This article will discuss the best plugins and virtual instruments by Universal Audio for Music Production and Mixing & Mastering.
UAD has been an active player in the Audio Signal Processing hardware and effect pedals, audio interface, virtual instruments, and plugins since the 1950s. As a result, it has a great reputation for creating hardware and software-based audio products that are both reliable and of high quality.
It is especially known for recreating vintage hardware as virtual instruments and plugins. However, Universal Audio plugins are available with Apollo or other hardware from the company or a subscription-based model with UAD Spark, which runs exclusively on Mac only, and is not available on Windows. According to the company website, it will be available for Windows in the fall of 2023.
We have created a list of 14 plugins and one bonus plugin bundle most suited for your music production and mixing-mastering needs. These plugins are hand-picked based on the sonic characteristics, versatility, utility, and prices. So let’s dive right into it.
Top 14 UAD Plugins For Production, Mixing & Mastering (Instruments & Effects)
1. UAD PolyMAX Synth (Now on Windows)
Modeled after the classic Oberheim® Xpander and Matrix-12 analog synthesizers, known for their rich and complex sound, the UAD PolyMAX synth is a virtual synth plugin developed by Universal Audio.
It features two oscillators per voice, selectable waveforms, and a wide range of modulation options. It also includes a powerful arpeggiator, extensive modulation matrix, and built-in effects such as delay, reverb, and chorus.
One of the unique features of the PolyMAX Synth is its ability to create “polyphonic patches” that allow multiple notes to be played simultaneously on a single voice, creating complex and evolving sounds. It also includes a comprehensive preset library with classic and modern synth sounds.
- Polyphonic capabilities
Creating polyphonic patches is a unique feature that differentiates the UAD PolyMAX from many other synth plugins. That makes creating rich and complex sounds that respond to your playing style and other inputs possible.
- Versatile modulation options
A modulation matrix in the synth allows for extensive modulation of various synth parameters, such as LFOs, envelopes, and external controllers. That makes it possible to create complex and evolving sounds that are difficult or impossible to achieve with other synths.
- Comprehensive preset library
Along with the plugin, you get a comprehensive preset library with a wide range of classic and modern synth sounds, making it easy to find a sound that fits your needs quickly or to use as a starting point for your patches.
- High-quality effects
Some high-resolution built-in effects in the PolyMAX Synth include delay, reverb, chorus, distortion, etc. You can apply these effects to individual voices or the overall output of the synth.
- Integration with UAD hardware
The PolyMAX Synth requires a compatible UAD-2 DSP accelerator, which provides additional processing power and low-latency performance. This integration with UAD hardware can make the PolyMAX Synth more reliable and stable than other software-only synth plugins.
You can run the plugin on almost any DAW and computer, as it is available in AAX, AU, and VST plugin formats and is compatible with both Mac and Windows OS. However, it’s important to note that the PolyMAX Synth requires a compatible UAD-2 DSP accelerator, which may limit its compatibility with certain systems.
The UAD PolyMAX Synth is a vintage-style virtual instrument plugin Universal Audio developed and modeled after the classic Oberheim Xpander and Matrix-12 analog synthesizers. It features two oscillators per voice, a resonant low-pass filter, a high-pass filter, a bandpass filter, a comprehensive modulation matrix, an arpeggiator, and built-in effects such as delay, reverb, and chorus.
Overall, its authentic analog sound, versatile modulation options, extensive polyphonic capabilities, high-quality built-in effects, and comprehensive preset library make it one of the best synth plugins.
2. UAD Electra 88 Vintage Keyboard Studio
UAD Electra 88 Vintage Keyboard Studio emulates the classic suitcase electric piano and its associated effects in software plugin format.
This plugin is designed to capture the iconic sound of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, known for its warm and soulful tones. It comes with over 100 presets categorized by description and musical genre, making it easy for you to find the perfect sound for your projects.
It includes carefully crafted effects such as dynamic, condenser, ribbon, tube microphones, studio-grade reverbs, modulation, EQ, and more. These effects contribute to achieving the desired vintage sound.
Electra 88 has over 100 presets categorized by description and musical genre, making it easy to find the perfect sound for your projects. The Description categories include Suitcase, Mellow, Dirty, Classic, etc., and the Genre categories are Pop, Classical, Jazz, etc.
The instrument includes carefully crafted effects such as dynamic processors, the real 1176 compressor, ribbon, tube, condenser mics, studio-grade reverbs, modulation, EQ, and more. These effects contribute to achieving the desired vintage sound.
- Effect Pedals
UAD Electra 88 Vintage Keyboard Studio Plugin offers an array of classic effects pedals to shape your electric piano tones. Its Vox wah pedal faithfully recreates the iconic sweep and expressive wah-wah sound. The phaser pedal provides lush, swirling modulation, adding depth and movement to your sound. Additionally, the compressor pedal delivers dynamic control, enhancing sustain and evening out your electric piano’s notes. These vintage-inspired effects pedals are essential for achieving authentic and expressive electric piano tones.
Electra Vintage Keyboard is available in VST 3, AAX, and AU plugin formats and is compatible with Windows and Mac OS.
Electra 88 is designed to provide an inspired, album-ready sound, and the plugin’s emulation extends to the subtle imperfections and nuances that give the original Rhodes its unique character, resulting in a lifelike and expressive sound.
3. Opal Morphing Synthesizer (Now on Windows)
Opal Morphing Synthesizer is a Wavetable & Analog soft-synth with unique morphing filters and classic UAD built-in effects.
The plugin consists of three main oscillators, which could be switched between conventional analog waveforms and 91 well-chosen and versatile wavetables, with up to twelve voices of unison, and an additional noise generator, with a separate Mixer section, in which you can balance the levels and even the signal flows of the oscillators and noise generators.
The oscillators have all seven basic analog waveforms, along with a special Ensemble knob that increases the number of voices of the synth, with a slight detune between them, giving a fat and wide analog sound. The plugin can also be rented out or subscribed to using UAD Spark.
- Continually variable filters
The shape of the filters can be morphed continually, from low pass to band to comb filtering to notch and so on, which can produce some interesting movements in the sound. For example, the filter shapes can be modulated using an LFO, creating cool rhythmic effects. On top of that, there’s a filter envelope available, along with a mix knob, controlling the amount of envelope mixed into the filter. In addition, there are basic resolution and slope knobs to support the filtering.
- Modulation Matrix Window
You can assign almost any control in the Opal Morphing Synth to a modulator. All you have to do is select the controls and modulators in the Source and Destination dropdown window. One can also set the amount, offset, and physical or MIDI control via the “Modulation via” option.
- Interesting Modulators
There are two basic LFOs available in the plugin, along with a unique multi-segment section, which lets you select different modulation functions like envelopes of different shapes and LFOs of different curves. In addition, there are plenty of presets to choose from.
You can add two effects to yours with an adjustable mix knob. These effects are of studio quality with parameters that you can modulate. The range of effects includes reverb, tape delay, 1176 compressor, and more.
Opal Morphing Synthesizer is currently available only on Mac, comes in AAX, AU, VST 3, and LUNA formats, and has a minimum system requirement of macOS 10.15. Now, also available on Windows 10 or more.
A huge drawback of the plugin is that you can’t load your wavetables into it, although the built-in presets are quite adaptable. Secondly, the CPU usage of Opal Morphing is high. However, the presets in the synth are great, along with its eye-pleasing interface with the changeable signal map. Overall the plugin sounds high-resolution, has immense functionality, and is versatile.
4. Moog Minimoog (Now on Windows)
UAD launched their virtual version of the legendary Minimoog synth with UAD Spark in collaboration with Moog Music.
The plugin has been created with plenty of research to emulate the classic circuitry and rigorous modeling to precisely capture the module-to-module coupling and impedance, to re-create the authentic analog sound of the original Minimoog as a soft-synth.
It has three oscillators, each with six different basic analog waveforms to choose from, along with a volume knob in the mixer window. Overall, the interface and the signal flow, like the hardware, are simple and easy to use.
- Analog filters
The plugin allows you to set the cutoff frequency, filter emphasis (resonance), and contour amount (mix) of the filter, and the filter sound warm, vintage, and analog. It’s modeled from a VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter) and the filter response has been programmed accordingly.
- Software additions
UAD has added flexible velocity sensitivity and additional modulation features like a separate LFO, modulation amount, and modulation mix sources. These features are not present in the hardware version.
- Expansive Presets
The presets are classified and organized in terms of Genre, Type, and Description, and there is a huge variety of presets you can choose from, which fit a lot of different genres and styles. That makes the sound selection process easier, especially for composers and new music producers.
The plugin requires a macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey, and is available with the UAD Spark in AAX, AU, VST3, and LUNA plugin formats. Now, also available on Windows 10 or more.
Overall, UAD Minimoog sounds close to the original hardware synthesizer and is a great emulation. The harmonic content you get from the External Input Volume can increase the quality of the audio and add the required punch, warmness, and spark to the sound. It’s a great plugin for creating vintage, analog-sounding retro synth-pop music and even EDM and modern pop.
5. Waterfall B3 Organ (Now on Windows)
The famous Hammond B3 comes to life and becomes accessible with UAD’s Waterfall B3 Organ, which is its plugin version.
The different 1958 tonewheel organ sounds from this instrument can be commonly found in various genres ranging from Jazz, RnB, Gospel, hip-hop, etc., across different decades and times. Browsing through the presets will give you an idea of the plugin’s richness, vastness, and versatility.
UAD claims that the plugin emulates the tonewheel organ precisely, resulting in realistic and dynamic playing & programming, along with 70 well-built presets for making the sound selection easier & efficient. The virtual instrument is divided into three modules: upper, lower, and pedalboard.
- Analog characteristics with Vibrato & Chorus
Three algorithms of the vibrato and chorus can be fixed with its knob, which adds a warm, wide, and thick texture to the sound. There’s also a Tube amp in it which offers authentic analog emulation.
- Keyboard Splits
The keyboard splits feature allows users to play upper and lower manuals with one MIDI controller. In addition, some parameters are directly mapped to MIDI, using which you can have real-time and hands-on control, even for performances.
- Drawbars for volume and harmonic balance
The drawbars for each module will set the volume of the triggered note’s fundamental frequency, harmonic or sub-harmonic frequency. That gives you great flexibility to design your sound as per your taste and song requirements. Nine drawbars contain up to the 8th harmonic above and two subharmonics below the fundamental frequency.
The Drive knob will set the level of the tube saturation, which will warm up the organ’s sound with its sweet harmonic enhancement, and the Reverb knob will add spring reverb which has a bouncy and synthetic ambient texture to it.
The virtual instrument is available with the UAD Spark bundle and independently in AAX, AU, VST 3, and LUNA formats, and has a minimum system requirement of macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey. And now available on Windows 10 or more.
The interface of the Waterfall B3 is unique but not easily understandable, as it’s too unconventional. However, it’s perfect for organ players. The plugin is one of the few virtual instruments that emulate an organ realistically and accurately, and it does a good job. The presets are good, and the immense research done by UAD in creating this is evident.
6. Studer® A800 Tape Recorder (Now on Windows)
Studer A800 by Universal Audio is the software emulation of the A800 magnetic tape machine and is a great way to add analog characteristics to your sounds & mixes.
It can be used for poorly recorded tracks with uncontrolled dynamics to treat all kinds of high-frequency inconsistencies. In addition, mixing engineers & producers often use tape emulations at different stages of music-making to add warmness and depth to the tracks.
Originally, A800 was a multi-track recorder that had set a sonic benchmark in the music industry and is still widely used in studios. The plugin allows adding that harmonic texture and magnetic sweetness and customizing it by giving three different tape options with different calibration levels, frequency shifts, and head bumps.
- Tape Types
You could choose from different tape types per your taste and sonic preferences. There are four types of 2″ magnetic tape formulas 250, 456, 900, and GP9. Lowel calibration level implies higher distortion and saturation.
- Tape Speed for the warm vintage sonic nature
The tape Speed of the machine can be set by the IPS (Inches Per Second) control that determines the speed of tape transport and the bass frequency buildup and dominant frequency shifts in the tape machine called a head bump. Higher IPS also raises the noise floor, increasing the overall vintage characteristics of the sound.
Studer AT800 Tape Recorder requires a Mac to run with minimum requirements of macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey, and is available as VST 3, AU, Luna, and AAX format. Now, also available on Windows 10 or more.
The plugin has expansive options to emulate the warm analog musical characteristics of the original tape machine and is a decent tool to have in your mixing arsenal. For analog texture, this is one of the best plugins that you can add to your sounds and even buses, including mix bus or master bus.
7. UAD Fairchild Tube Limiter Collection
The UAD Fairchild Tube Limiter Collection embodies the essence of vintage audio charm.
It encapsulates Fairchild 660 and 670 models’ warm tonality; it blends past and present entirely. Key features, such as authentic emulation, side-chain filtering, and time constants, provide comprehensive control over dynamic shaping, while the HR function offers a unique window into harmonic saturation.
Also, innovations like the mix/ratio control and stereo link introduce modern flexibility, enabling you to craft their signature sound. Undoubtedly, this collection is a testament to the timelessness of the Fairchild legacy, offering remarkable value in the digital realm.
- Authentic Emulation
The plugin offers accurate models of the Fairchild 670 (stereo version) and the Fairchild 660 (mono version), capturing the rich, warm tone and dynamic response that made these units legendary. The painstakingly crafted emulations breathe life into digital recordings by imparting the analog nuances inherent in these classic devices.
- Side-Chain Filtering
The side-chain filtering option is a powerful tool for producers, allowing greater control over the compression behavior. Using this feature, the compression can be manipulated to react to specific frequency ranges, thus permitting fine-tuned control over which parts of the audio signal trigger the compression.
- Tube Amplifier and Transformer Models
The Fairchild Tube Limiter Collection includes the faithful recreation of the tube amplifier and transformer circuits found in the original hardware. These unique models are pivotal to achieving the analog warmth and nonlinear dynamic characteristics that the Fairchild units are celebrated for.
- HR (Headroom) Function
The HR (Headroom) function is an exclusive feature in the UAD Fairchild Collection. It offers the ability to control the “sweet spot” of the unit, or the operating level, thereby adding a unique level of flexibility to the plugin. This function allows you to explore varying degrees of harmonic saturation and responsiveness, expanding the plugin’s versatility in a mixed setting.
- Mix/Ratio Control
This control enhances the original hardware, allowing you to blend between the uncompressed and compressed signal. This parallel compression technique can be a powerful tool, allowing for heavy compression effects while retaining the original dynamic characteristics of the signal, enhancing the sense of weight and presence in a mix.
- Stereo Link
The Stereo Link feature in the Fairchild 670 model ensures the same gain reduction is applied to both channels. This is vital when processing stereo signals, maintaining a stable and coherent stereo image, and preventing unwanted shifts or imbalances in the soundstage.
UAD Fairchild Tube Limiter Collection is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
The UAD Fairchild Tube Limiter Collection blends the rich, analog allure of the revered Fairchild limiters with the precision of contemporary software design. Simultaneously, it is not a simple nostalgia trip; the UAD Fairchild Collection is a sophisticated and adaptable tool for today’s producers, enhancing everything from drum tracks to entire mixes.
So, its fusion of authentic sonic character, thoughtful design, and innovative features makes it one of the best Fairchild plugin options today.
8. Brigade Chorus (Now on Windows)
The UAD Brigade Chorus is a software plugin that emulates the sound of the Roland Dimension D, a rack-mountable chorus unit from the 1980s.
The plugin uses digital signal processing to emulate the sounds of classic analog gear and is designed to provide the same lush, stereo chorus effect as the original hardware unit. It can be used on various audio sources, including vocals, guitars, and keyboards.
- Stereo and Mono Modes
The plugin offers both stereo and mono modes, which allows for a wide range of versatility when using the plugin on different audio sources. The stereo mode can create a wide, stereo-enhancing effect on stereo tracks, while mono mode can add depth and richness to mono tracks.
- Rate and Depth control
These controls allow you to adjust the speed and intensity of the effect, respectively. This can create a wide range of sounds, from subtle and natural-sounding to more pronounced and dramatic effects.
- High-quality processing
The plugin uses high-quality digital signal processing to emulate the original hardware’s sound accurately. This ensures that the plugin sounds close to the original Roland Dimension D.
- Compatibility with the UAD platform
The plugin is part of the UAD platform. Hence, you can use it with other UAD plugins and hardware to create a powerful and versatile recording and mixing environment.
The Brigade Chorus plugin requires a UAD-2 DSP Accelerator or Apollo Interface, a compatible host application, 8GB or more of RAM, a modern multicore processor, and an internet connection for activation. The operating system required is Windows 10 64-bit Edition (latest Service Pack) or macOS 10.15 Catalina, macOS 11.0 Big Sur, or later.
Lastly, the plugin is available in AAX, AU, and VST plugin formats.
The plugin also includes level and mix controls, which allow you to adjust the overall level of the effect, as well as the balance between the dry and wet signals. This allows you to easily dial in the perfect amount of effect for any audio source.
Overall, it is a versatile plugin offering many features and options. It emulates the sound of the Roland Dimension D, offers stereo and mono modes, rate and depth controls, level and mix controls, and high-quality processing, and is compatible with the UAD platform.
9. Studio D Chorus (Now on Windows)
Dimension D, created by Roland, is known for the stereo width and chorus effect. That is because it adds to the musical element(s) it uses.
UAD’s plugin version of it is called Studio D Chorus, and you can use it to create dense and royal ambient effects on guitars, backing vocals, drums, synths, and almost anything. Sonically, it makes the sounds more open and wider, sending the sound, for example, a backing vocal in the background, complementing the main vocal.
It’s a subtle effect but can add a lot of analog depth to your sounds due to its strong phase effect, which results in contrasting left and right channels that are best used on harmonies, ad-libs, synths, cymbals, shakers, guitars, and also to main vocals, but only for a specific psychedelic type flanged texture.
- Simple Interface
The plugin is easy to use with only four push buttons, each adding different intensity levels of the chorus effect to the sound. These buttons are called modulation modes, and you can use one or more of these buttons at once.
- Analog Chorus Effect
The chorus algorithm makes the input audio travel through 1024 stages, as opposed to most digital chorus plugins that use only up to 512 stages, which makes the overall sound deeper and more dynamic, and creates new & better movements.
You can run the plugin on a Mac with Intel or Apple silicon processor, macOS 10.15+, 11 Big Sur+, or 12 Monterey+, and a DAW that supports AAX, VST 3, AU, or LUNA formats. Now, also available on Windows 10 or more.
Studio D Chorus can save much time and processing for treating the backing vocals and other backing instruments, especially stereo imaging plugins and multi-channel EQing. In addition, the plugin readily creates the stereo contrast and depth needed in the background elements of the track.
10. Galaxy Tape Echo (Now on Windows)
Galaxy Tape Echo has high standards to meet based on the Roland RE-201 Space Echo, which creates warm, warped, and analog tape delay/spring reverb effects.
The RE-201 can be heard on records from Pink Floyd to David Bowie, making it a classic ambient effect plugin is known for its subtle yet unique texture, musical wow and flutter, sweet harmonic enhancement, sci-fi pitch shifting, and immense control. Its plugin version now makes the sci-fi textures, cold shimmer of the spring reverb, and its creative movements accessible to more producers, artists, and engineers.
- Head Selection
The plugin has a unique interface with three different heads, each of which has different ranges of delay time settings. Head Select knob allows you to select one or more heads for the tape delay (called “echo”) and spring reverb.
- Separate Delay and Reverb Settings Windows
You can tweak the settings for echo and spring reverb independently in different tabs, which gives you good control over the ambiance and sonics of the sound. That also means that you can use only the reverb or delay in the plugin, and not necessarily use both of them together.
- Bass knob for analog texture
The bass knob allows you to control the low-frequency response of the tape echo portion of the signal without affecting the dry and reverb audios. This enhances the typical warm and deep texture of tape delay to the delayed signal.
- Tape Loop Effects
The Splice switch resets the location of the tape splice, which keeps changing after regular intervals set by the delay rate. Its switch can be turned on or off. Alongside the switch, there’s a tape age switch which determines the tape’s age, depending on how vintage you want the plugin to sound. You can set the age to new, old, or used depending on your taste and project.
The plugin demands a Mac with Intel or Apple silicon processor, and other general UAD SPark requirements. Now, also available on Windows 10 or more.
Galaxy Tape Echo is expansive and gives you great control over the delay and reverb settings, with an overall deep analog sound texture. The interface looks great, has a single window, and offers a streamlined workflow.
11. AMPEX® ATR-102 Mastering Tape Recorder
ATR-102 is a reputed industry-standard recorder used for mastering due to its deep saturation and unique color.
UAD has recreated it virtually to be used on the mix bus and master bus to add glue, dynamics, more punch, and a unique tone to your sounds. There are a bunch of presets to choose from and to also learn different controls from. Effects like cross-talk, flutter, delay, etc., can further enhance the sonic nature and result in undesirable textures if not used correctly.
- Cal Level
Calibration levels are used to optimize the incoming audio signal, whether it is of higher amplitude or lower than the required input level. Although there are recommended levels at which input must be, that can also be staged using cal levels.
- Record level
For more extensive gain control, you can use the record level to set the gain for the incoming input signal. Higher input will result in higher harmonic additions, while lower levels will give a more subtle effect.
- Hidden Features
There’s a tone box present in the plugin that gives you more control over the tonal characteristics. That includes effects like shelf EQ for left and right channels, hiss, hum, wow, x-talk, transformer, tape delay, and other effects. The tone box section also makes the plugin usable on individual instruments/vocals tracks, not just masters.
You require a Mac system with macOS 10.15 or higher and a DAW that supports AU, VSt 3, Luna, or AAX formats to run the plugin.
AMPEX® ATR-102 is well-suited for strings, synths, and more, and the overall accessible sonic control gives you the flexibility to shape the sound as per your taste and genre. Overall, it offers good ROI, high sound quality, great utility, and is easy to use. If we compare it with the hardware, there are some subtle differences, but it justifies the emulation.
12. Manley VOXBOX Channel Strip
VOXBOX is a compilation of different high-quality effects, designed especially for processing vocals but can also be applied to other instruments.
Universal Audio has emulated VOXBOX as a virtual plugin, which is a hybrid of many effects like a tune-driven preamp, well-designed EQ circuits with Puitec-style passive EQ (with 33 different frequencies to select from), and more for an overall rich and thick vocal track, that is clear, concise, has a unique tone, and stands out.
- Expansive Signal Flow
The audio signal travels from a series of plugins starting from an Optical Compressor to a Tube Preamp, then a Gain Reduction with the signal parallelly side-chained to the optical compressor, then a Passive Equalizer, to a De-Esser limiter, and finally the output. That is a good range of plugins for extensive vocal effects. With this being the default signal flow, we can make the changes to it.
- Complete control
The settings are detailed and adjustable for each effect present in the plugin. For example, the source could be a line or a mic input, with phase reversal options, the compressor can have multiple attack times and release times, etc. The hands-on control due to all the knobs and switches is a huge advantage.
The plugin can only be run on Mac with macOS 10.15 (or higher) Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey, on a DAW that supports AAX, VST 3, AU, and Luna formats.
The effects in the VOXBOX are good quality and high grade, and UAD emulated that well in its virtual version. In addition, the layout is an organized and user-friendly interface with a concise and easily comprehendible audio path, making it a great tool for vocal processing.
13. EMT® 140 Classic Plate Reverberator
EMT 140 is one of the earliest plate reverb machines that UAD has emulated to create a plugin version.
It has three plates, each of which the reverb time could be separately selected, along with a pre-delay knob, a dry/wet knob, modulation controls, EQ, balance, and width controls. EMT 140 is famous for its shimmer, lush, and natural depth and is suited for vocals, drums, and guitars.
- Control Panel
EMT 140’s front panel allows you to go into the nitty-gritty of every single plate, in which you can customize the reverb effects by tweaking the damp time, EQ, Pre-delay, modulation rate, signal path, etc.
- Plate Colors
Each plate has its sound; for example, A is the brightest of all three plates, B has more low end and is warmer, and C offers full bandwidth response. In addition, the input filter can be used to add more specific and specialized colors and to clean the sounds.
EMT 140, available with UAD Spark and independently, can be run only on Mac, with macOS 10.15 or later versions.
The high-end reverb sound in the plugin sounds great on the snare, electric guitars, and spatial & dreamy psychedelic vocals like that of Pink Floyd, giving it a unique aesthetic. You can especially use it for 80s pop, and with a shorter decay, you can also use it for commercial pop vocals. The plugin is one of the best-sounding plate reverbs and does a good job of recreating the original.
14. Capitol Chambers
UAD has emulated the reverb chamber of Capitol studios in LA in this plugin.
Developed by Les Paul in the early 1960s, this technology is based on echo chambers for creating ambient effects. The plugin utilizes four echo chamber emulations, four varying mics, and adjustable mic positions. Other than that, it’s a typical reverb plugin with the option to set pre-delay, decay, low pass filter, three bands equalizer, dry/wet mix, and the stereo width.
- Natural sound
The reverb in the plugin sounds dense and organic. In addition, the emulation of mics and texture of the room has been captured precisely, which could give your vocals, instruments, or drums a nice ambient effect.
- Mic control
A slider in the plugin allows you to set how far the mics are placed, wherein minimum implies lower distance between the mics, and maximum implies otherwise. Apart from that, the room modeling is dynamic and accurate.
Capitol Chambers, like all UADx and UAD Spark plugins, are compatible only with macOS 10.15 or higher systems, with DAWs that support VST 3, AAX, AU, and LUNA plugins formats.
The interface is simple, with good visual feedback on the echo chamber and mic placements. The color & layout gives you a retro feel while using the plugin. In terms of emulation, it does a decent job and is one of the best virtual reverb chambers. Finally, the controls are familiar and easy to set, and the plugin sounds warm, natural, and vintage.
Ravel (Now on Windows)
UAD’s Ravel is its first acoustic modeled virtual instrument based on the Steinway Model B’s grand piano.
The plugin is based on the company’s physical modeling techniques. It was recorded using vintage mics by the renowned engineer Allen Sides, giving it a natural playing experience and a full & superior yet responsive and expressive sound. In addition, the close and room mics can be mixed and used in different settings. You can add animated effects to your sounds like reversed piano and other experimental and modern sonic characteristics and textures for more dramatic effects.
- Tone slider
The tone slider gives you access to a single-control EQ, which gives a dark to bright texture to the sound from left to right. It’s a combination of a low shelf and a high shelf curve, which brings about tonal changes to the sound.
- Dynamic slider
That lets you control the instrument’s responsiveness to the input MIDI velocity and release data. From left to right, the emphasis changes from low velocity to high-velocity sounds.
- Simple interface
The GUI is intuitive and uncomplicated, making it easy to navigate through the plugin with straightforward and easily understandable controls, which is perfect, especially for beginner producers, and also composers who just want to use ready-made sounds without having to tweak a lot.
Ravel requires at least 10 GB of free storage in an APFS (Apple File System) formatted SSD drive and is available as AAX, AU, LUNA, and VST 3 format plugins. It’s available on Mac and Windows 10 or more.
Ravel has plenty of controls like Polyphony, Continuous Pedal, and Tuning. It is designed so that the highest dynamics and the true performance can be captured and recorded. That makes the plugin realistic. Overall, it’s a great tool for naturally majestic and epic piano sounds.
AKG BX 20 Spring Reverb
BX20 by AKG, a spring reverb known for its dark and ambient spatial treatment, is now emulated by UAD and available as a software plugin.
The spring reverb BX20, launched in the 1960s, can be specially used to treat guitars and vocals for a unique gloomy tone that artists like Lana Del Rey, Norah Jones, Pink Floyd, and more have in their productions. In addition, spring reverb can add beautiful lush textures to your sound and is a great plugin for creating interesting drum room sounds.
- Easy GUI
The plugin has a simple single window interface, with few knobs and controls, that make the process uncomplicated. Secondly, there’s no visual feedback, which means that you can easily base your decision on what you hear.
- Reverb Controls
You can set the reverb in mono or stereo, can set the pre-delay, and decay time, volume, and pan for both the channels, along with a dry/wet knob, a low cut filter, bass, and treble controls for detailed sonic shaping.
- Tank Selection
Different tanks give different levels of brightness and sound characteristics, and you get the option to select one or both of the two tanks. For example, A is designed in a way to give shimmery and bity sound, whereas B adds warmer and soother characteristics.
The plugin can run only on Mac and can be brought independently or subscribed to with the UAD Spark bundle, which is available in AAX, AU, VST 3, and LUNA plugin formats.
The haunting and dissonant texture of the spring reverb is unique and greatly captured by AKG in the plugin BX20. As a producer, you can greatly benefit from the aesthetic feel of the plugin, as it will add more versatility to your sonic scape. However, this is not a great tool if you’re looking for a natural or organic reverb sound.
Pultec Passive EQ Collection (Now on Windows)
The Pultec Passive EQ Collection by UAD consists of plugin versions of the classic EQP-1A, MEQ-5, and HLF-3C equalizers.
Plutec EQs are known for their silky smooth and warm tonal characteristics. I use Pultec on almost everything, ranging from the kick, snare, vocals, guitars, bass, and more, because of their punchy sound and versatile nature. It gives an almost instant analog spark to whatever it’s used on. UAD’s plugin version of it is close to the original hardware version, with ready-to-use presets that can clean and polish your sounds, and give them one-of-a-kind treatment.
- Pultec Special Design
The technology behind the Pultec EQ is based on the fact that it boosts the same sound that it cuts, just at different bandwidths. That creates a natural and interactive resonant dip, while also adjusting the adjacent frequencies.
The MEQ-5 is great for shaping mid-ranges and is great for treating acoustic instruments, guitars, and vocals. On the other hand, EQP-1A is great for processing transients, which makes it great for drums and other percussive instruments. Lastly, the HLF-3C has deeper slopes on the low cut and high cut frequency bands, creating a retro and analog feel.
You need to have a Mac system with macOS 10.15 or higher and a DAW that supports AU, VSt 3, Luna, or AAX formats to run the plugin. Now, also available on Windows 10 or more.
Note that the plugin’s vocabulary and functionality are different from most equalizer plugins; that’s why it has attenuation and boost knobs, along with frequencies termed as CPS (Cycles Per Second). Hence, it’s important to understand the plugin’s algorithm and terminologies before using it. However, sonically, UAD has attempted to recreate the technology, and the collection is a good toolkit in your arsenal.
Lexicon 480L Digital Reverb and Effects
Lexicon 480L is an 80s digital effects processor famous for its reverb unit, which comes with digital remote control to tweak the effects and its parameters.
Universal Audio has recreated the 480L as a virtual plugin with unique and off-beat parameters and functionality. The reverb types or algorithms like Hall, Plate, etc., are selected via the Bank section, in which the presets can be selected using Program. Further, pages determine which parameters can be controlled by the six sliders present in the plugin.
- Hidden Input-Output Control
In the hardware version, the numbers are used to access different patches; however, in the software, if you click on the “Open” drop-down next to it, it will open a new tab, which lets you control input and output for the left and right channels.
- High-Quality sounds
The plugin is versatile in terms of reverb sounds, and the reverb itself is high grade and studio quality. From a studio room to a hall reverb to a drum room, almost every type of space is available in the program bank that will suit your varying needs.
The plugin demands a Mac with Intel or Apple silicon processor, and other general UAD SPark requirements.
Lexicon 480L has an unusual interface which may make its use difficult, time-consuming, and complicated. I wish UAD would have added straight-forward reverb parameters like pre-delay, decay, modulations, etc., to the interface for easy access and control because the reverb sounds great and has a huge range of various algorithms to choose from.
Teletronix® LA-3A Audio Leveler
The LA-3A is a hybrid of the classic Teletronix LA-2A and UA 1176 compressors, which combine gentle optical compression with solid state clarity and punch in the virtual dynamic processor by UAD.
The plugin can be switched between a limiter and a compressor and is generally known for creating upfront and in-your-face dynamic characteristics in your sounds. Even if you don’t apply any level changes to the sound, the plugin just by itself will add its unique texture to the sound. It includes output gain (make-up gain), peak reduction, and different ratios and threshold settings for compressor and limiter modes.
- Adjustable VU meter
The VU meter shows real-time switchable gain reduction and output levels. That gives you a visual picture of the overall loudness within the plugin. It also gives a more vintage and old school feel while using the plugin.
- Easy to use
The GUI is extremely simple, with few controls that make the dynamic processing less complicated and easier. Even by simply applying the plugin to your sound, without any evident compression, it will add its color. Further, you can simply use presets without tweaking much, and audition if it works for you.
LA3A Audio Leveler has a minimum requirement of macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey, and is available only on Mac currently, in AAX, VST3, Luna, and AU plugin formats.
The plugin is a decent emulation of the legendary compressor, but the real hardware circuits have an altogether different and enhanced flavor, which is difficult to replicate. However, among all the emulations, UAD has got closest and can crack the formula with its plugin.
We have mentioned in the post almost every kind of plugin or instrument you will need for your production and mixing-mastering that may not be available natively in your DAW or as a free plugin. Universal Audio has a huge range of software, but we hand-picked the best of the lot that has both utility and quality.
From creating analog textures to experimental sound design effects to basic vocal processing, we have covered it all in the list. I tend to use a lot of Studio D Chorus on my backing vocals and instrument tracks to add wideness, depth, and separation to those tracks. Apart from that, the LA-3A compressor and Pultec equalizers are almost always in my tracks’ plugin chain of main vocals.
Lastly, Lexicon Digital reverb is my go-to reverb plugin for almost every type of spatial effect and room emulations. Overall, UAD is one of the leading music tech companies that consistently innovate and puts effort into recreating these classic audio effect gadgets and instruments virtually so they are accessible to everyone. Hope this article was useful and valuable.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.