Most of the music we hear today is processed through digital audio workstation software such as Apple's Logic or Digidesign's Pro Tools. In order to mix and master the audio, engineers use plug-in versions of EQs and compressors to dial in the sound. While there are a lot of plug-in choices, I have found none better than Universal Audio (UA).
I've used a lot of different plug-ins over the years and one of the things that I learned is that I love the sound of older, analog gear. There is a warmth to the Fairchild Compressor, Pultec EQ, and Neve consoles that just grabs me. Naturally, it was that warmth that I searched for when looking for a great set of plug-ins.
While I heard good things about Universal Audio over the years, I resisted buying them because I needed to pick up the DSP card. It just seemed like a hassle that I didn't need--I now wish now that I did it long ago.
I bought the US$1,899 UAD-2 Quad, installed it in my Mac Pro and installed the software. I now have a card that takes care of the plug-in processing and a collection of plug-ins that have changed the way I approach mixing music.
Universal Audio specializes in reproducing some of the most sought-after gear in the industry. Imagine being able to use the Neve 1081, Neve 1073, Fairchild Compressor, or the LA-2A. That's what I'm using now.
You may be thinking that you can get some of these plug-ins elsewhere and that may be true, but I haven't heard any that sound better than the UA versions. In fact, there are very few companies in the industry that have the history and knowledge of the analog gear that UA does.
The modern incarnation of Universal Audio was started by Bill Putnam Jr. after his father, Bill Putnam Sr,, died in 1989. Putnam Sr. originally founded the company in the 1950s and went on to record Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others.
Not only was Putnam Sr. one of the greatest engineers of all time, he was an innovator in the music industry. He created the LA-2A and 1176 Compressor (and many others), which are still in use today in studios around the world.
The plug-ins that you can purchase from UA are, in my opinion, the very best money can buy. I've even gone back to older projects and redone the mixes with the UA plug-ins, and it has given the songs that warmth that I always look for.
If you still want that classic analog gear, you can get that from UA, too. They hand make all of the gear themselves, so it sounds just like the original. My goal now is to get some of those in my studio.
When you can immediately start working with a plug-in and dial in a sound, you know you are using the right software. With the history and commitment of Universal Audio, I no longer need to look for anything else.
This story, "Universal Audio Brings Vintage Sound to Plug-ins" was originally published by Macworld.