I'm currently experimenting with my work flow, and I'm very excited to demonstrate to you how these new ideas will bring vibrance and excitement to your mixes. For sometime now, I have been mixing in stems; grouping like instruments together and assigning them to their own chain of eq, compression/limiting and fx before reaching the master 2 bus. Amongst the many advantages of this approach, is the ability to give each stem it's own unique character and color. Lately, I've been experimenting with taken this approach to a new level by giving each stem it's own outboard gear mastering chain of at least--but not limited to--one stereo hardware eq and one stereo hardware compressor. You can emulate, emulate, emulate, but there is something about the harmonic distortion added by outboard gear that is hard, if not impossible, to duplicate with a plugin. I've carefully paired eq and compression/limiters to create a unique texture/flavor, color and sonic palette. I like to think of each stem bus as my broad-strokes for color, character, and shape, and plugins, as surgical tools for fine tuning/tweaking, carving and notching, especially the individual-multi tracks.