I remember being surprised when I first got started making ambient music that most of the other people I knew had very nice gear -- expensive mixers, high-end Lexicon reverbs, good monitors, and that sort of thing. Now lots of people just buy an audio interface for their computer and use the default effects built into their DAW software, and that's it -- they don't pay for any effects, either outboard, or higher-quality plugins.
well, I am a part of the younger more "forward thinking" generation, about 10 years ago when all software plugs did look to have a promising future and also computer performance was getting better and better I did kind of look down at the old things, I wanted to replace as much as possible with software plugins, I felt smart, and I thought other where "stupid" why pay so much money when you can just have a cheap plugin that sounds the same... I think most younger ambient artist is still stuck in this kind of "mentality" that software is the cutting edge in audio and that everything sounds best and can be down "in the box" with software. No need for expensive mixers or expensive analog outboard gear now when you can use high quality plugins.
As I said I did grow up under this software "revolution" about 10 years later I realize not much has happen in the last 10 years when it comes to creating music with software, the development has slown down extremely.. only more of the same.. analoge still sound superior even so many years, you only get close with plugins in that use between 50-80% on the latest intel cpus overclocked you get close the analgoue "essence" of the sound.
Yeah so personally I have changed radically, I am going away more and more from software "in the right places". I still use soft synths for instance, it is ok if your other signal chain is high quality, for instance analgoue outboard gear can make even a digital soft synth glow to life.
I am not anti software but I do not compromise in sound quality. I realize its strength and weaknesses. The weaknesses is 100% due to the lack of CPU power, almost all plugins compromise in audio quality in favor of less cpu usage, all this are hearable... CPU needs a lot of power to crate those complex and precise harmonics that analogue gear make..it just kills the cpu... this is the reason I buy more and more external gear, to get more power cause the CPU can't do all processing on it's on... The lack processing power is one of the main reason why all ambient produced "in the box" sound so cheap.. however there is expectations of plugins that sound incredible with minimal cpu power, Lexicon PCM native is one of them, but I think one reason of that is because the algorithms have been refined for about 30 years the algorithms where made for a different time with a lot less processing power then what we have today...so with the right miracle could is probably possible but extremely hard craft to program such things.. most virtual analogue stuff consume the cpu totally...the plugins I use that I think sound good, such as digital slate, SPL, SSL, D16, etc they all have one thing in common..the use a lot of cpu..
I will still use both software and hardware...