UAD gear and plugins: Thoughts?

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by nightlight, Feb 23, 2021.

  1. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    Wondering who is using their gear and plugins and how. I always felt I couldn't load enough of their plugins with the DSP I had. I do have a tonne of their plugins though, I like how musical they sound (ime), though I have heard the counter-argument that you can do the same with other plugins that aren't locked into their hardware.
     
  2. thebeesknees22

    thebeesknees22 SS.org Regular

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    There are other people here more qualified than me to speak on this.

    My thoughts on UAD:
    The dudes on this forum recommended going the UAD route when I was looking for a new interface and I got the quad core version. The dudes on here did steered me straight (as always), and plugins sound great! I did end up picking up an octo satellite and now I'm pretty good on DSP for what I do.

    Overall I like it a lot. If you have a not so great computer then having the DSP unloaded onto another device is handy. (but i have a pretty beefy machine so it's probably not necessary for me)

    UAD itself: I don't like the uadforum ..at all... I steer clear of that place, because it leaves a bad taste in my mouth for the company itself. I think the way they've handled Luna and the extensions is a little ...dishonest... and I've seen lots of people feeling like they got burned by going all in on that when it's really in beta and is a few years out from being really usable. (thankfully I did my homework for once, and I've steered clear of all that...but I wouldn't buy into the hype you see on youtube imho. It's way too early to go all in and blow $1000 on extensions)

    bottom line: UAD has cool stuff! Great sounding stuff! Not sure I like how the company does business. I don't like the cult-ish attitude on their forums and other places. From what I've researched so far it seems like some of the plugin alliance plugins are exactly the same or pretty darn close. So I think you're free to pick your poison if you have a computer that's beefy enough to handle all the plugins you want to run.

    ex):
    https://uadforum.com/general-discussion/20570-plugin-alliance-vs-uad.html

    Would I go the UAD route again? yeah I think so? If my main machine goes down and I have to go back to my old machine I can, and I don't have to worry too much about the DSP load on it so in that respect it's a good safety net. ...And their stuff does sound great. The workflow is easy. I would just be a lot more choosey on which plugins I bought because I could probably get all the ones I really use in one 10 bundle. Being tied to their hardware kinda sucks. I'm not sure how it works when the apollos get replaced someday. Will plugins roll over to your new hardware or will we all have to rebuy everything...... Given how UAD operates I'm 99% sure I would have to rebuy alllll the plugins. When that day comes I'll probably just ditch UAD. But I think I'm probably good for at least the next 7-10 yrs on the apollo's so it's not something I worry about. By that time I'm sure there'll be something way better on the market anyway and my current setup is great for this generation.

    If you go the UAD route you'll want the quad for sure, and you'll probably want a satellite. Which isn't toooo bad in USD but in my CAD monies it's pretty expensive. ...as is everything in Canadia... sigh...
     
  3. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    One of the biggest benefits of UAD is their internal oversampling to 192k, which reduces/eliminates aliasing and as a result, “behaves more like analog gear.” A plugin (with saturation/compression aka nonlinearities) at 192k sounds cleaner and has more depth vs the same plugin at 48k. Having this CPU intensive processing done on external DSP chips is pretty nice; but not necessary if you have a computer that can process your projects at 192k. The problem with a 192k sample rated project is that a lot of plugins, like most of Waves offerings, are only designed for 96k, and doubling the sample rate beyond their code with incorrectly respond. (Ex. A 2k boost in an eq plugin will boost 4k instead.)

    The other thing UAD offers seemingly exclusively in the digital/plugin realm is the ability to record into them, and record the processed signal, just like you’d do with the analog gear. Once your track is recorded: you can remove the plugins from the Apollo signal chain and free up all that DSP for mixing; and have a lot less to do, because the source sound is already great.

    I use an Apollo Twin duo and a satellite quad, which allows me to use any plugin chain I want during tracking, with DSP to spare. I only buy UAD specific plugins from them, and only during Black Friday/xmas sales. The brainworx stuff is exactly the same code as Plugin Alliance, albeit oversampled. I instead buy the brainworx stuff whenever it goes on sale for $30-40 and stick them inside DDMG metaplugin to oversample to 192k. This way I can keep my project session at 48k, and still use Waves plugins (also in metaplugin, but oversampled to 96k).

    They make great plugins and have a very practical real world use for studios; but they’re not the end all be all. Get the essentials (LA2A, 1176, 1073/84, tape machine etc) that you primarily want to use for tracking, and maybe a few cool plugins exclusive to UAD. Then grab metaplugin and use it to oversample native 3rd party plugins you couldn’t before, and freeze as needed, because it is CPU intensive.
     
  4. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank SS.org Regular

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    Because of this thread I was wondering how old my Apollo Quad is, 6 years to the day, I think that's the only reason I'm writing now. ;)

    I have been using UAD cards for about twice as long.

    The hardware I would buy again any time, it was a huge step up in reproduction qualities compared to the Fireface from RME.
    The Console is also very good for simpler applications, but cannot be compared with Digi Mix (again RME). I did several FOH stuff with it and recorded at the same time, rock solid.

    The plug-ins are also great, of course, but you can actually find an equivalent for everything at the same level, albeit with a slightly different flavour maybe.
    I wouldn't buy it again because of the plugins alone.
    Too many positive developments have taken place here in recent years.
     
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  5. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    That's an interesting way to look at it. I've actually resigned myself to the fact that I will always be stuck with projects at 44.1khz or 48khz at best because UAD plugins take way more DSP at higher sampling rates. Given the fact that you cannot split a single plugin across multiple DSP chips, you often run out of processing power faster than the theoretical threshold for the number of plugin instances.

    See this chart: UAD-2 DSP Chart – Universal Audio Support Home (uaudio.com)

    Look at the DSP requirement for a single instance of Manley Voxbox or Ocean Way Studios, for example. And those are at 44.1. UAD used to have a different kind of chart at one point of time, I can't find it anymore. But that used to show that the number of plugins at 192 fell drastically.

    In my case, I have an Apollo 8p, with four DSP cores, and when I bought it, I got lucky, because UAD was giving away free Octo satellites at that point of time with purchases of the interface. I've also heavily invested in plugins, since I actually found a remarkable difference in comparison to the Ozone plugins I own, such as the EQs and the compressors.

    Despite that, I find that I often run out of DSP power at critical instances towards the end of my mixes, usually something like adding reverbs and processing buses or trying to get some extra shine out of a guitar track.

    I have an i9 iMac with 65 gigs of RAM. In that sense, the inability to run the UAD plugins on anything other than the DSP cores built into the hardware just seems like a really, really poor design choice that is influenced by the desire to prevent the plugins from being run on anything other than UAD devices. Of course, given what I've seen of software piracy by musicians, maybe I shouldn't complain.

    I do like your idea of using the Console to free up DSP when recording. Gave me the idea of sending my amp tones through a virtual bus and then re-recording the processed signal. Not a fan of freezing though, unless absolutely necessary, as it gets in the way of my mix workflow (which admittedly is still a work in progress and hence, I need to keep tweaking incessantly).
     
  6. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    That is a scary thought. It is worth noting that UAD-1 plugins still work on UAD devices, so I am confident that they will support UAD-2 plugins with the new devices (I hope).

    I also tried Luna, it was buggy as hell. Will stick with Logic and Cubase for the time being.

    As I mentioned, it was dumb luck that I got a Satellite thrown in with my Apollo 8P, because I really hadn't done my homework before the purchase and hence threads like this where I am wondering how everyone uses their UAD products.
     
  7. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    Yeah if you use UAD plugins almost exclusively for mixing then DSP can be insanely annoying. I personally save presets so I can render the file and remove the UAD plugin. If I’m using Ocean Way (love it to death) then I’ll set it how I want, save the settings by song name/instrument, render a new file, and mute the original.

    That frees up my DSP, and prevents me from aimless tweaking. If I absolutely need to change the settings, which rarely if ever happens, then I’d delete the render, place Ocean away back on the original file, pull up the preset, and make the adjustment, re-save, and render.

    Using my own presets makes for a faster workflow overall too. I find that I tend to like similar settings for vocals, drums, guitars etc. so pulling up my preset from another song in a similar style (I record every style imaginable) and I’m 90% there.

    I go out of the box into analog gear as well, so I’m used to getting the sound I want in context, and printing the track to free up my gear for another track, so this workflow is second nature to me.
     
  8. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    That is so cool. I'm sure the actual analog gear would be far superior to the plugins, but it all costs an arm and a leg and I don't think my level of skills merits that kind of investment. Maybe if I win the lottery, otherwise I'll just have to make do.

    The idea of freezing tracks is a good one, perhaps I should try that. I'm also on the lookout for a second Octo Satellite, if I can snag one cheap enough. My mixing skills are just so lousy that more often than not, once I have tweaked one track to satisfaction, everything falls apart when I mix a couple of the other instruments.

    In that sense, I keep second-guessing myself. And often, once I have exported a track for auditioning on other sound sources, I realise that it sounds horrible, and then I have to start from scratch. If I froze everything, it would take me hours and hours more to get usable results.

    Ocean Way is great, best reverb I've ever used, it just gives everything a sonic sheen that would be impossible in a small studio. Almost like remicing a track.
     
  9. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    I definitely would NOT buy into the ecosystem in 2021.

    Firstly, I think it's accepted that the UAD Apollo series is nothing super special in terms of the quality of converters etc. And for the price, there are better options available, such as Apogee Element.

    There are lots and lots and lots of amazing plugins out there nowadays. For a start, the built-in plugins in most DAWs are great. The ones in Logic are brilliant, and good enough for pretty much any home mixing. For amp sims, the Neural stuff is WAY better than the UAD/Brainworx models. And if you want to get fancy, FabFilter has great compressors, limiters, EQ, reverb, delays etc. The UAD hardware preamp emulation stuff is snake oil IMO. It's applying compression and EQ. And for any of us recording metal, do we really give a shit about this fancy preamp emulation stuff?

    A good reason to buy an audio interface is about using it, including latency. On my computer, recording some stuff in Logic with an Apogee Duet (5-6 years old, USB connection), I'm looking at round-trip latencies of 5.8ms (64 sample) or 8.7ms (128 samples) in a project with about 20 tracks with various plugins loaded, including virtual drums. Those latencies are simply not a factor which affects tracking. 5.8ms is like standing 2 meters away from your speakers. On a cut down project, I can reduce to 32 samples and have latencies of 4.3ms. Using DSP really isn't going to be a game-changer that will make that much lower.

    So, for me, I just don't "get" the idea of buying into the ecosystem, paying a lot of money for plugins, and then being stuck in that ecosystem.
     
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  10. jephjacques

    jephjacques BUTTS LOL

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    I've been using an Apollo 8 interface for a couple years now and I really like it. Rock solid, sounds good, plenty of I/O options. I haven't made a ton of use of the onboard plugins, but I do use some of the preamp emulations and they sound really nice. Their plugins in general are good, but depending on what you need you might be better served by FabFilter, Waves, or some other company.
     
  11. thebeesknees22

    thebeesknees22 SS.org Regular

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    That's probably fair @Flappydoodle

    With the advances in tech, an ecosystem like this has a limited lifespan but so does everything else tech related. Computers get faster and faster all the time so eventually DSP is going to be a non issue for most everyone in the audio world.

    I don't really look at interfaces and plugins as something that I'll use forever. I look at in terms of "this is good for 5-10 yrs" which breaks down to X dollars a month. Because in 10 yrs there will be something way better on the market that I'll upgrade to anyway and whatever interface and plugins I'm using now will be replaced at some point down the road no matter what it is. So I don't see myself as being stuck per se.
     
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  12. The Thing Upstairs

    The Thing Upstairs SS.org Regular

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    As someone who bought a Twin x duo last week, I agree with this. I’m sending it back.
    I think the converters sound good, and it is certainly a step up from my 2i2, but the amp models didn’t float my boat and the more I tried to play with it, the more the lock in is apparent.
    I’m not slating the product at all - it’s a good device, just not for me so the hunt continues. I like the look of apogees symphony desktop but it is half baked at the moment, and, I think I want 4 pres so I can use 2 mics and a DI.
     
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  13. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    Sadly, that's what happens when you don't do enough research/look at things with a very short horizon in mind and money burning a hole in your pocket. I have an RME Fireface 800 that is miles ahead of the UAD stuff when it comes to routing options and ease of use. It's virtually unlimited when it comes to coming up with unique routing options, whereas the Apollo can't even do some of the more basic things I was used to.

    UAD's plugins are also really, really expensive, so I always wait for a sale before even thinking of buying anything. It's actually quite ridiculous pricing, I picked up the Ozone bundle on sale for less than the price of just one of UAD's plugins.

    That said, I don't share the opinion that any of the built-in plugins in Cubase, Logic or Samplitude (the three DAWs I own) are on par with the UAD plugins. I also have an Izotope bundle with Ozone and Neutron and some other stuff. Ozone is supposed to be one of the best mastering plugins around, afaik, but I am actually far more pleased with the Precision Limiter and Precision Multiband. The Ocean Way Studios Reverb is unbelievably good as well. And I really like the LA2A and 1176 compressors and the API Vision Strip as well. This could just boil down to personal taste.

    That said, it's actually a very good idea to have preamps in metal. For your guitars, for your bass, for your drums, your vocals, everything. That's what most major studios will do for a very good reason. The preamps are what make stuff on commercial recordings pop, whereas most home recordings usually sound very sterile. Of course, got to remember, these are just emulations. The actual studios will be using vintage analog gear that will cost thousands and thousands of dollars, but when you come to the finished product, it will be like coating everything with gold versus just recording a miced up cabinet.

    Does suck to be locked into an ecosystem though, but if you look at most plugins available in 2021, probably 10 years from now, all of them will be obsolete, so it is kind of pointless to worry about whether our investment will be better spent elsewhere, because the outcome will be the same. It's also good to know that if I want to change interfaces, I can continue to use the UAD plugins by just keeping the Satellite. :)
     
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  14. nickgray

    nickgray SS.org Regular

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    I don't really get the hype around UA, aside from their marketing of course. Very expensive hardware, very expensive plugins, and running plugins on a hardware DSP in 2021 is pretty ridiculous. Unless you have extremely specific needs or you just really gotta have those particular plugins (as opposed to god knows how many others), the price/quality simple isn't there, they're overpriced as hell. You're also locked into their ecosystem, of course.
     
  15. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    Yeah, that's a reasonable approach. I just don't like the idea of being "locked" into something like plugins. That said, I'm a Mac/iPhone/watch user totally locked into that ecosystem with iCloud, Apple Photos, mail, calendars etc, and I'm happy about that. So I'm not totally sure why logically I think audio plugins are different.

    Are you a Mac user? Element 88 has all the inputs you need. No fancy touchscreen, but the quality of every single input/output is extremely good. Even the headphone out is using the same tech as the Apogee Groove.

    To clarify, I didn't say Logic plugins were on par. But they're certainly good enough for most home recordings. Obviously the most powerful tools are the simple ones like EQ, which Logic does just fine. I don't believe my ProQ3 is all that much "better" than the stock EQ plugin, other than a nicer interface and some fancy stuff with side chains. If I'm just removing annoying frequencies from guitar tones, or cutting low/high end, stock plugins easily work.

    My ears might just be too shit to tell the difference between the preamp emulation stuff. Usually it just kinda "softens" things with a bit of EQ to me.
     
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  16. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    I don’t see how exactly one is locked into anything by using UAD. You don’t have to buy or use any of their plugins if you don’t want to. Obviously the appeal to buying UA hardware is to use some of their software, especially in real time during tracking with no latency; but that doesn’t prevent you from using other 3rd party/stock plugins.

    I have a few different plugin chains that I like tracking with, but during my actual mixes UA plugins account for maybe 5-10% of my workflow. Most of time that is only Ocean Way and the Ampex ATR-102 tape machine.
     
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  17. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    To expand on that argument, think about tech like that in a live setting. Running your guitar, synths, drums, mics through all kinds of preamps and processing to get a great live sound. If you try to do that with regular plugins, you are sure to run into all kinds of latency-related issues.

    That's why DSP off the main machine is quite an interesting proposition, even if the execution is a bit silly. By that I mean, UAD should allow you to run the plugins on your computer when the DSP resources run out, otherwise it just frustrates the creative process.
     
  18. The Thing Upstairs

    The Thing Upstairs SS.org Regular

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    Thanks @Flappydoodle - I will checkout the element 88. Is it worth looking at the 46 that has been discontinued?
     
  19. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    Might as well go with the one that hasn't been discontinued, I'd say. If you decide to sell later, more resale value too.

    I was really impressed by the fact that the plugins can both run with onboard DSP as well as the computer's processing power. That is the ideal design for such units, in my opinion.
     
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  20. thebeesknees22

    thebeesknees22 SS.org Regular

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    the element 88 looks cool, but only runs apogee plugins though on the unit right? (I just skimmed the page. That's what it sounded like. Maybe I'm wrong.) If so that's not any different than the Apollo's as you can run their plugins either on the unit or in the DAW too.
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ
     

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