Since the 1950s, UAD has been a major participant in the audio signal processing industry, producing everything from effects pedals and audio interfaces to virtual instruments and plugins. This has earned them a stellar reputation as a high-quality, dependable audio gear and software manufacturer.
It is well-known for its ability to faithfully recreate classic devices as modern software instruments and plugins. However, you may get your hands on Universal Audio plugins by purchasing an Apollo or other firm gear or a subscription to UAD Spark, which is Mac-only and not compatible with Windows. The company website states that the Windows version will be released in the fall of 2022.
So, Why Are UAD Plugins So Expensive?
UAD Plugins are expensive because of their hardware accelerator. It’s a digital signal processor chip, not even an accelerator. It’s not your regular CPU but rather a specialized one built to perform the kinds of computations required by those plugins at speeds much above those of your regular CPU.
So while a Waves plugin would require several lines of code to do tasks like convolution, filter curves, and non-linear processing, the UAD chip can achieve these things with a few simple multiplications. And since it’s a DSP chip and not your CPU, it doesn’t have to compete for resources with tasks as banal as checking the time or generating images on a screen.
UAD plugins are modeled by the hardware they emulate. The company’s purpose has been and continues to be to conserve classic and old equipment and create plugins that emulate the sound of such equipment, such as guitars and compressors.
In the following, we will discuss in depth some of the benefits that UAD incorporates into their plugins and the reasons for their high price.
That’s fantastic news for the guitar and bass players out there.
Hosting Universal Audio plugins means using the audio interface’s native DSP acceleration allows plugins to be used in real-time without stressing the host computer’s central processing unit (CPU). Traditional audio interfaces and plugins suffer from audio latency throughout the recording process, which is problematic.
In other words, there would be some audio lag if you tried to record guitar or bass into one of these amp modeling plugins. Universal Audio’s DSP-enabled audio interfaces end this issue once and for all. This may be conceived of as a link to the physical hardware. The UAD audio interface “morphs” into the plugin you’re using, if you recall. You might compare it to having a whole rack of effects built into your audio interface.
Before sending the signal to the DAW, all processing is done inside. Of course, you may always record with a “dry” signal and add an effect afterward, but this option can make recording much more precise and fun. Just picture yourself holding the entire arsenal in your hand; it’s the way of the future, I’m telling you!
Analog modelling technology
The first distinction that must be made is between digital and analog modeling (or physical modeling). The time and effort put into creating a high-quality analog-modeled plugin is the primary differentiator between the two.
Instead of just simulating an analog circuit, Universal Audio and other reputed plugin developers bring the analog world into the digital realm. Even while we still don’t compare Universal Audio to other premium plugin developers, we do differentiate between average and poor plugins.
To make a product that sounds just like the original, Universal Audio “borrows” the blueprints and builds a copy from scratch. Each plugin has been authorized by the original developers before being made available, making it an important task. So, if you were staring at the real amp in your hands, it would be possible to fine-tune the sound of the UAD plugin and then copy those settings. In all likelihood, the digital model would result in a different tone.
Right about now, we get to the meat of what makes Universal Audio stand out from the crowd. Their Unison-compatible preamps have single-handedly changed the face of analog modeling, and you’ll find them in most of their audio interfaces. In addition, some of the Universal Audio plugins communicate straight to these preamps.
So, the Unison-compatible plugins from Universal Audio can do things like automatically tune preamps by:
- Setting the input impedance.
- Advantages of Dialing gain staging a “Sweet Spot.”
- Using individual parts to simulate circuit behavior
Universal Audio plugins’ unique selling proposition is that they operate like the hardware they are supposed to simulate. While several analog-modeled plugins may mimic the authentic sound, nothing beats the experience of using the actual thing. That is to say, the UAD audio interface “converts” into the software instrument. The best thing is that the volume is always right because they hit all the right notes.
Everything beneath the hood works so well that every instrument run through them sounds great. Plugins handle all the technical aspects, so you can enjoy incredible-sounding presets regardless of your configuration choices.
Many plugins had restricted functionality and fixed settings until recently and the user could not modify the settings. But when UAD switched from hardware to software, all of the same features needed to be at their disposal.
A modular architecture was built so the software’s functionality could be altered as needed. However, there’d have to be tight integration between the plugins and their companion plugins for it to operate, and it wouldn’t be cheap. Also, each UAD plugin would be unique since it would be modeled after a specific tool.
Similar to the original tools they try to mimic, plugins should allow for extensive personalization. They wouldn’t be through with the plugins yet, since new functionality would be added as time went on.
As the last topic, we’ll discuss the goodwill that’s built up between Universal Audio and the manufacturers of the authentic gear they’ve cloned. This is crucial because, as we’ve already established, you’re using the same circuit as the original. They just copied and pasted the blueprints into the computer.
Those plugins are fantastic, and I truly value the effort that went into making them. As was previously said, the original manufacturer gave their stamp of approval before distribution, so if they deem it fit, it must be OK for us. Grammy-winning producers and engineers, on the other hand, would strongly disagree with these individuals. But our digital technology allows us to accomplish so much more. If you need something as near as possible, Universal Audio is it.
Do you need to buy expensive plugins?
We don’t believe it’s essential to be a member of such an ecosystem and invest so much money in plugins that might work against you if you don’t know how to utilize them. There are several online choices available for you, and if you want to invest in something that will help you advance.
You may enroll in specialist audio engineering classes or purchase online packages that will teach you how to mix music as correctly and finely as possible. But, let’s examine some reasons why UAD plugins are advantageous.
The developers’ goal of the plugins was to create something that mimicked the sound of traditional spring reverb devices. Developers had to disassemble spring reverb devices to learn their inner workings. It took a lot of time and effort, but the end product is a plugin miming the sound of a hardware spring reverb.
Also, the quality might vary widely from one manufacturer to the next. As a new producer, you probably shouldn’t spend money on UAD plugins. UAD plugins aren’t cheap, but they’re well worth it if you’re an experienced audio engineer or producer who knows how to maximize your potential.
As a rookie producer, you probably don’t know enough about audio engineering to get the most out of UAD plugins. As a result, the plugins are useless, and you waste your money. An inexperienced producer might save money by opting for a less expensive plugin that doesn’t sacrifice quality.
I think it’s clear by now why Universal Audio plugins are superior and cost a little more than the alternatives. It’s the total package since it complements the hardware so well. So, the UAD audio interface is required for usage.
In addition, the Realtime Analog Classics Bundle, a collection of premium plugins, is included at no cost with every audio interface purchased from Universal Audio. Everything you need to get going is included in the package, but it wasn’t enough to win me over!
To truly benefit from working with Universal Audio, I believe you should ditch all of your other plugins in favor of theirs. While I mostly use UAD plugins when recording guitar and bass, I occasionally use other plugins. They’re not simply add-ons, they’re like a virtual piece of hardware.
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Death metal enthusiast here. I am a Romanian musician and producer with over 13 years of experience in the music industry. I’ve experienced all types of Metal up until now, playing Melodic Death Metal, Brutal Death Metal, and Black Metal with different bands. Learning by doing is my base principle, which is why I’ve been drawn to sound design from an early age. Read more…