UAD Plugins: 6 Hidden Gems (That Don't Cost The Earth)
Many of Universal Audio's UAD powered plug-ins are very familiar - the likes of LA-2A, 1176, Pultec, SSL, Neve, Manley and their excellent tape emulations are amongst the most popular. As well as these well known names, there are many others that are also very useful - including some of the plug-ins included free when you purchase your interface.They may be less expensive, but they're no less powerful. Here are six of our favourite hidden gems...
1. AKG BX 20 | Spring Reverb : £149
Before UA released the AKG BX 20 Spring Reverb I used to reamp some of my old guitar amps to access their noisy old springs. This was purely due to being unable to find a plug-in that could do a spring reverb real justice. However, everything changed when UA released the BX 20!
We all have room and hall reverbs, plates and delays but a good spring can add some extra character and change of space. The original hardware AKG BX 20 was invented in the 1960's and sounds very lush and moody - I find that running it as a plug-in on a track rather than using it as an FX send always gives more of a natural direct tone. In the same way a guitar would be used through a spring reverb amp, it's also great on drums or percussion.
2. Cambridge EQ | Equaliser & Filters : £115
The Cambridge EQ has been out since the start of UAD Powered Plug-ins and whilst the graphical interface could possibly do with a bit of a facelift, the sound is still very desirable.
It's a 5-band parametric or shelving EQ with wonderful filters that have 17 (!) filter slopes including 2nd-6th order Butterworth and elliptical filters. This has long been a favourite amongst many mix engineers due to the small amount of DSP usage it requires. The Cambridge EQ can be your 'go-to' on all your channels safe in the knowledge that you won't run out of DSP power.
You may find you have this plug-in already as it has been included in many bundles, but have you tried it yet?
3. Brigade Chorus | CE-1 Ensemble Pedal : £75
Based on the BOSS Classic CE-1 Chorus Ensemble Pedal, this plug-in takes you right back to the 1970's. The CE-1 was arguably the best bucket brigade chorus pedal out there, and original units still exchange hands for large sums.
But something you can only do in software (unless you're lucky enough to have two CE-1 pedals) - is to run it in Dual-Mode which simulates using two pedals for a wider and more natural stereo spread.
The likes of Brian May, Eric Clapton, The Cure, Rush, Peter Frampton, Arctic Monkeys, Andy Summers, John Frusciante and David Gilmour have all used the CE-1.
4. Cooper Time Cube MkII | Echo/Delay : £115
The Cooper Time Cube was a joint design by Duane H. Cooper and Bill Putnum under the Universal Audio/UREI name back in 1971. It had very short delay times of 14ms, 16ms or a total combined 30ms. The unique sound came from the fact that it used a mechanical garden-hose design where the audio was passed through pieces of tubing, with Shure SM57 capsules used as pickups and speakers. The whole unit was then suspended on springs and filled with packing peanuts which would stay inside the unit to keep everything in place.
As you can see in the following picture, the rack unit is only one part of a package with the large hose-based unit next to it. Fortunately with the UAD Cooper Time Cube MkII plug-in you won't need to carry this thing around to achieve this legendary sound!
Perfect for vocals and helping instruments just 'sit' in a mix the Cooper Time Cube MkII is a real secret weapon.
5. Little Labs VOG | Bass Resonance Tool : £115
Created by Little Labs about 10 years ago, this little hardware box quickly gained a following in the mix and engineering world for the extra weight and power it added to tracks. The unit has two very simple controls - sweepable frequency and amplitude - and the frequency centre can be set to 40Hz or 100Hz (you can also set the centre to 200 Hz by pressing both buttons).
This found it's way onto kick drums, toms, bass guitar, synths, and even vocals - anything that required some extra 'oomph' or power, or vocal proximity effect. The unique thing with the VOG is that, unlike other bass enhancement devices, it still retains plenty of detail and clarity - it doesn't just become 'tubby' or boomy.
6. Valley People Dyna-mite | Limiter/Gate/Expander : £149
You want bite?...aggression?...even more bite? Then you need the Dyna-mite.
One of my personal favourites for adding snap and bite to tracks, as well as running on parallel. I used to own an original, and I've also compared it against a few modules (including the new 500-series re-issue) and the software sounds identical to me.
Designed in the 1950's by Paul Buff who worked with Frank Zappa designing a lot of his original studio equipment and mixing console at his Pal Recording Studios / Studio Z.
This is not a transparent limiter at all - I use it to add attack to bass guitar and snares as it tends to work best for me in rock tracks, but try it out - it's anything but subtle!