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Universal Audio Luna – First Look [Part 2]: Luna Extensions and Instruments

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In our last article looking at Universal Audio’s new recording program Luna, we focused on what was included with the free software download, at no extra cost. This time we’re examining the optional Luna Extensions currently available as additional in-app purchases. 

There are already 5 of these available. Four are produced entirely by Universal Audio, and one (made up of three parts) is a third-party release from Spitfire Audio, so there is already a lot of momentum with this whole Luna Extension concept and I have no doubt that there are plenty more on the way. There is a lot to look at so we’ve broken the videos up into two parts. The first looks at the more mixing oriented Luna Extensions, namely Neve Summing and the Studer A800 Tape Recorder, and the second focuses purely on virtual instruments. 

Neve Summing is mixing Extension people will presumably be most curious about because it adds a whole additional layer to Luna’s mixing capabilities. Summing is where you take several tracks and run them through a dedicated stereo bus. Neve 80s Series consoles had particularly pleasant sounding summing buses so this process can do wonders for your mixes with very little effort 

Summing can simultaneously help tracks glue tracks together whilst also adding depth and width, without any of the squashing artefacts associated with compression. It’s a fantastic addition to Luna’s already powerful arsenal of mixing tools, and I have no doubt the majority of those who find themselves using Luna regularly will find this Extension purchase very compelling.  

The Studer A800 Tape Recorder is a little different in that it is both a Luna Extension and a UAD plugin. Anyone who already owns the UAD plugin will automatically receive the Luna Extension, and a Luna Extension purchase also includes the plugin.  It has a very different flavour to the included Oxide Tape Extension, and I think people will find themselves using both frequently. This is even possible within the same session, so why not run some tracks through the Oxide Tape Machine and some through the Studer?  

 

There is also plenty to chew on in the virtual instruments category. This is the first time UA has displayed their proficiency with software instruments, and they are no less impressive than the UAD effects they are known for.  The MiniMoog extension is, for the most part, a 1:1 recreation of the classic monophonic synthesiser, albeit with a few extra tricks. There is now a dedicated LFO and some extra routing options such as MIDI velocity control, but the most impressive feature is its sound.  I have heard no shortage of MiniMoog emulations over the years and this is certainly the most impressive-sounding one yet. I could talk about it forever with all sorts of colourful adjectives, but I encourage you to simply watch and listen to the video. Or better yet, if you qualify for a copy of Luna, try it out yourself with the free trial version.  

Ravel is UA’s acoustic piano instrument and it’s a joy to play. As wonderful as the sampled pianos itself is, the star of the show is arguably the virtual room the piano is placed in. Utilising some of the innovative tech from their Ocean Ways Studio UAD plugin, UA has integrated some truly impressive room modelling into this instrument and a simple slider blends between the close microphones and the more ambient room mics. A supplement feature called Reverse Mix adds in some piano samples played in reverse. This may sound abstract on paper, and to an extent, it is, however it turns out to be very practical and effective for those less traditional piano pieces. It adds a synthetic and otherworldly vibe that you wouldn’t necessarily think to add, but I’m sure you’ll find yourself using, if only sparingly.  

Lastly, there is a selection of orchestral sample libraries courtesy of Spitfire Audio. The three libraries: Strings, Brass and Woodwinds are available to purchase either individually, or as one discounted bundle. Spitfire is well renowned for their high-quality sample libraries and is used extensively by professional producers and composers worldwide. Each library is very simple to use but offers a range of beautiful sounds with plenty of instrument articulations to choose from 

The primary control is a slider labelled ‘dynamics’ which is mapped to your keyboard’s mod wheel. It’s a very intuitive and effective way to quickly perform expressive dynamic parts in real time using just your keyboard. If you get a chance to try these libraries out, I highly encourage you to do so. They may be just what you need for your next project or composition.  

So that does it for our first look at UA’s Luna Recording System. It’s an impressive release on many levels, from the workflow to the hardware integration to the range of optional Luna Extensions. It’s not perfect yet and UA is well aware of its admittedly minor shortcomings (most notably Windows compatibility), but for a 1.0 release they’ve done a remarkably comprehensive job with a very robust and polished DAW, I mean recording program 😉  

There is a feedback button built directly into the program for feature requests and bug reports and Luna has already seen to post release updates. We can’t wait to see what UA comes up with next as far as additional Luna features, new Extensions and beyond! 

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