Plug-ins are great, they’re very close to the real hardware counterparts, sometimes better.
I don’t want to debate that. This article is all about options for getting electrons flowing through gear to get better mixes.
There are very few (if any) professional mixing engineers that work 100 percent ITB (in the box), at some point you’ll need to get outside.
One of the problems inherent with digital recording is latency. Today’s modern audio interfaces are way better than just a few years ago and we can get it to the point that it’s barely noticeable, but you can do better than that.
Most USB interfaces have a direct monitoring option or simply a mix knob to get around the problem of input latency.
By turning the mix knob to the left you are listening to just the inputs of the interface, latency free, and by turning it to the right, you hear the output of the software, with the latency. Most of the time you are probably just listening from the software outputs, which is fine, if you can deal with the latency.
If you use the direct monitoring function and put the mix knob in the middle you can get benefit of zero latency and still be able to hear the output of the software for the tracks you are playing along to. The trick here is to mute the track you are recording to.
For punching in on takes, you’ll have to record to a new track and comp the parts, it’s worth the extra effort.
Many firewire interfaces have a software mixer to route signals around before the DAW and you can use this for your direct monitoring.
Another way around the input latency problem is by using a small mixer and before the interface and monitor directly from that along with a stereo return from the DAW.
Unfortunately this only works when you are recording with mics, when recording direct guitars into Guitar Rig or Amplitube, you won’t be able to monitor the effect, so you have to reduce the buffer size to an acceptable latency.