Universal Audio UAD-Nevana X2 - EMusician

Universal Audio UAD-Nevana X2

Let’s cut right to the chase—the new UAD-Nevana X2 bundle includes two PCIe UAD-1e DSP Cards, authorization for the base set of UA plug-ins (a.k.a. UA Mix Essentials), and all seven of UA’s authorized Neve titles: the 1073/SE, 1081/SE, 33609/SE, 88RS (I know, there are really only four Neve emulations in the pack, but three titles have a “light CPU load” SE version, making it seven different items). There is also a $200 bonus voucher redeemable towards any plug-in title from their online store. Want more information about compatibility and such? Go over to www.uaudio.com and read for yourself. We got some testing to do here.
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OVERVIEW

Included in this bundle are two different channel strip equalizers, a mastering/bus compressor, and full channel from the Neve 88R console.

To start, UA’s emulation of the Neve 1073 channel offers the same three-band EQ and high-pass filter as the original. The 1073 EQ consists of a fixed, 12kHz high shelving EQ, six-frequency parametric EQ, four-frequency low shelving EQ, and four-frequency high pass filter. Other features include a 30dB range of gain control, phase reverse, and EQ bypass.

The other channel module is the 1081 (Figure 1)—a four-band EQ with both high and low cut filters. The two midrange bands are parametric, with “Hi-Q” selections for sharper boosts or cuts. Both the high and low shelf filters have selectable frequencies and may be switched to bell filters. The Neve 1081 EQ is a five-frequency high shelf/bell EQ, a ten-frequency hi-mid parametric EQ with two Q types, a ten-frequency low-mid parametric EQ with two Q types, a five-frequency low shelf/bell EQ, a five-frequency high pass filter, and five-frequency low pass filter. Other features include a –20 to +10dB input gain control, phase reverse, and EQ bypass.

The 33609 stereo bus compressor/limiter (Figure 2), like the hardware it was modeled after, has stepped controls. Each channel has a separate compression and limiting section, with separate threshold and recovery controls. Two of the recovery selections for each section are dedicated to a program dependent auto release. The compressor section also offers five ratio selections and 20dB make-up gain, while the limiter offers a fast or slow attack. The UAD version of the Neve 33609 adds some bells and whistles not found on the hardware, most notably a link switch allowing ganged left/right control of all parameters, output control, and a headroom switch, which permits today’s high resolution DAWs to exploit the full range of 33609 gain coloration.

The Neve 88RS Channel Strip (Figure 3) includes high and low cut filters, a four-band EQ plus limiting, compression, gate, and expansion. The middle EQ bands are fully parametric. The high and low bands have two fixed-Q types, and also offer the ability to choose a shelving EQ.

The VCA-type Limit/Comp provides a wide range of release times, along with an Auto option. The ratio is variable with a fixed fast or slow attack time. The Gate/Exp provides 0.01 to 3s release times, fast or slow attack times, and Threshold, Range, and Hysteresis to tweak the gate or expansion according to need.

If you need to swap the signal order, the P-DYN button routes the signal so that the EQ comes first—a very good idea, as some situations work better with EQ before dynamics and some with EQ after. There is also a side chain enabled by the SC-EQ button (this is great for ducking, de-essing, or doing special effects).

IN USE

These plug-ins are similar to the real units in both sound and use—they are musical, and it’s easy to coax decent sounds out of them. Take the 1073, for example. The fixed frequency points let you adjust areas that commonly have build-up or thinness. The relatively gentle Q slopes also keep most users from dialing up extreme settings that could become nasty. That’s not to say they are without fault. Like a real 1073, while you can impart a wonderful top-end sheen on many sources, it’s possible to use too much and cause your source to ‘ring’ almost like an effects unit.

One of my favorite things to do with the 1073 is to just instantiate it as the first thing on a track and move on. Maybe I’ll use a little of the high pass filter, but that’s it. This is because Universal Audio modeled the entire unit, which includes the transformers. And much of the ‘warm’ sound attributed to the 1073 came from the transformers Mr. Rupert Neve chose.

If you need more sculpting power, I suggest the 1081, which not only sports more bands but also allows for sharper Q settings. Basically, if your source requires gentle tweaking, reach for the 1073; if you want to dig in with your EQ, try the 1081. For example, if you start a mix with three elements—kick, snare, and bass guitar—and use the 1073 and/or 1081 to give each its own sonic space, the rest of your mix can feel like it just drops into place.

With guitars I like to feed a 1073 into a 1081, giving each a smaller piece of the EQ duty. Instead of doing all the midrange adjustments with one, I’ll grab some 1.6kHz with the 1073 and follow up with some 1.5kHz and 1.8kHz with the 1081.

On the right vocalist, a 1073 can pull away some nasal sounds, or the 1081 can add just the right amount of upper mids that allow the singer to float in the spot between the monitors. My only concern with the module units is you cannot type a control value directly into the GUI. Yes, you can open the parameter box and type in the control that way, but it gets unwieldy, especially on the 1081.

At the other end of the instant gratification scale is the 33609, which is not a beginner’s compressor. In fact, users should plan on spending some time with this application to learn the many nuances of the design—the better you know it, the more likely you’ll get exactly the results you want.

The other caution with the 33609 is that you can only use one instance at 44.1kHz; there’s not quite enough DSP power to run a second instance, although there is enough DSP to run other plugs at 44.1kHz. With all that griping, don’t think that I don’t like this plug-in; not true. The 33609 is one of those tools that once you set it right, get ready for bliss. Many of us talk about the mix trick of using two drum stems—a regular version and a compressed version. By blending the two you can get a monster drum sound that is both impactful (yes, I know that’s not a word) and delicate. What people don’t tell you is if you do that with the 33609, you won’t want to use another compressor for that task ever again. To take the opposite usage, try using the 1.5:1 ratio, and a high threshold—the 33609 can be set to skim the top of a vocal or string bus and gently polish the track in a truly pro-quality manner.

The 88RS is the only title of the bunch that doesn’t have an optimized version. However, if you bypass the functions you aren’t using, you draw less DSP, so there is some allocation for efficiency. In use, the 88RS is probably my favorite of the UA Neve emulations.

Like the 33609, I recommend going through the presets to get a feel for the depth of this plug-in. And like the 1073, sometimes I like to instantiate the 88RS just to use whatever Neve-transformer magic they have going on in this model. It makes you realize that anyone with the blessing and privilege to work with a full-sized Neve console should give extra thanks before hitting the pillow at night. While the immediate temptation is to use the 88RS as a bus plug-in—and it certainly shines there—I suggest pulling it out on key elements in a mix and applying it as such. For example, drum overheads can be filtered and compressed to focus on the best parts of the room and kit sound, while de-emphasizing HVAC or reflection noise.

The 88RS can be a one-stop shop for lead vocals, too. The de-esser, while not as obliterating as some choices, can be sidechained with the EQ to do a less noticeable job taming harshness.

I’ve also had good success with acoustic guitar and jazz bass guitar (where the player is doing more “walking around” on the higher frets). Here, the EQ can be flipped to come before the compression, which allows nice tone shaping before any dynamics control. And finally, this full-channel strip makes a good choice on any master fader or bus. With the limiter and program dependent compression release, the 88RS really can be a type of glue that helps to hold a mix together.

Conclusions

If you’ve been considering the UAD line, the Nevana X2 could be your reason to purchase. With two cards, there is plenty of DSP power to do some serious mixing, and with authorized Neve plug-ins, you’ll have the tools you need. Add in the base UA Mix Essential titles and the $200 voucher and you’re in business. If you already have a UAD card or two, adding this bundle will arm you for bear. Word is bond.

PRODUCT TYPE: Signal processing hardware/software combination with two PCIe DSP cards and emulations of Neve plug-in.
TARGET MARKET: Home recordists looking to get that classic Neve sound while working in the box.
STRENGTHS: Accurate sonic representations of Neve hardware. SE versions retain most of the sound with low CPU power. $200 voucher for online plug-in store included.
LIMITATIONS: Can’t type in control values directly in some of GUIs. Can be hard to read values on some GUIs. One instance of full 33609 compressor takes up a little over half of the card’s DSP at 44.1kHz.
LIST PRICE: $1,499
CONTACT:www.uaudio.com