Universal Audio UAD-2 Satellite Review

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Kevin Becka



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I can’t possibly get into each available plug-in in UAD-2 land, so I’m going to touch on the high points of my experience here. I happened to be mixing a daunting 80-plus-track song at the time and quickly ate up a lot of processing. For compression and general track warming, I fell in love with the Fatso Jr. The interface can be confusing at first, but a quick trip to Empirical Labs’ Website got my head around it quickly. It is very good at adding degrees of warmth to challenged tracks. In this case, I had a poorly recorded sax track that also happened to be the lead instrument in my mix. I used the Fatso just for warmth and then the Fairchild 670 emulation to tame the transients and bring it nicely into the mix.

I had equally good results with the Trident A-Range EQ, dbx 160 compressor and EMT reverbs on a variety of instruments. The EMT 140 plate quickly became one of my favorites. I was able to download the UAD 5.9 software update just before penning this review and had a chance to play with the new Lexicon 224 reverb. It is excellent, and there are some great presets written by top engineers who have used the 224 for many years. This brings up the point I love most about the UAD-2 hardware emulations: The company is not afraid to make it a challenge to use the processors; these aren’t dumbed-down versions. You can go as deep as you want on your own, which is exactly like the hardware. A one-knob world is a boring world. However, if you want a good starting point, there are great presets for every plug-in to help you get your feet wet. One size fits every user, advanced or not.

The only problem I had when using the system is an occasional disconnect between Pro Tools and the UAD-2 Satellite. Diagnosis is easy using the Link LED placed—unfortunately on the back of the unit. I was sharing the FW800 bus with a hard drive so that could have been part of the issue. Nonetheless, it was easy to fix by pulling and re-seating the FireWire cable to the Satellite.

Using Satellite Quad was nothing short of an epiphany with regard to what can be mixed natively on a laptop. If you’ve ever tried to survive with internal RAM alone, you quickly realize it’s a dead end; you need TDM or one of the existing UAD cards in your tower to pull it off.

Before Satellite, the best you could get is the Solo/Laptop card (one chip) on a 17-inch Mac laptop. Now you can get up to four chips on any FireWire-capable, Intel-based Mac laptop, iMac, MacBook Pro or Mac mini. This is an exponential bonus in power and flexibility.

And I haven’t even touched on how great the plug-ins sound. Los Angeles–based engineer David Rideau put it best when I told him how excited I was about the UAD-2 processors. He said, “Even if I bring up a plug-in and it’s not what I’m looking for, they still sound great.” He’s right. The range of hardware emulations are broad, intelligently presented with accurate GUIs and just the right amount of upgrades to take it into the digital realm. If you want to extend your creative reach and make yourself a better mixer, especially on a laptop, UAD-2 Satellite is your next best step.

Kevin Becka is Mix’s technical editor.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the UAD-2 Satellite product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the UAD-2 Satellite product page.

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