Hahaha ... yep gear is gear.
Hardware or software. Most hardware is just software on a chip in a shiny box with knobs, much
as a computer is when you have a midi controller with it.
Wouldn't have been a bad idea to have two threads though, one just for hardware, another for software.
Yes you are right in theory they can sound the same, if the software also will emulate all the chips and its functions like AD/DA design , interpolation filter and all that in chip design level.
High end companies put more resources into hardware boxes and units then software that also explain why usually they sound the best.
Even though in theory software can sound the same, but in the software world there is performance limitations forcing software companies making shortcuts.
Even though x86/x64 is superior for what it does specific audio chips that are only made for that purpose does it good, a unit can exist of many many chips..to guarantee no compromise or shortcuts has to be made.
I agree software is good, even though they have to take shortcuts on a technical level it is not even a guarantee you will notice it..
Also if all companies did change resources and only put out software products, there would be a lot better flavors to choose from in audio..
In many cases hardware boxes are used as a way to protect intellectual property, Lexicon did it for a very long time..
Lexicon is probably the best example that of audio that sound good on software without compromise..But does Lexicon sound the same as PCM 91 or some of their other legendary units, the answer is no, they did not emulate the AD/DA, the ultimate would had been to emulate this so you can choose their algorithms but also the AD/DA from respective unit which color the final output sound heavily. Emulating AD/DA have proven to use a lot of cpu power if you really want to do it for real on the hardware level wit schematics softube style etc.
So besides the debate about theory that software and digitally product in theory can sound identical with software in reality though there is still reasons to choose hardware boxes, companies put out the most high end products in this form factor, it will give you wider palette of flavors and sound quality. The hardware boxes can many times get that extra magic which is hard to reproduce in software environment with different AD/DA.
So while I can agree on the macho attitudes you read how silly these glorified hardware boxes are that only are mini computers in a box in reality there is still a reason why pros rely a lot more on hardware boxes even if they are digital, there is still many benefits.
But in the end it depends on where the companies put a lot of resources on, releasing hardware products have been a good and working method against software piracy.
There is benefits with software and virtual gear there is also benefits using hardware boxes. Let me list some of them top of my mindbenefits using software
It is kind of flexible, requires no physical space, usually cheaper. Using computer screen and mouse is usually a better way to create patches.
It require processing power from your computer that might already be on your knees, even when using midi control it may be or might not be the optimal way to control it compare to the hardware version. While cheaper in price software have no real second hand value it means if you once take the plunge to buy this product, you are unable to get any money back if you sell it. Computer bugs, and incompatibility with future OS updates, there is no guarantee the software will updated to fix bugs. Software can give you audio drop outs, especially when you use low latency timings, which is needed if you want to use midi. With software you are limited to 1 cpu and x number of cpu cores, while on hardware with chips you can scale it to what you need without compromise and guarantee a reliable audio drop-free signal path and low latency. The total software latency is based on how many plugins you use they all subtract each other and the ending number can be a lot higher then acceptable for real time composition such as playing midi keyboard or guitar. Benifits using hardware boxes
You save processing power. How the music industry look, hardware boxes still offer the broadest flavors in sound both with effects and synths. There are very few effects and synths that sound good compared to hardware units. AD/DA conversion might add essence which is hard to replicate in software. Unlike software, hardware have no real bugs, it is designed to work at all time, no software conflicts that will crash your unit in the middle of a session. NO audio drop outs ever. Have better second value, if you buy it second hand you can with luck sell it for the same price, you end up "renting" the unit for free for that time, using this method make it cheaper then buying software even. And it is also fun and inspiring to change and update gear from time to time, scale-able depending on needed processing power, in pc/mac word you are limited to usually one cpu and x number of cpu cores, with hardware boxes such as synths you can scale it and ad the number of chips you need without compromising. Hardware boxes have no problem with audio latency, they work in real time unlike software. Latency is always stable as a rock if any, usually not noticeable by human senses. They can look really sexy.. and be inspiring just to look atdisadvantages:
requires physical space this can be both a good and bad thing, the good thing it might offer you the ability to control the unit with your hands easily. Usually more expensive (but have second hand value unlike software)