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Universal Audio UAD-2 Review (Bonus Material)

March 6, 2009
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While I was working on this review, version 5.2 of the UAD software came out, offering two brand-new plug-ins: the Harrison 32C Channel EQ and the Little Labs IBP Phase Alignment Tool. These are available for both the UAD-1 and UAD-2 platforms.

Harrison 32C Channel EQ ($249)

This plug-in was based on the EQ section from legendary engineer Bruce Swedien''s personal Harrison console, the same series on which he mixed Michael Jackson''s Thriller. UA even modeled his favorite channel on that console, good ol'' number 17.

In essence, it''s a simple 4-band semiparametric EQ with highpass and lowpass filters. There''s also a polarity flip and a gain control, which are “digital only” features, in addition to switches for enabling the filters and EQ separately. A global Power switch rounds out the 32C. I have never had my hands on a Harrison 32-series console, but I found this EQ to be highly effective at getting vocals and instruments to sit better in the mix with the turn of a few knobs. This is not a very surgical EQ, as there are no Q controls and the frequency controls have only a few landmark hertz markings. But I found the overall sound of the EQ to be gentler than that of other UAD EQs. The same dB boost and cut values on those other EQs were more apparent, which was more desirable in some cases and less in others. The filters have a distinctive sound, the resonance of which I found almost Moog-like when sweeping them. All in all, the Harrison 32C is a different flavor of EQ that I enjoy having access to. You can check out the free 14-day demo to see if that sound is one you''d like.

Little Labs IBP Phase Alignment Tool ($99)

As an avid fan of Jonathan Little''s In-Between-Phase (IBP) hardware box, I''ve been eagerly awaiting the digital version for quite some time, and I was thrilled to see UA partner with Little Labs to deliver this plug-in. (You can see a review of the hardware box at emusician.com/signalprocessors/emusic_little_labs_2/.) The utility of the IBP is unique; it continuously changes the phase relationship between tracks with a similar signal, such as two or more microphones or DIs on the same source. Exactly how it accomplishes this is Little''s secret (he''ll tell you that it involves passive allpass filters), but the result is like magic. With three switches (180-degree phase invert, 90-to-180-degree phase adjust range, and phase center high/low) and one phase adjust knob, you can really find the sweet spot between a bass''s DI and amp tracks, or between two mics on a kick drum. The digital version has an extra control—a continuous digital phase delay (0 to 4 ms)—that allows even more fine-tuning of how the two tracks interrelate. Sometimes the perfect phase relationship is immediately apparent, and the instrument just falls right into place. Sometimes a few different settings sound equally good in different ways (as different frequencies are reinforced or canceled). But no matter what, for $99 you get a tool unlike any other in your kit. I absolutely love my hardware IBP, but I can''t recommend the plug-in version highly enough.

Side Note

While perusing the UAD-2 manual, I found a very cool trick: the scroll wheel on your mouse can be used to control the knobs of the plug-ins! Automating the Moog Filter in real time just got a lot more fun.

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