and pick it up again later, without worry if someone has tampered with it.

Boxes
You will have a loft full of boxes which your equipment came in. Always keep your boxes, you never know when you may want to sell your equipment.

Conclusion
Analogue equipment is expensive and takes up a lot of additional space. The pros well outweigh the cons. A superior sound to digital and a far more fun hands on experience. Analogue equipment is unique and allows you to engineer your own sound unlike anyone else. Producers and engineers around the world are standing out from the crowd with their unique sound only they can create.

Buying Analogue Outboard Equipment

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