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Do plug-ins acquire character as they age?

A post by David Mellor
Monday September 25, 2006
Guitars acquire character and get better as they age. But software always stays the same. Isn't it time we had living, breathing software too...?
Do plug-ins acquire character as they age?

Which would you rather play? A brand new Fender Stratocaster guitar fresh from the production line, unmarked and flawless? Or a battered and worn pre-CBS Strat with all the character of an aged single malt?

OK, I'd have the new Strat, then I'd play it to death until it aquired the appropriate character and personality for my style of playing!

But it certainly is a fact that guitars acquire character as they age. And as long as they are kept in good playing condition, most players feel that an old guitar will beat a new one any day. And once they get beyond a couple of years old, every single guitar is different from every other, even of the same model. They all look different, sound different, and just feel different.

Not so with software or plug-ins. Software is just a collection of binary digits. Every copy of Logic Pro is exactly identical to every other copy of the same version and update.

In a way this is good. Software that works will always work just the same and will never degrade. Your investment will always pay you back just the same as when you bought it, provided your hardware can still run it of course!

But this lack of character causes a problem. Guitarists don't have any trouble developing their own individual sound because it starts with the instrument, then the player can take it further. But with software, everyone is working with effectively the same instrument. So you have to work really hard to sound unique, and it has to be said that most don't. Give ten people a copy of FL Studio and you'll get ten tracks that sound pretty much the same as each other.

So maybe it's time that software developers gave their products the opportunity to acquire character and age. Don't ask me how it could be done, but let's just imagine that software could tarnish, rust, wear - or patinize, develop and grow in complexity. And each copy would change in a different way according to how it had been used, and maybe even how carefully it had been looked after.

Living, breathing software. It's an idea isn't it? Anyone want to buy a pre-CBS copy of Pro Tools?

A post by David Mellor
Monday September 25, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)