Dr. mister snob. We regret to inform you that your opinion means nothing. Try as you might to sound intelligent and all knowing, the fact remains that no amount of money spent on gear will make you a better engineer. Instead of wasting everyone's time by stating how horrible their gear is, go make music! -Sincerely, Everyone Else
Gear snobbery is real. It is a common misconception that the more money you spend, the better it will sound. While this may be true to a point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, making that overpriced "clone" no different than the next. Am I saying "don't spend money on gear"? Absolutely not! Gear is awesome! Just be aware that by spending 10x as much, may and probably will not get you 10x the sound quality.
Lets look at analog compressors real quick...
UA 1176LN Compressor $2400
Klark Teknik 1176KT $400
2 compressors, designed similar, to compete with each other. One is made by the original company, using outstanding components, while the other is inexpensively built. One is 6 times the price of the other. But, does the more expensive one sound 6 times better? Probably not... So, should we only buy the cheap stuff? The short answer, no. If you have the budget to purchase the more expensive one, do it! Especially if it something you've always wanted to own. However, if you expect a massive sonic difference, you will be disappointed.
In most blind tests, it can be difficult to choose which original piece of gear vs the "clone" is which. And while there may differences, that will happen with all analog gear. Thats the joy of it! you can have many flavors, each for their own unique and special purpose. Now days in electronics manufacturing, tolerances have become much tighter. This allows gear to be closer "matched" without too much sonic difference. Something to keep in mind, is all that "coveted" analog gear is old. Like decades old. Tolerances of capacitors and resistors have drifted, making that specific analog gear sonically unique.
Which is where plugins come in. Since each plugin is modeled on a specific hardware units, plugins are not going to sound the same. I hear complaints of "why do we need another 1176 plugin?" The answer is, why not? If each plugin is modeled on a different piece of hardware, every plugin will have a slightly different sound. Meaning you can own multiple different 1176 compressors. All inside your computer.
The next time you read reviews about gear, and there are consumers talking about how its "not the same as the real thing" remember, at the end of the day they all do their job. Use the tools you can afford to get the job done. The tools don't make the engineer, but a great engineer can make great records using anything.