Hardware reverb vs. plugins

I’m trying to decide if I want to buy a hardware effects units or continue using plugins in Ardour (Undoubtedly, if I get a hardware unit, I’ll use a mixture of both.) But I do need to pick and choose what I spend my money on. Have any of you wrestled with this decision?

(The unit currently at the top of my list is the Lexicon MX400. My budget won’t stretch far beyond that.)

Lexicon MX400 is just one more Computer :slight_smile:
Youll need some patchbay, inserts-sends returns…
Your setup becomes more complex, but why not.

Important: what you combine? What kind of A/D D/A ( audio interfaces, mixers) you have?

I have two Mackie Onyx mixers with Firewire. I think I’m going to not get an external effects unit - at least, not now. I decided that if I have no actual complaints about my plugin collection, there’s no need to spend money just to have something for its own sake in my studio.


I also have an old ONYX 1640 with Firewire and I absolutely love it as well. It’s plug and play and it runs for days at ridiculously low latency. As far as an MX400 save your money… I bought one last year for an effects unit to use with the 1640 on the road for gigs and the effects are very dated and limited sounding compared to the current crop of free Linux plugins especially when they are so readily available to use in Ardour. The MX was a viable unit in its day but it’s like a trip 15 years back in time now…

Plugins have the advantage that settings are stored with the session. If you use an external device you need to write down the settings, and also record the reverb’s output along with the session (ardour does not support realtime export).

On the subjects of reverbs: I like zita-rev1 a lot (it’s available as standalone jack application as well as LADSPA plugin).

I recently sold my old MX400. It had three great sounding (IMO) presets which I used on most mixes, but I rarely used any others. Before I sold it I took impulse responses of the those three sounds with Aliki and use them in IR.lv2. One tip for using convolutions of hardware reverbs is that the IRs don’t capture the modulation typically produced by units like the Lexicon. Putting something like the TAP Chorus/Flanger in the reverb send will remedy that.

One thing to be aware of with convolution reverb in Linux is that you can’t usually use more than one instance at a time, as the convolvers tend to use fftw3 which has a non-thread-safe planner. (That’s apparently fixed in current fftw3 git but AFAIK nobody is using it yet).

@jrigg: Since Ardour itself uses fftw (plugin analysis, region spectrum analysis) and various other plugins also use fftw. All bets are off anyway.

KXStudio statically links all plugins (and properly implements other relevant factors of solution #1 outlined at https://github.com/FFTW/fftw3/issues/16 ). There are no issues there.
For other distros you can grab eg. convo.lv2 binaries from http://x42-plugins.com/x42/linux/ (which also are safe, statically linked against fftw, and protected against multiple instances of itself).

@x42: Good to know about convo.lv2 being statically linked. I’ll be replacing my Debian-packaged version as soon as I get time.

In general you can get very good results from software reverbs, and as mentioned above these days many reverb units are in fact just dedicated computers running software algorithms.

That being said, it can be fun on occasion to use external general FX processors, depending on your setup. I like the TC Electronic M-One for bang-for-the-buck category in that price range IIRC, though now that music group bought them, it is very possible I may have to rethink that in the not to distant future.


I love my Digitech studio Quad… (the last one that was made)… but if I didn’t already have a unit then I would stick with software…