Universal Audio UAD-2 Solo/Laptop Card Review

Jan 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Brandon Hickey



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However, this made more sense when I tallied my plug-in count. I maxed out at four 88RSs, two 1176 SEs, two Pultec EQs, an LA-2A, a Moog Filter, an SSL Bus Compressor, a Plate 140, a UA RealVerb Pro and a Cooper Time Cube — a tall stack with 14 instantiations of the heartier plug-ins. That said, it would be nice if you could run additional UAD-2 plug-ins in RTAS or VST versions when the SHARC chip is used up while still necessitating the device itself for authorization. My quad-core internal processor had significant CPU headroom, and considering the fact that the MacBook Pro is the only laptop in the Mac family with the ExpressCard slot needed for this device, it seems that this might often be the case.

My only other issue was the considerable latency introduced by many of the UAD-2 plug-ins. Logic compensates automatically, but when trying to track a vocal overdub or a MIDI keyboard feeding a Logic instrument, I had to bypass some plug-ins for the sake of performance. Pro Tools M-Powered suffered the most because there is no automatic delay compensation, but UA offers a solution. Bundled with the UAD-2 Solo/Laptop is a third-party RTAS plug-in from Mellowmuse called ATA (Automatic Time Adjustment). You start by putting an instance of the plug-in on each track and the master fader. It compensates by playing a pulse through each track and measuring the round-trip delay. This certainly helped when using dynamic processors and it tightened up the Pro Tools/UAD-2 relationship overall, but when it came to time-based processors, the results were more unpredictable. Naturally, when you are deliberately inducing some amount of delay as an effect, the ATA has no way of knowing what you're trying to do. I found that upping the dry output of the plug-in during pinging, and then switching back to 100 percent wet afterward seemed to help, though it was less convenient.

Is It Top Gear?

Altogether, I am pleased with the UAD-2 Solo/Laptop experience. It's a valuable tool, particularly when access to high-end outboard gear is limited due to budget or the need for portability. The models offered provide excellent processing, and as far as plug-ins go are certainly among the most valuable tools I have encountered. Trying to run these powerful plugs would certainly take a toll on a native system, so the additional DSP is certainly welcome and now more portable than ever. There are no cables and no power supply, and the card sits neatly inside the machine with only a small protrusion. With only minor complaints and plenty of praise, it seems that Universal Audio has created a product that will fit into a variety of production environments.

Brandon Hickey is an engineer, educator and post-production consultant.

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