Universal Audio’s recording interfaces have been steadily increasing in popularity over the past few years. Initially seen as exclusively pro/project studio offerings, UA has evolved their line of interfaces to offer that same pro-level quality and experience to a range of users including home and bedroom producers.
UA interfaces retain a veil of mystique, and those who have never used one before may be wondering what all the fuss is about, considering the variety of interfaces available on the market from different manufacturers. We thought we’d share 5 ways UA interfaces will change the way you record and mix, with features and experiences not possible anywhere else.
1. Unique (and officially endorsed) plugins for any situation
Come for the hardware, stay for the software. The UAD powered plugin platform is UA’s secret sauce. Of course, their emulations of long time staples like their own 1176 and LA-2A processors set the bar for all other emulations, and UAD plugins are almost exclusively officially endorsed software recreations made in collaboration with the original hardware manufacturer with their branding front and centre. Take for example the recently released Neve 1084 preamp and EQ.
On the other hand, it’s often the more obscure emulations that get UA users particularly excited. A great example of this is the AMS Neve DFC (Digital Film Console), an algorithm accurate recreation of the industry-standard post-production console for film and TV. No need to travel to Skywalker Sound to record that next line of dialogue. Just add a microphone and you’re good to go.
Another eye-catcher is the ridiculously powerful and Korg endorsed SDD-3000 delay unit, originally produced in 1982 and made famous by guitarists such as U2’s The Edge. UA went as far as to emulate the sonically critical preamp section of this effect, imbued with their own Unison technology, but more on that later.
UA’s list of lust-worthy exclusive plugins is truly exhaustive but some special mentions go out to the Capitol Chambers reverb plugin (be sure to check your bank account balance before watching the promo video) and the Softube Vocoder, which is unique in not only being developed by Softube exclusively for the UAD platform but also as an original vocoder unit taking cues from both vintage hardware and modern technology.
2. Unison Preamps
As mentioned earlier, UA’s hardware emulations are considered the industry standard, but the fact that they run on UA’s own hardware (audio interfaces), gives them a unique opportunity to go one step further.
There are a large number of preamp emulations in UA’s plugin catalogue, whether they be mic or instrument preamps. Of those plugins, many proclaim to be Unison-enabled meaning they were designed to be used specifically with UA’s hardware preamps. When engaged, these plugins will communicate with your audio interface’s physical preamp and make real electrical changes to things like impedance and headroom so that your hardware behaves more like the plugin being used.
It’s pretty mind-blowing having software and hardware working together like this to achieve a new level of emulation authenticity and quite the thrill to hear the relays in your interface click when you load up that SSL channel strip.
This also applies to guitar and bass amp emulations and it’s remarkable what a difference this makes to not only the sound but also the feel of plugins such as the Fender Tweed and the Marshall Plexi amplifiers. This includes the aforementioned Korg SDD-3000 delay whose powerful preamp section contributes so much to its overall sound.
Regardless, the feel of these Unison plugins would only be so gratifying if latency was absolutely minimal which takes us to point #3:
3. Hardware and DSP
UA audio interfaces are (like all UA hardware) built like tanks, and that build quality is mirrored by their sound quality, but of course, there’s far more to UA interfaces than just converters and preamps. They are essentially computers themselves with up to six cores of processing power. Unlike the computer you already have though, these are designed specifically to process audio at the highest quality with the lowest latency.
This is why using UAD plugins is such a smooth and low-stress experience. All the processing is done by your interface with its dedicated DSP (digital signal processor) and not your PC or Mac, so there’s less chance of crashes or audio glitches. A truly reassuring experience during critical recording sessions, if there is any other kind.
Audio can also be processed with effectively zero latency which contributes so much to the feel of those previously mentioned Unison plugins. The experience of using these plugins with no latency, no CPU drain and unequivocal sonic authenticity is a luxury that UA owners will understandably brag about every chance they get.
4. Expanded Ecosystem
UA interfaces come in a range of shapes and sizes with varying numbers of mic preamps, line outs, DSP cores etc. Today, you may only require two simultaneous analogue inputs but who’s to say you won’t need 16 line ins at some point down the track. Or maybe you’re getting sick of unplugging and packing down your rackmount interface every time you want to record remotely.
What’s great about Thunderbolt UA interfaces is the ability to daisy chain up to 4 of them together seamlessly in one system. No need to mess around with aggregate device configurations here, your computer will see all of your interfaces as one hardware device. UA’s flex driver even lets you re-order or rename ins and outs to your liking which is conveniently reflected inside your DAW of choice.
It’s not only the audio I/O that gets aggregated, but it’s also the DSP. So your DUO Core Apollo Twin and your HEXA (6 core) rackmount Apollo act together as one 8 Core system. And if you just need the additional DSP without any more I/O, UA also make Satellite’s with up to 8 DSP cores each. So you know it’s a convenient and flexible ecosystem that you’ve invested into that will grow (or shrink) with you over time.
UA’s first foray into recording software has been a huge deal for them. After a truly spectacular unveiling at the Winter NAMM Show, Luna is now included for free with all Thunderbolt UA interfaces. If you’ve just picked up a new UA interface and you need some recording software to get you started, it’s an amazing pack-in, but it’s also the fully-featured multitrack recording software UA owners have been dreaming of for years thanks to some incredibly powerful hardware integration.