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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.

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The Satellite offers the same DSP as on the dual or quad cards, but in a portable, compact expansion box that doesn’t require a card slot. However, there are restrictions. It’s Intel Mac only (sorry, Windows fans), and although it works just fine with FireWire 400, to get the most out of it you need a FireWire 800 port. Interestingly, although my quad core Mac has a FireWire 800 port, the Satellite claims that it doesn’t perform to FW 800 specs, so it “downshifts” to FW 400. You also need to have Snow Leopard 10.6.4 or higher; the UA web site has up-to-date info on compatibility.

UA provides its plug-ins in four formats: RTAS, AU, and VST (stereo and mono versions). Unlike some plugs, these are spec’ed to work all the way up to 192kHz sample rates. Will I test it at that rate? No, I think anything over 96kHz is pretty much a waste of bandwidth but if you’re a fan of 192kHz, you’re covered.

When you open the package, here’s what you see:

povm7.jpg

You get the Satellite itself in a sleek, all-metal chassis, AC adapter with global plug options (neither the Satellite Duo or Quad can be bus-powered), FW 800 cable, and CD-ROM with software and manual. If course, you’ll want to go to the UA site and get the latest software (and you really do – it’s not just about keeping the software up-to-date, but also, newer versions are usually accompanied by a trial version of their latest plug-in).

Here’s what the Satellite itself looks like.


12RTU.jpg

As to connections, the rear panel has a FireWire 400 port, two FireWire 800 ports, Kensington lock, status LED, on-off switch, and AC adapter jack. That’s it – so it’s real simple to set up: Plug in the power, plug in the FireWire cable, done. It worked immediately with my Mac, so there’s not much more to say about getting it connected.


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Next, we'll cover the authorization process, and how the whole plug-in process evaluation, loading, and purchasing process works, as well as which plug-ins are included.

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You know the old marketing adage: Sell the razor blade cheap, then get ‘em on the blades. But you can’t sell something with a bunch of SHARC 21369 chips for cheap, and you can’t gouge people on plug-ins, so it seems UA’s strategy has been to make plug-ins that cost considerably less than the expensive hardware they emulate.

For example, Manley’s Massive Passive (“Made in Chino, not in China”) is a super-well-respected piece of hardware mastering gear that lists for $5,600 (and those who depend on it will say it’s worth every penny...but I digress). The list price for the UA Powered Plug-In emulation is $299. Well, at that price, it can’t really be any good...can it? Ask EveAnna Manley: I did. She had nothing but praise for the job UA did emulating the Massive Passive.

Similarly, the idea of getting a Studer A800 to get “that” tape sound is daunting; buying a Studio A800 plug-in for $299.49—not so daunting. Their Lexicon 224 is $349 compared to around $900 on eBay for used hardware (when you can find one), so you get the idea of where we’re going with this. Now, $349 for a reverb is not a trivial expense...but it’s not $900, either. Most UA plug-ins run in the $149 - $299 range; you can see a complete listing of plug-ins and the price list at their online store.

I think it was smart for UA to go after the high end, and approved emulations done in conjunction with various companies. Most DAWs these days come bundled with really good “bread and butter” plug-ins, and some even go considerably beyond that. But, they don’t have the specialty items, and that’s the “hole” that Universal Audio fills.

However, there’s another interesting point. Back in the days when analog studios were king, and the “vintage” gear UA emulates was new gear smile.gif, a typical studio had an MCI (or equivalent) 24-track tape recorder, a big mixer, and a rack of outboard gear. Sure, the mixer had EQ; but there were times you wanted that gentle, strange curve that only an old Pultec could deliver, or a beat-up limiter with an optical response—hence the rack o’ gear.

However, with the introduction of the second-generation UAD-2 series, its greatly enhanced power (especially the Quad version) compared to the original UAD-1 meant that the UA Powered Plug-Ins concept was no longer just to replace a few cool pieces of gear. Instead, it became the 21st-century equivalent of that rack of special-purpose processors...or maybe even an entire mixer. Perhaps more significantly, those who are wary of “mixing in the box” can add processors that are not constrained by the computer’s limits. In a way, the Satellite marks a return to the more traditional studio paradigm—except that the computer is the multitrack recorder, sophisticated control surfaces provide the “hands-on” feel of traditional mixers, and DSP-driven devices replace racks of outboard gear.

I just realized I've made a lot of assumptions about UA's philosophy. Well, at least that's the way it looks to me. If someone from UA would like to chime in and either confirm thumb.gif or deny facepalm.gif, feel free.

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Before signing off on this review for today and moving over to a parallel Pro Review, I should emphasize that the Satellite comes with several out-of-the-box plug-ins so you don’t have to break out the credit card as soon as you open the box. These plug-ins fall under the name “Analog Classics Bundle,” let’s take a look at what they are, and their GUIs. (Incidentally, you also get a $50 voucher to spend at the online store on the plug-in of your choice.)

LA-2A compressor. This is the classic we all know and love (or at least have heard about). ‘Nuff said.

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1176LN compressor and 1176SE compressor. These are separate plug-ins, but I joined the screen shots together into a single image.

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Pultec EQP-1A equalizer. This has a special place in my heart, because I’ve worked in a lot of studios that had the original. I also loved the gentle, sweet EQ curves you could get with this, and used it all the time for general tone-shaping. Alas, I never had one in my home studio...but I do now smile.gif. That particular sound was burned into my brain over a the years, and the UA version sounds just like what I remember (except for the hum with some of the older units).

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RealVerb Pro. When this was introduced, it was the hottest thing since sliced bread. Convolution and other reverbs have come along that make this not quite as coveted as it was, but then again, now you can get it for free and it’s a very flexible reverb. As far as I’m concerned you can never have enough reverbs. If there’s interest I can include some audio examples of this, but would rather take the time to generate audio examples for the Lexicon 224, which they just released.

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CS-1 Channel Strip. Some people look down on this because it’s not one of the “designer” plug-ins, but don’t be so quick to dismiss it – there’s a lot going on here, and even if you already have a compressor and EQ you love, don’t overlook the Reflections or the Delay Modulator plug-ins—which you can load as individual plug-ins, as well as the Compressor/EQ.

Bro3n.jpg

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Happy to chime in, Craig. We'll be able to do so from time to time during the course of this review.

As for our philosophy, your assumptions are pretty spot on. UA has a tradition of targeting really difficult-to-emulate, highly coveted pieces of studio equipment. In the "early days" of the UAD platform, say 2001 to 2004, the devices we emulated included some of the "bread and butter" classics — including our own LA-2A and 1176 compressors, which we knew intimately well, at a component level. However, it was still a feat to model them convincingly in software.

Fast forward to today, and each of our last three major plug-ins (The Studer A800, Lexicon 224 & Manley Massive Passive) were true multi-year projects that had a similar air about them at the outset. Namely, we knew the emulations were going to be extremely difficult, due to the non-linearities of the hardware, and how complex our algorithms had to be to deliver the correct sound and behavior.

In some ways, every plug-in release for UA is a test. Can we create something digitally that lives up to the lure and reputation of these classic analog pieces? Does it satisfy us? Does it satisfy our users? Is it the absolute best emulation possible? We strive to hear customers say, "I know XX hardware like the back of my hand. I can't tell a difference between my old hardware and your plug-in."

With regard to our UAD DSP Accelerator platform, the obvious upside of using plug-ins (especially emulations) is that, instead of having 1 hardware compressor, you can have 50 of them, if your CPU is willing. With our newest, most complex UAD algorithms like the Studer and Manley, however, they would bog down modern host computers if available natively. It would be a frustrating, un-even user experience. So while some may see the UAD-2 PCIe and Satellite FireWire DSP Accelerators as a necessary evil to run our plug-ins, we consider them vital to being able to provide a professional, robust experience. UAD customers do not have to play the delicate balancing act of producing music versus managing CPU resources.

If you want 40 Studers, 80 Neve 1073s, 24 Lexicon 224s — or a combination thereof — you've got it, no matter what else your system is doing. In that way, owning UAD hardware is very much like having a dedicated rack of outboard gear...it's predictable, reliable and professional.

Let us know what other questions you guys may have for us.

Cheers,

Lev Perrey
Director of Product Management
Universal Audio

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***11/14/11 — Note: Enhanced Pro Tools Compatibility is now available as of UAD Powered Plug-Ins v6.0***

Hi Phil -

Glad you asked. Our current version of UAD Powered Plug-ins (v.5.9.1) includes the FxPansion VST Adaptor software for compatibility in Pro Tools. This VST Adaptor is built into the UAD installer, so when you choose RTAS as an installation format, all UAD plug-ins get wrapped and placed in the Pro Tools Plug-in folder.

Being a Pro Tools HD + ICON user myself, I can say that this system is currently very solid. In fact, many top Pro Tools mixers worldwide are using the UAD-2, with award-winning results.

However, your question gives us a great opportunity to make a Pro Tools-related announcement: Coinciding with our next software release, UAD Powered Plug-Ins will be fully RTAS compatible.

Specifically, with our next software release, we plan to feature: removal of the VST Adaptor; plug-in category support; numerous automation improvements; integration with all Avid control surfaces; system performance improvements, and more.

We're expecting this UAD software release to be available mid-to late-summer, and it will be free to all UAD users on Mac OS &Windows.

So there's the big news! Hope this helps and thanks for asking.

Lev.
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You heard it here first, folks smile.gif

Seriously, that's great news. Phil, I've tested the UAD-2 plugs with Pro Tools, and they work fine - including with path delay compensation. I generally find that I need to add at least the short delay, and sometimes the long one if I have a lot going on in the track.

One thing I need to investigate further - and maybe someone from UA can chime in - is restricting the number of cores that Pro Tools uses. I have a friend with a new 12-core Mac who was running a PT system with multiple UA plugs, and experiencing instability problems. At first he assumed it was an issue with path delay compensation, but when he cut the number of cores to eight, everything worked fine. It may be a system-specific (or phase of the moon-specific!) issue, but if the tech heads at UA know anything about this, feel free to comment.

But in any event...great news about the RTAS compatibility, and props to Angus at Fxpansion for holding us over in the meantime smile.gif

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Let’s look at some individual plugs, starting with the most recent – the Lexicon 224 reverb. This isn't included with the Satellite or any of the UAD-2 packages, but is one of the many optional-at-extra-cost plug-ins offered by Universal Audio to support their platform.

Now, doing an emulation like this isn’t something where you go “hey, I’m not doing anything this weekend...think I’ll emulate a Lexicon 224!” The more complex and unusual the device, the more difficult the emulation. If you think the peculiarities and non-linearities of analog are bad enough, early digital is even crazier. So, what would cause Universal Audio to think that emulating the 224 was a good idea? To understand that, we need a short history lesson.

The 224 was the second successful digital reverb, with the first being the EMT 250 (which Universal Audio has also emulated and makes available as a plug-in). The 224 was introduced almost 33 years ago – which is like several centuries in “digital years.” There was nowhere near the processing power we had now, and converters in those days were positively stone age – the 224 used 12-bit stepping converters. The electronics were housed in a 4U rack-mount box, with a hand-held remote to do the actual programming. So why wasn’t there a computer-based software editor? Well, remember that the Radio Shack TRS-80 computer was not quite a year old when the 224 was introduced. We’re talking seriously primitive.

The brains behind the 224, Dave Griesinger (actually Dr. David Griesinger, but hey, we’re among friends), had one foot in nuclear physics and another in classical music recording, so he had the right skill set to either blow up the world, or create a very cool digital reverb. Luckily for us, he chose the latter. He used several clever tricks to get around the limitations of early digital technology, like adding modulation to create more complex and interesting reverb tails. In fact, I always felt part of the “Lexicon sound” was the use of modulation, even on later models.

Not only did it sound good, it was introduced at a bargain-basement $7,500 (half the price of the EMT 250 – and that puts the $349 price of the UA emulation in perspective). As a result, studios snapped it up, and it became the go-to reverb for artists like Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Vangelis, Grandmaster Flash, and many, many others (I logged quite a few 224 hours myself back in the day).

So now we have a Lexicon-approved version, but it’s not just about nostalgia. The 224 had a unique sound that we really haven’t heard since. As a friend of mine said, “You can never have enough reverbs” and the 224 adds a definite 80s character, not just because of its association with the acts of that time, but because it represents a particular moment in time in the evolution of digital audio. It has a certain character that’s appealing, character-laden, and not found in modern reverbs.

As to the emulation itself, UA made the decision (correct, in my opinion) to emulate not just the original algorithms and code, but the hardware as well, including the input and output stages. As far as I’m concerned as soon as a transformer is in the signal path, that becomes part of the sound and needs to be emulated.

Before we get into a detailed description and some audio examples, I should say that using the 224 for the first time was freakishly close to time-travel. They say music relates to memory, and those sounds brought back memories, to say the least. I don’t have a 224 sitting next to me for comparison, but that sound has been burned into my brain and the emulation is very, very impressive.

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Let’s start simple. First of all, here’s the interface. It’s hard to understand now, but the idea of having faders to control reverb parameters was a big deal back then.

JYOnz.png

Now to a quick audio example. This plays a very simple drum pattern with lots of space between hits, so you can hear the reverb tails clearly. It’s mostly just kick and snare so you can hear what happens at the high end and the low end. The wet/dry mix is set to wet only, again to make the reverb as obvious as possible.

The main point I want to get across with this audio example is the “naked” reverb sound, so I’m just hitting the eight program buttons sequentially so you can hear the seven basic algorithms, as used in eight default presets that Lexicon voiced. So even though I didn’t do any other adjustments, these sounds are considered highly representative of the 224. You’ll definitely hear when the programs change. There’s a ninth chorus algorithm, which we’ll get into later. The reverb is the star of the show here.

In order, you’ll hear:

  • Small Concert Hall B
  • Vocal Plate
  • Large Concert Hall B
  • Acoustic Chamber
  • Percussion Plate
  • Small Concert Hall A
  • Room A
  • “Constant Density” Plate A, where the density, rather than increasing over time like a real reverb, stays constant
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Quote Originally Posted by UniversalAudio

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Hey Craig - the Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb plug-in project took over a year from inception to completion.

 

Wow...and you even had the original algorithms as a basis, so I guess that means you spent a lot of time on the rest of the signal chain other than the reverb algorithms themselves. Well, at least your efforts did produce tangible results smile.gif
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Indeed, in typical UA fashion we based our Lexicon 224 plug-in on the same algorithms and control processor code from the original Lexicon 224 hardware and version 4.4 firmware, and incorporated every piece of the signal chain into the design -- including the original unit's input transformers and early AD/DA 12-bit gain stepping converters.

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Now that we have a general sense of the Lexicon 224 plug-in, let's delve into some details.

Probably the most important point is that because of the six sliders, the algorithms are very customizable. To me, the most important of the sliders are the Bass and Mid reverb times, which work in conjunction with the Crossover control (this sets the split point between bass and mid frequencies). It’s easy to emphasize a brighter or bassier character; with the Crossover up just past halfway, turning up the Bass gives a big, dull room sound, while bringing down Bass and turning up Mid sounds like you’re in a much brighter room with more reflections. With the Small Hall algorithm, it wasn’t hard to get a more plate-like sound by emphasizing upper mids over bass.

ElaBy.png

The six sliders are highlighted.

The fourth control of the “tone quartet” is the Treble Decay. This is not a separate band for highs (as opposed to bass or mid), but what most reverbs would call damping. However, this has very different effects for the different algorithms. For example, on the Vocal Plate algorithm, it’s more like an “air enhancer/remover.” But in the Large Hall, pull Treble Decay down all the way, and it sounds like someone filled every square inch of the hall with foam.

The two remaining sliders relate to reverb time and space. Pre-Delay does what you’d expect – create a delay between the time you hear the original and the time the reverb starts. In fact if you set the reverb to Wet only (there’s also a Solo button so you can do this without disturbing your existing Wet/Dry balance – very helpful, and something every reverb should have!) and change Pre-Delay, you won’t hear any difference because there’s no dry reference.

Depth adds more distance, therefore more complexity, between the source and the reverb. It sounds to me like a “more early reflections” control – think of sitting by a drum set close to a wall. You hear reflections coming off that wall. Now move the drum set, and yourself, four times further away from the wall. You hear more complexity, and more early reflections. That’s what Depth seems to do.

And now, a question about audio examples. Traditionally, people aren’t that into downloading audio examples unless they’re particularly interested in some unique aspect that the audio example presents for several reasons: it takes time to download, most people don’t want to listen to the example on their crappy computer speakers so then they have to move the audio to a USB stick or whatever, open up their music computer, etc. With something like the 224, it would be really, really easy to include a zillion examples (“Here it is with more midrange decay. Here it is with more bass decay. Here it is with more damping. Etc. etc. etc.”)

So, I have an idea. With the Focusrite VRM and Steinberg Wavelab 7 Pro Reviews, instead of doing traditional audio examples I did videos that I posted on YouTube and embedded in the review. All they did was use Camtasia to record the sound and video in real time as I moved controls, so you could hear how the controls were affecting the sound while you could see them being moved...nothing fancy, but people seemed to find these helpful. The tradeoff is the fidelity isn’t as good when it comes off YouTube as it would be with a 320kbps audio file. Thoughts? Preferences? I'm also interested in what UA thinks...whether it's more valuable to emphasize functionality or sound quality. I will say the YouTube audio isn't bad at all, and I don't think anyone would judge the plug-ins by what they hear coming from a YouTube video, but it's not as good as a dedicated audio example.

Next, we’ll investigate more controls and how they work. The takeaway from these sliders is that if you think you’d be limited by only seven algorithms, you’re not: Within each algorithm's "sandbox," there’s a lot of sand.

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To give a better idea of how manipulationg the sliders affects the 224's reverb characteristics, I've uploaded the following video, which is about a minute long. As with the previous audio example, I've chosen a boring drum part (I promise, I'll do something different for the next example!) with kick to help demo the bass decay, and snare to demo the high decay.

You'll hear the frequency response and reverb characteristics change as the crossover slider moves. Initially the example starts with a plate reverb program, then moves along to the large hall. I also moved the high decay slider a bit so you could hear how that affects the sound.

The YouTube fidelity is actually pretty good, so this seems like a vaiid way to both hear and see what specific 224 elements are doing.

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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
So, I have an idea. With the Focusrite VRM and Steinberg Wavelab 7 Pro Reviews, instead of doing traditional audio examples I did videos that I posted on YouTube and embedded in the review. All they did was use Camtasia to record the sound and video in real time as I moved controls, so you could hear how the controls were affecting the sound while you could see them being moved...nothing fancy, but people seemed to find these helpful. The tradeoff is the fidelity isn’t as good when it comes off YouTube as it would be with a 320kbps audio file. Thoughts? Preferences? I'm also interested in what UA thinks...whether it's more valuable to emphasize functionality or sound quality. I will say the YouTube audio isn't bad at all, and I don't think anyone would judge the plug-ins by what they hear coming from a YouTube video, but it's not as good as a dedicated audio example.
lot of sand.

How about creating a Soundcloud account and upload the 24bit aiff/wav files for us to listen to? + The youtube ones of course smile.gif
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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
You heard it here first, folks smile.gif

Seriously, that's great news. Phil, I've tested the UAD-2 plugs with Pro Tools, and they work fine - including with path delay compensation. I generally find that I need to add at least the short delay, and sometimes the long one if I have a lot going on in the track.
(snip)
But in any event...great news about the RTAS compatibility, and props to Angus at Fxpansion for holding us over in the meantime smile.gif
I use the FXpansion VST -> RTAS wrapper every day, and I'm a big fan and enthusiastic evangelist for the product. It's a no-brainer purchase for Pro Tools users.

But yes, it's great that the UAD plugins will have RTAS compatibility soon. Plugin menu category support alone will make that very useful.

Lev, are there any plans for PC support eventually? I actually use both platforms...
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I don't want to go on forever about the 224, because really, I think that between the algorithms and the main sliders - which we've already covered - it's a pretty compelling plug-in. It's rare to find a plug-in that's capable of obtaining lots of different sounds but within a defined framework.

One point I haven't really mentioned is that the parameter ranges vary depending on which program you use. For example, take predelay. With the plates, the range is from 0 to 107 ms. The Room A predelay goes from 24-255 ms, while the large concert hall goes from 24-152 ms...you get the idea. Diffusion isn't adjustable in the Acoustic Chamber, but otherwise you can adjust diffusion for all other programs, including the Chorus. Treble Decay has different characteristics in different programs, and the like.

This is a big part of why the 224 is such an interesting reverb - there are considerable variations available within each program; they're not just minor variations on a theme.

Anyway, here are some fine points about the 224.

  • The 224 is a true stereo processor that processes each channel separately, but if the input is mono, it splits to both channels.
  • There are four outputs, but I'm a little confused here. There's a Rear Outs control that swaps outs A and C (the "normal" stereo outs) and outs B and D, which can provide quadraphonic reverb. But, I have no idea if all four outs are available simultaneously, or how you'd use them...then again, I'm not particularly conversant in surround. Maybe someone from UA could describe a typical scenario for using the four outs?
  • There's a feature called "Mode Enhancement" which originally, was preset to an idealized tap modulation setting for each preset. But in the 224, you have control over the amount and degree of modulation, which essentially means one of Lexicon's "secret sauce" parameters is now available for your tweaking pleasure. Frankly, I haven't figured out a way to really quantify this; it's more of a "mess with it and see what happens" control. But every now and then, I hit on something useful.
  • Decay Optimization is another option that was part of the original 224 but frankly, I never even knew it was there until I read about it in the UA documentation. Anyway, according to the documentation, it was optimized for individual programs and improves "reverb clarity and naturalness by dynamically reducing reverb diffusion and coloration in response to input signal levels." Like Mode Enhancement, this is one of the "tweak until it sounds good" controls, although I found the default values nailed it most of the time.
Another fine point is that you can add in system noise if you want, but I'd like to talk about that for a bit and quote some comments from one of the designers at Waves (hopefully neither Waves nor UA will mind). Anyway, I had reviewed the Waves Aphex emulation and made a snarky comment about why anyone would want to include noise in a plug-in. I mean, it's a no-brainer, right? Why model noise when you don't have to?

But he pointed out two things. First, for some people, that WAS a part of the sound and therefore, for the emulation to be accurate, it needed to be able to offer that sound. Besides, as with the 224, you could disable it. Second, and more intriguingly, some listeners preferred the sound with the noise and not for nostalgic reasons - they thought it added a useful sonic character that was more interesting than a sound without noise.

Prior to that conversation, I would have used this post to say "Hey UA, why do you emulate noise when you don't have to?" But now I know better. smile.gif I presume UA's motivations for being able to add system noise are similar, but I'd be interested if the UA designers can offer any additional insights. Yes, I'm a geek, and yes, I find this kind of thing interesting.

Next, we'll describe the "hidden features" area if for no other reason than to show off the cool graphics, then get into the Chorus, then wrap up the 224 before moving on to...well, it's a tough choice actually, but I think I'm going to do the Studer tape emulation next.
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Oh, and since the UA engineers seem pretty forthcoming about what's coming up in the future...are the rumors I'm hearing about 64-bit compatibility true? I've had no problems using the UA plug-ins with 64-bit Sonar using its built-in bit bridge, but wonder what kind of benefits native 64-bit compatibility would provide.

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Quote Originally Posted by Siggidori View Post
How about creating a Soundcloud account and upload the 24bit aiff/wav files for us to listen to? + The youtube ones of course smile.gif
Thanks for the suggestion! I've actually thought about that, but in some previous pro reviews, I made both downloadable audio examples and YouTube movies available. The number of YouTube views exceeded downloads by a huge factor - I think people liked the convenience of just being able to click on the video, and after watching it, didn't feel the need to listen to higher quality audio. I must say the YouTube audio is better than I expected, I upload a really high-resolution file so I guess the encoding doesn't beat it up too badly smile.gif

But, I'll look into it because if one person is asking for something, that represents a lot of people who also want it but don't take the time to ask.
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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton

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Oh, and since the UA engineers seem pretty forthcoming about what's coming up in the future...are the rumors I'm hearing about 64-bit compatibility true? I've had no problems using the UA plug-ins with 64-bit Sonar using its built-in bit bridge, but wonder what kind of benefits native 64-bit compatibility would provide.

 

In a word..."this". 64-bit computing has been around for some time at this point. Audio appplications, plugins, hosts, etc. really should get on board at some point in the near future. There are demonstrable circumstances where accessing more than (almost) 4 GBs of RAM makes a noticeable improvement on performance, and mixing large numbers of tracks with plugins is one of those situations...especially with hosts that are increasingly being coded to use multi-processor computing more effectively, etc. I am frustrated with having to deal with "bridges" to use some of the best hardware emulation plugs (such as the UAD suite) for each plugin instance. It wreaks havoc with workflow when (for example) the actual plugin GUI disappears when dealing with the bridge window, etc. Native 64-bit support for UAD would be a VERY welcome update to the overall experience (off topic, but the same could be said for Drumagog 5 and others as well).
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Here's a screen shot of what happens when you open up the "secret chamber" in UA's emulation.

maUYa.png

The two buttons on the left are pitch shift up and down, which affect the Mode Enhancement option we discussed previously. The four knobs are input and output trims - obvious enough, while the Link control sets whether the input and output level controls are ganged or not.

The little UA logo is normally lit, which indicates that original programming bugs affecting the Hall B and Chorus algorithms are fixed. But if you actually like the sound of pops in the Chorus program's right channel, be my guest...

The Hold switch is the "I'm not looking at the plug-in all the time" switch. It sorts of works like a peak hold function on a VU meter. When set to 1.5 seconds, whenever you modify a parameter, the readout displays the most recent value for 1.5 seconds before reverting to the default display (current decay time). When set to hold, the modified value is held until you either edit another parameter, or change the hold switch back to 1.5 seconds.

The power button enables/disables processing. Although disabling the 224 does not free up additional DSP, bypassing it in your host does. So why have a separate power switch? Three reasons:

  • By turning off the effect with the power button, you can bring it back in with no delay. When you "disconnect" the effect from the DSP, re-enabling it will create a slight hiccup.
  • If you want to do something like cut short a really long decay, you can do so by turning off the power.
  • You can use it as a creative effect by switching the reverb on and off without causing any glitching.
In terms of how much DSP the 224 requires, it's fairly hefty - 17%. For comparison, a simple effect like the LA-2A requires about 4%, while the Studer A800 draws a little less at 15.4%. I've yet to find anything that outdraws the Manley Massive Passive, though, which eats up 60.2% of DSP. Then again, it sounds it smile.gif
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