First Impressions count
Today I am taking a look at the latest of UADs wonders! I have to admit that, I am utterly smitten with this piece of kit. The saying goes that first impressions count, and that was definitely true here. The first time I tried out this plug-in I was in 192k sample rate and had been recording-in a cheeky acid line off the Elektron Analog Four. Pleased as punch with the tone and filtering on it, I decided to try out the 1073 and see what its chops were like when giving it a bit of a drive. Now this is something I’ve done a quite a lot historically, on pre-amps as dodgy as old Mackie desks (authentic early acid tones – still really good but gritty) to more boutique stuff. When I hit the line through the UAD 1073 I was absolutely blown away! This thing came to life, thickened up and just really became so much more present and musical. First impressions: this preamp model is tasty when abused.
I have no idea if me being in 192k even affected it as often these newer models are running at double or quad rates internally. Since that initial test I have used it at lower sample rates and it still sounds fantastic. But that first impression stays with me today – I was mostly shocked, I know how good software is getting but was definitely not expecting to hear what I heard, authentic and musical.
The Original Unit
The original hardware was well renowned as well. First launched in 1970, its class A design was famous for having a big punchy musical sound. You see Mr Rupert Neve has a way with building circuits that brought them to life, utilising the complex interactions of components especially picked and put together in such a way that using his equipment would often impart a musical quality to the audio being sent through it. They still make them to this day, staying as close as possible to the original designs and specifications even as components become more rare and the design itself gets ever older.
Would I say this plugin is close to the hardware? Very close indeed.
So in basic terms – this thing is highly useful even before we start looking at the EQ section. The sound of its modelled pre-amp section just gets nicely thick and warm as you drive it. It can give a sound solidity. Other Neve software versions had a good flavour of Neve, where this new plugin sounds VERY Neve and in a way that’s new in software, we are starting to get some of the magic of its use and the kind of behaviour that makes engineers rely on things. So far in my tests I have used it on drums, on synths, on acid 😉 , even on full mixes to warm things up a touch for the master. Whilst its tone is most definitely unique and different to other pieces of hardware, it has a quality that makes it useful in ALL areas of your productions.
My only thoughts to improve this is removing the stepping in the pre-amp controls – I would definitely love a little bit more control over how hard I am driving it, of course this can be achieved by using a gain plug-in before the 1073, I think this is down to UAD wanting to make exact copies of the hardware functionality. So I can understand why this is like it is.
We just don’t have the power captain!!!!
We learn early on that all quality things come at a cost, and of course the same is true for this beautiful emulation of the Neve 1073. When you’re working at 44.1k and you have a DUO UAD card as I have, a single instance of this 1073 takes 34% of your DSP. So you can only run three basically – that’s three – PRE-AMP and EQ. The Pre-amp alone takes less and you can run more, but it’s still an amazing amount of DSP usage. That gives testament to the work UAD have done in emulating this, and to be honest, it kinda explains what I heard in my first impression, detailed and nuanced modelling.
I read that this huge use of DSP is mostly down to the inter-dependency modelled between the EQ and the PRE-AMP section. They’re not just running separately, rather both are affected by each other dynamically. This is totally worth it for me, I can put up with having to print tracks ALL DAY to get this kind of tone. You do need to ask yourself if that’s a problem for you though unless you can fill a machine with OCTO cards.
What about that EQ section? You get a simple three band EQ. Well thought out fixed high shelf which is crispy and warm depending which way you go. Simple as a fixed shelf can be, it does sound lovely, I mean it really can add something to your track in a very musical way so despite its nature you will find yourself reaching for it a lot. Next up we get a mid-band bell EQ that is steppable with a really wide range of frequencies from 360hz to 7200hz. Some people say there’s too big a gap between each setting on this, but think of it for more tonal work that any precise tweaking. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of your sound this is not the EQ for that. This EQ is for musicality and tone balancing and for that the mid-range is perfect giving you the options for broad stokes. It sounds great to boot. The Lower range shelf is also steppable up to around 200hz – for me this band sounds fantastic – full and warm – I fell in love with the bottom on this as soon as I heard it. I guess you have to thank the way it works with the pre-amp and how much you’re pushing it too. There is a fantastic level of detail in the modelling, worth the DSP use.
You also get a high pass filter section, nice and useful and smooth sounding. Typical Neve quality, which is really a flattering thing to be saying about a piece of software, this is VERY Neve, not just Neve flavoured.
DSP DSP DSP
All this good sound has a cost, we know that, so I want to make sure you know some ways to work with it. Aside from buying a few OCTO cards, you should be fine with one of the smaller UAD Cards, especially in a modern DAW with freeze and easy bounce features. I would definitely suggest using this on your buss for a start – it really can add something magic to your sound, use it subtly, that way you get a little extra richness to the production whilst only needing one instance.
Make sure you do use it on your individual tracks and just BOUNCE IT, committing during production is a good habit anyway. Process your tracks and move on. You will appreciate the tone and you will appreciate the psychological effect of getting things set in stone earlier on.
On the Master
What this unit is good at is adding a warmth, depth and colour to the sound, all these things are good on the master as long as you’re gentle. Try not to overdo it, whilst going crunchy on an individual sound can be great, on the mix it’s something to save for special occasions. You wont find much correction or fine tune ability in the EQ on this but to add some sizzle or do general overall balance changes the EQ is quite nice, but really if you need to make big balance changes to your master you should be taking a look at your mixdown.
This Unison technology is an added element to this pre-amp model. To cut a long story short, this allows you to load the pre-amp in some of their newer audio interfaces. The Apollo interfaces, to be precise. Once its instantiate in the audio interface it can actually control the hardware pre-amp to make sure using it closely emulates the original unit on a hardware level and not just as a software model. Magic eh?
Now a bit off topic: when I see the high DSP usage on this new plug-in, It makes me think in terms of the programming and modelling going on it is setting a new bar for their work. So in the near future we might see more plug-ins with the same kind of high DSP usage. That got me thinking that maybe UAD-3 could be on the cards? The UAD system works well and UA are setting out their stall on the quality of their plug-ins now rather than the need to alleviate CPU usage imo. So a UAD-3 with more DSP or maybe with the ability leverage CPU cycles or even GPU cycles? might be a good move for them, this would get my vote. I think with their latest round of plug-ins their system warrants buying the DSP cards for the quality of the sound alone, as they are really head and shoulders above native and that’s not surprising as the structure of their system fund their ability to develop to a higher level. Of course this is all just thinking out loud, but I am sure I am not the only one interested in what they do next.
GRAB THIS NOW – Seriously do it.