Outboard Gear Workflow...Open Discussion / Sharing of what works for you?

Outboard Gear Workflow…Open Discussion / Please share what works for you?

  • What you use, when and how? (rendering with re-amping, etc.)

  • Getting around delay compensation being another useless cubase feature? Without pulling out your scientific calculator.

  • Why isn’t it easier to use 50K worth of outboard gear with 10k worth of software and computers?


TBH connecting outboard processing is a pain… It should be a lot easier but setting up external FX just takes way too many button clicks, so I very rarely do it.

Sometimes I use my triple head cassette player as an insert effect. Unusually for a cassette recorder it has 3 heads so it can record and play back at the same time. You get a slight delay which I compensate for, and it means that I’ve got the vibe of a cassette when I need it. I use this for vintage feel.

Another outboard item I use is my Roland piano which still sounds way better than all the plugins I’ve got (Waves/Arturia/XLN/Pianoteq/etc.). This I’d use as an external VSTi, and it works well for getting my piano mixed into the song.

Then there’s the pain of real-time export once you start to use external fx… You can’t just disable the external VST like you’d expect. Even if it’s disabled you still have to use real-time export. So, you have to delete them, which means recreating them if you need them back - with all those annoying button presses to set up! This is the major thing that needs addressing on Cubase.

Generally I tend to go for rendering as soon as possible so I can get back a tidy project which is all in the box and quick to export. For this I’d be using the Render feature and I’d keep the old version in either the lane above or perhaps use a new track version for the render.

Delay compensation - important with the piano. For me it just calculates it automatically based on the sound card values. With the cassette I can set it using the ping button. I also swap to run at a low latency and I push the Constrain button when I’m recording. It works, not really had any problems.

50k of outboard - why indeed? It is feasible to use 50k of gear as external FX. For example, I have 48 inputs and outputs available so I could connect all sorts of things up, but then I also have UAD plugins which emulate way more than I could afford to purchase. The big disadvantage of outboard is the recall of the settings, whereas with UAD plugins for example it’s instant recall and all in the box mixing. And I’m happy with the sound (although I’m still waiting for the C60 cassette emulator!).


Thank for the reply Mike… I agree with the case of use of workflow and recall with plugins and I have Waves Mercury and use it a lot. I have not used UAD , which I’m sure is great, maybe better, but again these are emulations of the real thing. I have a/b-ed the SSL G-Bus plugin vs my SSL FX384 and it is just not the same. Or my Massive Passive, or my Vari Mu, 1176, Neve & API Compressors, EQ’s, MixMic Reverbs, ETC.

I get how the “ease” of the box has locked us all in it. Pinging does not work for me, always 0. So I end up rendering a track - Bass, Snare, BD, Vox, Guitars, etc. without being able to hear it in context of the mix, which sucks. There is a mathematical formula you can use after recording a track, but wtf…

On the MixBus it is much easier, On the stereo out as an External Plugin I’m running out of my Focusrite into my Dangerous Liaison, and then into my neve, SSL G-Bus, (waiting on new mix bus eq)… Then into my Vari-Mu and back in.

As far a recall I just take a quick iPhone pick/s and put them in an album folder labeled the same name as the Cubase save & Song.

I also have 24 physical ins and out if needed and an X-Desk I use for Mixing Down, but again the pinging does not work, so using that is ineffective. My ideal scenario would be to render, but to be able to hear the External FX in the Context of the mix.

There are many posts on Gear Slutz if other are interested. Maybe folks here are mainly ITB.

  • Sean Ryder Williams

I have like 7 external synths I still use on regular basis. They are connected through an ‘ancient’ midi patchbay that I purchased around 1995 (MidiQuest 8PortSE) ! It still works great! But the biggest challenge was finding a PCIe parallel (printer) card that would works in Windows 10 and with the 8PortSe device? The driver is Windows 10 64 bit compatible but not signed anymore. So I need to disable driver signing enforcement but who cares?

I have the synths set up as an ‘external instruments’ in Cubase and can activate the vst plugin when needed. I don’t use external effects anymore nowadays. In the past I used the Yamaha SPX 900 and Digitech 256 XL units for effects and a Universal Audio LA2A compressor and some other miscellaneous stuff. But I stopped using these because IMO it’s not worth the effort in real life anymore. Maybe if money isn’t an object and you are willing to spend a small fortune on the extra ‘noise’ and ditto mixing board it might pay off? I personally feel it doesn’t brings much extra to the table. Not over todays solutions IMO.

Some of the outboard synths however have a certain quality to their sound. Sometimes I just can’t seem to replicate it on their software counterparts. I’m the fortunate owner of a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and how much I tweak some sounds on Arturia’s v3, I just can’t get that same feeling in some sounds? On the other hand, Analogue synths need a lot more service and make a lot more noise. So if I can help it I will use a digital counterpart. And most of the time this works out great.

I can hear you thinking…. “If you like the sound of analogue synths so much? Why not analogue FX and compressors”? For starters, synths create sounds. FX and other processors do not and just manipulate this. And IMO the quality of outboard FX units as opposed to vtsi’s is highly debatable nowadays. Let me put it this way: with the quality of digital plugins these days it’s not worth spending a small fortune on analogue stuff anymore. People that insist on ‘needing’ these are usually DJ’s, EDM and Hip-Hop producers that somehow have some twisted view on the matter. Just because their main source of inspiration of beat came from the Roland TR-808 and TR-909, doesn’t mean their whole chain needs to be from that era? But this is something the entire music scene has been infected with since the rise of EDM. Digital is not done. Everything needs to be retro and analog to be able to sound good.

However, the end product is never analogue, like Spotify and Sound Cloud? It’s just a sickening fixation with analogue gear that will eventually pass, I hope?

Thanks for your contribution Nickeldome… It sounds like you see the value in outboard synths but not outboard “gear”… Compressors, eqs, preamps, reverbs, etc. It seems most here have chosen to be ITB. I think thats unfortunate, I work with real instruments and audio and nothing compares digitally to an 1176 on snare, bass, bass drum, vox for instance. Or with my Neve front end and SSL G-Bus Compressor. I wish it did, but it just doesn’t.

I think if Cubase was easier to use with Real Gear, more people would.

And I hear you about great sounds being dumbed down to mp3s, thats sad I know. MP3s are for children and ringtones in my opinion. I listen to High Def Audio and there is nothing that compares. I use Tidal also, which is great.

Maybe Gear Slutz is a better forum for traditional audio recording and outboard gear, several forms there about this topic. Maybe most people here are stuck ITB.

  • Sean Ryder Williams

I’ll just throw this out there to anyone who is thinking about doing music (Cubase) for post-production (Film, TV, Streaming etc):

In my experience using outboard can be great for a lot of reasons, but with today’s schedules and quick turnarounds having to dial in outboard hardware settings makes it almost a no-go. The more work you get the more you need to be able to just open up a project and pick up exactly where you left off, as quickly as possible, and outboard gear often slows that process down.

Just some food for thought.

I know I’m really late to this but yeah, I also have issues with this in Nuendo and it’s frustrating (Cubase/Nuendo basically the same in this case).

Really frustrating because it does seem impossible to be able to monitor the outboard gear well. The signal never matches up. I’ve tried with customer support, nobody ever seems to have an answer. I “ping” it in Nuendo (same feature as Cubase has)…still doesn’t match up.

So my basic workflow has become to take whatever I want to be processed (say vocal) and record a new track with the compressor or whatever outboard gear. Basically kind of like reamping but with the outboard gear.