One of the advantages of Pro Tools TDM systems is that you get a PCI card containing DSP chips that can be used to run plug-ins, instead of expecting your Mac’s CPU to do everything. But what if you are using a VST, MAS or Audio Unit compatible host application such as Steinberg Cubase or Nuendo, Emagic Logic Audio or MOTU Digital Performer?
One solution is Universal Audio’s UAD-1 card. This provides you with a dedicated DSP chip-on-a-bus mastering, 7-inch form factor, PCI 2.1-compliant card. You can use this to run the supplied proprietary plug-ins – taking the load off your Mac’s CPU.
The Studio PAK suite comprises 20 plug-ins including Kind of Loud’s RealVerb Pro, a Channel Strip called the CS-1, and a modular guitar processor named Nigel that lets you simulate guitar amps and cabinets along with a range of typical guitar effects. Professional recording engineers will particularly value the extremely faithful digital replicas of Universal Audio’s vintage analogue hardware, such as the Teletronix LA-2A and 1176LN compressors, Pultec Program EQ, and now the Fairchild 670 Compressor.
The Fairchild 670 is the Holy Grail of esoteric two-channel studio compressors and the hardware changes hands for as much as £20,000 in today’s vintage gear market. But it weighs a ton with its 14 transformers, and is difficult to maintain with its 20 thermionic valves. UA’s emulation provides all the features of the original while adding some useful extras.
The Studio PAK also includes the new DreamVerb and Cambridge EQ plug-ins.
The Cambridge is a high-end analogue EQ. It has five bands of EQ, switchable between parametric and shelving types, plus high- and low-pass filters.
DreamVerb is Universal Audio’s flagship reverb. The interface is one of the best I’ve seen – especially the way you can drag a dividing line between one room shape and another, or between the materials used in the room. Pop-up selectors let you choose from huge lists of different materials and room shapes and you can blend or morph between room shapes and surfaces. Even the density of the air can be changed to simulate different ambient situations.
So the UAD-1 supports sample rates from 32kHz all the way up to 192kHz, and now it’s available for Panther on the G5. But what it really comes down to here is whether you want this particular set of plug-ins or not. As a musician, I can live without Nigel and the Channel Strip, and there are better-sounding reverbs, but as a sound engineer there is no way I can live without these vintage studio processor simulations – they’re just too darned hot!