When I reviewed the Universal Audio UAD-2 DSP cards awhile ago, I knew they were going to be great. I had used the original UAD, and I liked it and its plug-in complement a lot. In fact, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would come to depend on those plug-ins. But with the UAD-2 PCIe card in my studio computer and the UAD-2 Solo portable version that I carry with my laptop, they really have become mainstays for me.
One really cool thing is that Universal Audio keeps releasing new plug-ins that run on the cards. I added several to my arsenal recently, including the Manley Massive Passive, the Precision Enhancer Hz, and the latest version of the EMT Plate Reverb. All of these plug-ins come as free 14-day demos when you upgrade to UAD-2 version 5.6 software (also free). This is cool, as it gives you a chance to try the plug-ins in your own studio before you commit to buying them.
You may be aware that UA has had an excellent EMT plate plug-in for a while. But the new EMT is an “improved” version that provides even more control. Additions include the original and aftermarket 80Hz input shelving filters, and modulation for adding “movement” to the reverb tail. In short, UA has made the EMT even better and more versatile. It was valuable before; now I find myself using it even more often. (The new version is a free upgrade for owners of the previous EMT plug-in.)
The Precision Enhancer Hz is a specialized tool that’s designed to let you add harmonics to bass fundamentals. This increases the perception of low end without requiring you to use equalization. It also allows smaller speakers to simulate extremely low frequencies. There have been other bass “enhancers” in the past, but none have offered the control or flexibility of this one. You can solo the effect, solo the filtered original signal being used to drive the effect, and choose among four filter slopes and five enhancement modes to best match the effect to your signal. Ultimately, you can describe it in two words: it works. Whether you’re running a solo track (bass or other instrument or vocal) through it or a full mix, you now have access to powerful low end, without having to re-track or use EQ.
Last but certainly not least is the Manley Massive Passive equalizer, which was developed in cooperation with EveAnna Manley and her crew of hardware super designers. Like the hardware it is modeled on, the Massive Passive plug-in is a stereo unit with four “passive” EQ bands per channel. There are two versions provided: one with continuous controls for mixing, the other with stepped controls for mastering. Basically, everything you run through this plug-in sounds better, whether you have the EQ bands engaged or bypassed – even with the EQ bands bypassed, it adds a nice coloration. But engage the bands, and you have a choice (per band) of shelving or bell curves, boost or cut operation, and stereo linking across the two channels for matched settings.
I used the Massive Passive plug-in to mix and master an EP for a jazz guitarist from New York. While it can do some “surgical” EQ work, it really stands out for shaping tracks when mixing. I loved it for mastering, as I used it to gently contour the overall mix without adding harshness or any “digital” edge. It’s a very powerful equalizer with beautiful sound quality – just like the original hardware!
In short, if you’re a UAD-2 user, you need to upgrade to version 5.6 software and check out these plug-ins. If you haven’t added a UAD-2 to your rig, then what are you waiting for? It’s worth getting the card just to run the EMT 140 and the Massive Passive, let alone all the other great Universal Audio plug-ins!