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  • Anderton
    started a topic Universal Audio Powered Plug-Ins

    Universal Audio Powered Plug-Ins

    I’ve often said every Pro Review has its own gestalt, and this one will – yet again – follow a different path. Here’s why.



    Ostensibly, this is about reviewing the UAD-2 Satellite Quad, a Mac DSP accelerator engineered to run Universal Audio’s series of powered plug-ins – so we’ll cover that first. But the hardware is only half the story; the plug-ins you can run on it are the other half. As a result, this thread will also provide a great place to discuss the Universal Audio line of powered plug-ins – not just which ones you like or don’t like, but when a new one comes out, we can cover it here.



    We’ll start with some background. Universal Audio makes hardware (processors, preamps, and the like), and also makes software plug-ins. However, the plug-ins will run only on UA’s DSP accelerator PCIe cards (they also make a DSP card for laptop ExpressCard slots). Given the power of today’s computers, the question inevitably arises of whether a DSP card is really necessary, or whether it’s just a giant dongle to protect the software.



    When UA introduced the original UAD-1 card, computers really did need some hardware assistance – something that was also acknowledged by Digidesign’s TDM DSP Farm, Creamware’s SCOPE system, and newer entries like TC’s PowerCore and SSL’s Duende and Duende Mini. In the UAD-1 era, software engineers really had to watch the clock cycles in their native plug-ins because computer processing could go only so far.



    By taking the DSP route, UA was able to throw more power into the plug-ins without disturbing the DAW. And they needed this power, because whether by accident or design, UA specialized in emulating classic analog gear (including some of their own). At the time, emulations were sort of in the “well of course they’re not the same, but they’re getting closer” category. However, UA’s really did do the analog thang well. In fact, one night an “analog/tubes forever” studio owner friend called me up because he had just A/Bed a vintage UA compressor with one of the emulations. He couldn’t believe his ears, and in fact, ended up selling the hardware unit so he could buy more plug-ins.



    That was then, and this is now. So do we still need DSP? Well, I have the next-generation UAD-2 Quad card installed in my PC Audio Labs 8-core Windows computer, so the computer itself is no slouch when it comes to power. Yet when I reviewed the UAD-2 Quad for Keyboard magazine, I saw that the specs claimed you could run 128 instances of their Neve Channel Strip plug-in, which is a fine-sounding plug-in. So of course, I had to check it out...and yes, it really did 128 instances. UA offers cards with one, two, or four SHARC DSP chips, but even the single-chip cards can run a lot of plug-ins—as anyone with their Solo/Laptop card knows.



    With this kind of DSP power, not only is UA willing to throw brute force processing power to get the sound they want, but from an end user’s standpoint, you can count on the performance. If you load in enough plug-ins to use 99% of the CPU power, you’re fine—it’s not like a computer, where adding just one more virtual instrument means your convolution reverb will start coughing and spitting, or you’ll have to jack up the latency to 1,024 samples.



    So do you need DSP acceleration? Well, not really; native stuff is great. But do you want DSP acceleration? Yes. It’s not just about giving your computer more breathing room; over the years, UA has assembled quite an interesting cast of plug-ins - both their own, and ones developed in conjunction with other companies.



    In our next post, we’ll look at the Satellite itself and describe similarities and differences compared to UA’s cards.

  • Anderton
    replied
    I wanted to see what happened if I loaded up really CPU-hungry effects, and what happened in terms of distributing that over the internal card and the external Satellite. So, I started loading up Manley Massive Passives into Sonar X2.



    Each instance takes up about 60% of each DSP chip, so each of the first four instances filled up 60% of each of the first four slots. Adding two more transitioned over to filling up 60% of the DSP in each of the Satellite's first two DSP chips. Clearly, UA hits the onboard card first, then if it runs out of space, heads over to the Satellite.



    I then wanted to see what would happen if I loaded some plug-ins with lighter drains. They basically filled up the available memory in the chips until they had all reached their capacity, and took advantage of any available CPU power in either the board or the Satellite.



    I then deliberately tried to overload the system by adding more Manleys. After the DSP limits were reached in Sonar, the program froze and I had to quit. However, some element of it was still running as it showed up in the Task Manager and could not be stopped (this is usually some kind of driver not letting go of something), requiring a restart. However, I should add that Cakewalk just released Sonar version X2a today, and I haven't updated X2 yet. If it can handle running out of power with the UA plugs more elegantly, I'll update this information.



    Wondering if this was a Sonar-specific issue (Sonar is supported by Universal Audio, but not officially qualified; on Windows, Cubase and Pro Tools are tested for official qualification, which means the performance of every parameter of every plug-in is quantified), I decided to try the same exercise with Pro Tools 10 using RTAS versions of the plug-ins. The timing was good for a Pro Tools test; I just got a project in for mixing by the hip-hop band ICC, and it was tracked in Pro Tools (I did quite a bit of the engineering as well)...it seemed like a good time to really exercise the UA plugs.



    There was the same protocol when handling DSP distribution. However upon exceeding the available limit, Pro Tools was better-behaved. It presented an error message saying that the plug-in was unable to load because the DSP load limit was exceeded - no crashes or freezes.



    My curiosity piqued, I then tried the same exercise in Ableton Live. However, the version of Live I have is still 64-bit, so I couldn't use the UA 64-bit plug-ins with it (have no fear, 64-bit operation is just around the corner). I then moved over to Studio One Pro 2, which like Sonar, is 64-bit and can run VST plug-ins.



    Like Pro Tools, SOP 2 presented the same error message upon being overloaded, and neither froze nor crashed. I suspected Cubase 6.5 would act similarly with respect to being overloaded, and it did. As with Sonar and Pro Tools, DSP power was distributed on a CPU-available basis with Studio One Pro 2 and Cubase.

    Leave a comment:


  • Anderton
    replied
    Well, we've gone from "absolutely no way Satellite will work with Windows" to "Satellite is going to work with 64-bit Windows" to "Yes, it really does work with 64-bit Windows."



    As with the plug-ins themselves, this was painless. I ordered a Sonnet FW800 board (which was qualified by UA) for my PC Audio Labs computer, plugged it in, and booted. The FW800 board loaded its drivers automatically, so I turned on the Satellite, and it installed its drivers automatically. So far so good.



    Then a message came up saying the firmware needed to be updated, so I did that; then another message said I needed to download new authorizations. Okay.



    So I called up the control panel and...







    Success! Happy Satellite!



    Of course, to fulfill my Reviewer Duties I must now play music for long enough to make sure that the plug-ins all load and everything works as expected. And by long enough, I may need to do a LOT of testing, I feel like working on a new song tonight



    And next, the moment we've all been waiting for: Apollo on Windows 64-bit. Based on my experience so far with the plug-ins and Satellite, I'm assuming things will be equally painless but in any event, we'll find out soon enough.

    Leave a comment:


  • Anderton
    replied
    Normally, this is where I go through all the problems I experienced, how I solved them, and workarounds. However, I must admit...I cheated: I read the release notes. After doing so, I realized that much of the angst from people who couldn't get the plug-ins to work would have been solved had they read the...release notes



    So, here's how the process works:



    1. Download 6.4.

    2. Open the file.

    3. Say yes to everything.

    4. Download new authorizations if needed.

    5. Boot your DAW.

    6. Enjoy!



    The only non-standard aspect of the installer is you are not given options of where to install the plug-ins, which are installed in the usual Steinberg-centric Steinberg/Vstplugins folder. So, rather than scan another folder, I just moved the plug-ins into my "global" VST folder that holds ALL VSTs, and which I scan with all DAWs.



    So far, everything works exactly as expected with Sonar, i.e., inserting plug-ins in the FX bins. I did see something in the Cakewalk forums about difficulties when loading UA plugs as part of FX chains loaded into a ProChannel when you save the chain and try to load it into a different ProChannel, so I'll look into that...but so far, smoooooooooth sailing.

    Leave a comment:


  • Anderton
    replied
    So, against my better judgement (being that I'm in the middle of a mix), I decided to install version 6.4 with 64-bit support for powered plug-ins in my PC Audio Labs computer running Windows 7 64-bit SP1. For Apollo and the Satellite, I'll be ordering an FW800 qualified board in the next day or two (I think I'm going to go for the Sonnet, any computer-oriented company that exhibits at NAMM gets my support) and I will try Apollo with FW400 just to see what happens; these results will be posted in the Apollo Pro review.



    Meanwhile, I have a Quad card with plug-ins just itching to go 64-bit, so time to take the plunge.



    Now, I should mention that there is some confusion about which programs UA supports with 64-bit operation. So I went to the source, got the scoop from UA, and posted the following in a thread in the Cakewalk forums where a lot of misinformation was floating around after UA "abandoning" Sonar support



    UA makes a distinction between qualifying and supporting systems. Sonar, Ableton Live, Studio One Pro, etc. are still supported and UA does test those and other programs for compatibility.



    Qualifying is apparently a process that takes months of man-hours where UA tests every parameter of every plug-in. They chose three "test beds" for plug-in qualification: Cubase for VST, Logic Pro for AU, and Pro Tools for RTAS. So, what they are basically doing is qualifying operation of the plug-in formats. I can't argue that those are extremely representative programs, as Steinberg invented VST, Apple invented AU, and RTAS is the"Pro Tools format." As a benefit of using these programs, it allows UA to guarantee that every parameter of every plug-in will work with those particular programs because they were the test beds.



    However, in theory VST is VST, and if a plug-in works perfectly under one VST host, it should in theory work under other VST hosts. So, UA does less rigorous testing with other VST hosts to check whether the theory holds true.



    So far, my understanding is that UA has not found issues with VST support on other 64-bit hosts, but they are actively seeking any reports of problems from users of non-qualified 64-bit systems so that any problems can be addressed.



    And did they install properly? Keep reading...

    Leave a comment:


  • Syncamorea
    replied






    Quote Originally Posted by Anderton
    View Post

    Just got this press release from UA...



    UNIVERSAL AUDIO ANNOUNCES NEW UAD-2 HARDWARE AND UAD POWERED PLUG-IN SOFTWARE BUNDLES




    I must get an octo card and that Shadow Hills mastering compressor plug. Just kidding about the octo card as I have a quad Apollo and quad pcie card in my studio PC. So what I really need is for UA to get their Windows drivers completed to I can combine the Apollo quad with the pci-e quad.



    These spammers must be eradicated!!!

    Leave a comment:


  • Anderton
    replied
    Just got this press release from UA...







    UNIVERSAL AUDIO ANNOUNCES NEW UAD-2 HARDWARE AND UAD POWERED PLUG-IN SOFTWARE BUNDLES




    -New Flagship 8-Processor UAD-2 OCTO DSP Accelerator, New Custom and Ultimate UAD Plug-In Bundles, More Affordable Pricing Across the UAD-2 Lineup-
    SCOTTS VALLEY, CA • October 1, 2012 — Universal Audio (UA), a leading manufacturer of professional audio recording hardware and software, is pleased to announce a complete re-imagination of the popular UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform. Highlighted by the new flagship UAD-2 OCTO DSP Accelerator card, featuring eight SHARC processors, the UAD-2 Series offers new Custom and Ultimate software bundles and more affordable pricing for all UAD-2 SOLO, DUO, and QUAD DSP Accelerator models.



    New OCTO DSP Accelerators — Heavyweight Processing Power

    The new top-of-the-line UAD-2 OCTO DSP Accelerator ($1,499US) features eight SHARC processors on a single PCIe card and easily installs into a PCIe-equipped Mac or PC workstation or compatible expansion chassis — giving music producers and engineers twice the processing power of its UAD-2 QUAD DSP Accelerator counterpart. For UAD power users running large audio sessions with high UAD plug-in instances and/or high sample rates, the UAD-2 OCTO DSP Accelerator is the uncompromising professional solution.

    New UAD-2 “Custom” Bundles — Pick Any 3 UAD Plug-Ins

    For just $400US more than a UAD-2 DUO, QUAD, or OCTO “Core” DSP Accelerator model, UAD users can now step up to UAD-2 Custom bundles, selecting any three individual UAD plug-ins within 45 days of their new UAD-2 hardware registration. With a world-renowned UAD plug-in library that includes Ampex®, Manley®, Lexicon®, Studer®, EMT®, Empirical Labs®, Neve®, SSL®, Roland®, and more, UAD-2 Custom bundles deliver a potential software value of more than $1,000US (depending on UAD plug-ins selected), at significant savings to new UAD-2 users.



    New UAD-2 “Ultimate” Bundles — The Definitive Collection

    Combining the most powerful UAD-2 DSP Accelerator hardware with the most complete UAD plug-in bundle available, the new UAD-2 OCTO Ultimate (PCIe card format) and UAD-2 Satellite QUAD Ultimate (FireWire format) packages offer an extensive library of more than 55 UA-developed plug-ins, up to and including UAD Software v6.3*. These UAD-2 Ultimate packages represent the definitive collection of more than 10 years of UAD plug-in development.

    More Affordable UAD-2 SOLO, DUO, and QUAD Core Models

    Alongside the new UAD-2 hardware and software introductions, UA is debuting new, more affordable pricing for the “Core” models of UAD-2 SOLO, DUO, and QUAD PCIe hardware and UAD-2 DUO and QUAD Satellite FireWire hardware. All UAD-2 Core models include the popular “Analog Classics” plug-in bundle, featuring the LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN/1176SE Classic Limiting Amplifiers, Pultec EQP-1A, and RealVerb Pro plug-ins. Additional UAD plug-ins can be purchased from UA’s Online Store.



    “We’re excited by the additional power and flexibility that this new UAD-2 lineup provides,” says CEO and Founder, Bill Putnam, Jr. “Not only has the processing power doubled with the UAD-2 OCTO model, but it’s now easier for users to customize their UAD-2 packages right out of the box. And with our new aggressive pricing for SOLO, DUO, and QUAD Core models, UAD-2 is now even more accessible to producers who want to add authentic analog tone in their recordings.



    Estimated US Street Prices for UAD-2 Desktop (PCI-Express) and Satellite (FireWire) DSP Accelerators:



    UAD-2 OCTO (PCIe)

    $1,499.00 Core Bundle

    $1,899.00 Custom Bundle

    $5,499.00 Ultimate Bundle



    UAD-2 QUAD (PCIe)

    $999.00 Core Bundle

    $1,399.00 Custom Bundle



    UAD-2 DUO (PCIe)

    $699.00 Core Bundle

    $1,099.00 Custom Bundle



    UAD-2 SOLO (PCIe)

    $299.00 Core Bundle



    UAD-2 QUAD Satellite (FireWire)

    $999.00 Core Bundle

    $1,399.00 Custom Bundle

    $4,999.00 Ultimate Bundle



    UAD-2 DUO Satellite (FireWire)

    $699.00 Core Bundle

    $1,099.00 Custom Bundle





    More information on the UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform:

    http://www.uaudio.com/uad-plug-ins.html





    *The UAD-2 Ultimate packages do not include any Direct Developer (3rd party) plug-ins, nor plug-ins released after UAD Software v6.3.



    About UAD Powered Plug-Ins

    Powered by Universal Audio’s popular UAD-2 DSP Accelerator hardware, UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins offer the world’s most authentic analog hardware emulations and award-winning audio plug-ins on Mac and PC. UAD-2 plug-ins deliver rich, analog sound quality that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with native recording systems.



    About Universal Audio Inc.

    Founded in 1958 by recording pioneer Bill Putnam Sr., and refounded in 1999 by Bill Putnam Jr., Universal Audio is best known for its classic, hand-built analog hardware and advanced UAD Digital Signal Processing technology for recording, mixing, and mastering audio. Headquartered in Scotts Valley, California, UA is focused on merging the best of vintage analog and modern digital technology, following its rich recording heritage and motto, “Analog Ears. Digital Minds.” www.uaudio.com

    Leave a comment:


  • Anderton
    replied






    Quote Originally Posted by jorhay1
    View Post

    Neato! I want one.

    Can you expand the UA processors (either the duo or quad) beyond what comes in the Apollo by adding an additional UA card or firewire Accelerator?




    My understanding is that at the very least, you can expand it with one of their Satellite modules. However, as of this moment it's still Mac-only. I'm also assuming (in other words, I could very well be wrong!) that if you bought a duo Apollo, there would be some way to upgrade it to a quad.

    Leave a comment:


  • jorhay1
    replied






    Quote Originally Posted by Anderton
    View Post

    We've had some other requests for that one, so...duly noted. I have a temporary problem in that my music computer went down, so I'm using an old Frankenputer to tide me over that doesn't have any PCIe slots (yes, it's that old). Although I could use the Satellite with my Mac, the Mac isn't set up for doing videos so while I could do audio examples, it seems the videos are a hit and I'd rather do that.



    I should be up and running early next week, once I get everything re-installed. Speaking of which - the UA plugs are some of the easiest to deal with in terms of a dead computer, you just download the software, re-authorize, and you're back to work. No hunting for serial numbers, authorizing hard drives, etc.




    Maybe you could a/b it with a popular convolution verb that comes with 250 I/Rs. That would be groovy.

    Whenever you have time.

    (your new PC sounds like a monster!)

    Leave a comment:


  • jorhay1
    replied
    Neato! I want one.

    Can you expand the UA processors (either the duo or quad) beyond what comes in the Apollo by adding an additional UA card or firewire Accelerator?

    Leave a comment:


  • Anderton
    replied
    Before I get back to the plug-ins, thought you might like a preview of what Universal Audio is up to now...






    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ejw8SaM2EX4

    Leave a comment:


  • Anderton
    replied
    My new PC Audio Labs computer was shipped to me today!! And I just realized that one of the GREAT things about UA plugs is all I need to do is insert the board, run the latest software, and I'm back in business with these effing great plugs.

    Leave a comment:


  • grooveminister
    replied
    Thanks Craig & blueshoes22!



    @BlindGuyEars: I didn´t try to duplicate Zappa´s "Joe´s Garage" FX with UA Plugs yet - but I guess it would easily be done.

    When I first got the album, I then tried replicating the FX on my Korg SRV-3000 and it sounded very similar.



    @jorhay1: I own the UAD Lex 224 and the UAD EMT 250 and the latter one is the most amazing discovery for me.

    First of all I got my UAD-2 Satellite QUAD because of the august promo - it was bundled with the Studer, Massive Passive and the EMT 250 then.



    I abolutely wanted the A800 and the Manley - but only knew of EMT´s plate reverbs - so my expectations were low on that "freeby" especially because of the few controls.

    In the mean time I have used it on some mixes and I have to say it has an incredible quality and to me the most robust glue with the instruments in the mix.



    I haven´t been able to compare it with the original unit - but the fact that UA hat licensed and implemented the original algorithm (as with the 224) convinces me that they sound the same.

    The only potential difference is the modeling of the analog sections - but I don´t care too much because I want to benefit of the possibility to use them both with the modeling of their analog sections off.

    To be able to use these machines with digital IN/OUTs was not possible with the original units (AFAIK) and is a major advantage to me.



    Best wishes,

    Andreas



    Here´s my UAD MXR Flanger-Doubler sound example:






    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EdBiLQzMb0

    Leave a comment:


  • blueshoes22
    replied
    That's some nice drumming man. I enjoyed that, you've got your kit set up nice, and a nice way to show off the tape plug in too - really got a great idea of what it is capable of. Thanks!

    Leave a comment:


  • jorhay1
    replied
    ^^^^^

    cool.

    Take your time, looking forward to it.

    I'm working at henson's with a real one so I have the sound really stuck in my head.

    Thanks!

    Leave a comment:

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