Universal Audio offers a suite of Powered Plug-Ins that run on the UAD-1 PCI card, which is now available for the Mac. As well as vintage compressors – emulations of UA’s own classic 1176LN and Teletronix LA-2A compressors – the Powered Plug-Ins package also includes an emulation of the classic Pultec EQP-1A. It also features Kind of Loud’s RealVerb Pro, a Channel Strip specially developed for the card called the CS-1, a guitar processor named Nigel, and the UAD-1 PCI DSP card itself.
The main advantage of using the UAD-1 card is that it reduces the processing load on your CPU by providing a set of useful plug-ins that run on the card’s DSP. With the card taking care of a significant part of your signal-processing requirements, your host application will be able to cope with more tracks, more automation, and more native effects. And there is plenty of DSP power on this card to share out between the plug-ins. For example, you could use eight RealVerb Pros or 32 EQs, 16 compressors and three Realverb Pros – lots more than you’re likely to be able to use if you’re just relying on your computer’s CPU.
The DSP on the card is optimized to provide even greater quality of signal processing than you’re likely to get when using the computer’s CPU, and there is artifact-free smoothing on all parameters – so you get no zipper noise when adjusting the controls.
All parameters can be automated, and the card uses floating-point arithmetic for high-quality results. And the quality shines through when you use the 1176LN or the LA-2A. These respond with all the subtlety of the original hardware units, but with pristine digital quality. The Channel Strip allows you to carry out both technical and creative processing, and can be loaded as modules. Similarly, Nigel includes the most common types of signal processing that guitarists use.
Installation of the card is straightforward, with clear instructions provided. However, at the time of writing, multiple UAD-1 cards were not yet supported. Also, multiprocessor support is not implemented, although this should come soon. And, no third-party developers are offering software for this card.
The Crown Jewels of the Powered Plug-ins are undoubtedly the vintage processor emulations. The 1176LN, LA-2A and EQP-1A are legends in the world of professional audio. The RealVerb is more remarkable for its interface than for its sounds, and the channel strip is functional rather than exciting. And as for Nigel… well, with a name like that… But the vintage emulations are so good that you can justify you shelling out for the package just for these.