The Precision Mastering Series

June 24, 2009 11:15:11 AM PDT

This month, we’re spotlighting Universal Audio’s Precision Mastering Series plug-ins. Introduced a few years back, these four powerful plug-ins remain very popular, combining UA’s spirit of innovation with our knowledge of vintage analog gear. The Precision Mastering Series consists of the Precision Limiter, the Precision Multiband compressor, the Precision EQ, and the Precision Maximizer. All Precision Mastering Series plug-ins run on either UAD-1 and UAD-2 hardware, and support sample rates up to 192 kHz. (Note: Precision Multiband runs in mono only at 176.4kHz and above on the UAD-1.)

First, the basics. These plug-ins are, as their name suggests, designed specifically for mastering. Rather than model specific analog mastering gear, we decided to look at a few different mastering EQs, limiters, multiband compressors, and other processors and combine them with digital-only features–creating true one-of-a-kind plug-ins. To watch videos demonstrating the versatility of the Precision Mastering Series plug-ins, please check the Videos section on each of the Precision Mastering Series plug-in pages on the website.

Precision EQ
The UAD Precision EQ

Precision Mastering plug-ins are also very useful on individual elements in your mixes. The Precision EQ is useful anywhere you might need an EQ. To preserve the greatest sonic detail and ensure a minimum of artifacts in the upper frequency range, the Precision EQ is upsampled to 192 kHz. So its 27kHz high shelf can really bring out the “air” frequencies of a lead vocal, or dial in an ear-catching midrange boost for VO work.

Precision Multiband Compressor
The UAD Precision Multiband Compressor

The Precision Multiband, on the other hand, can handle a few different mix chores, and create some effects that you can’t get from any other plug-in. It is a specialized tool that provides five spectral bands of dynamic range control; compression, expansion, or gate can be chosen separately for each of the five bands. The Precision Multiband can be used for anything from complex dynamic control to simple de-essing. Two filter bank modes offer precise linear-phase or minimum-phase gain control. The linear-phase option is designed for perfectly phase-coherent results, while minimum-phase can be used for a more “analog” sound. Also, the Mix control is a key component to its versatility, allowing you to mix the compressed audio with the dry audio.

Precision Limiter
The UAD Precision Limiter

While the Universal Audio Precision Limiter is a single band, look-ahead, brick-wall limiter designed primarily for mastering with program material, it can be used almost anywhere a typical compressor would. But it really is more suitable for groups where there is a wide range of dynamic material, like drum or percussion busses. For example, sometimes a percussive element is triggering a compressor on the master buss a little more often than you’d like. The transparent Precision Limiter can be inserted in the mix to level off the peaks of this percussive element, while not making it sound compressed. That is due to its ability to achieve 100% attack within a 1.5ms look-ahead window, which prevents clipping and guarantees zero overshoot performance.

Precision Maximizer
The UAD Precision Maximizer

Finally, the Precision Maximizer is a dynamic impact processor that uniquely enhances the apparent loudness, warmth, and presence of individual tracks or program material, without appreciably reducing dynamic range or peak level control. It was designed from the ground up to be used in the mixing and mastering environments.

This plug-in uses a proprietary soft-saturation process that maximizes signal energy while minimizing undesirable distortion and aliasing. To make it easy to dial in a great sound, a wide variety of sounds are available using relatively few controls. The primary sonic parameter is the Shape control, which can range from simply increasing the apparent loudness at lower settings–to dramatically improved clarity, punch, and “musical” tube-like distortion at higher values. The nature of the source material, as well as the input levels to the processor, also greatly affect the sonic character of the final output signal.

Click below to watch a video of the Precision Mastering Series in action. We think you’ll be impressed.

Precision Mastering Series Demo

— Dave Crane