Nathan Sabatino is a producer, engineer, musician, and owner of Loveland Recording Studio in Tucson, Arizona. He has worked with artists such as Neko Case, members of Wu-Tang Clan, and John Legend. He has also co-engineered and produced records with Oz Fritz, Mark Kramer, and John Parish, among others. Between studio projects, Nathan works with Mercury Record's musical duo, The Pierces.
In this Producer’s Corner, Sabatino details how he used UAD Powered Plug-Ins to amazing effect on Dr. Dog’s track “Wild Race” from their album, Be The Void.
For this track we were going for a dubbed-out, late-’70s punk vibe, similar to an old Clash record: dirty drums, huge spring reverbs, and tape delays spiraling out of control. Let’s take a listen:
Crafting a Powerful Bass Sound
Dr. Dog often track bass through a small guitar amp, rather than a typical bass cabinet or DI. On this tune, the sound of the amp breaking up was working well, but it had a few issues. For example, the pick noise was jumping out too much, so I used an old 1176 Rev A from the 1176 Classic Limiter Plug-In Collection at a 12:1 ratio with fastest attack, just to pull the “click” in about 5 dB. Also, some of the low notes were getting lost due to the smaller speaker, so I inserted the Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveler Plug-In to even it out. With the dynamics under control, I reached for the Neve 1081 Classic Console EQ Plug-In and notched out a few dB at 500 Hz to remove the strong resonance of the small speaker cabinet. Doing this opened up the bass sound a bit, and made some extra room for other midrange elements in the mix. I also added a small boost at 100 Hz to fill out the low end, a cut at 2.7 kHz to smooth out the sharp pick attack, and set the low pass filter at 12 kHz to remove some amp noise and tape hiss. Even with no EQ engaged, the Neve 1081 Plug-In adds weight to the tone and smooths out anything you run through it.
Here is the original bass track.
And here is the track after inserting the UAD plug-ins.
Fattening up the Drums
At mix time, we were pretty happy with the drum sound, but I felt the kick was a little loose for the track — it needed some extra low-end to help support the thinner fuzz-bass sound. A combination of the SPL Transient Designer and Cambridge EQ Plug-Ins did the trick — it really brought out the low-end of the kick and kept it from ringing too long. This also had the added benefit of adding some extra low-end to the snare as well.
The drums before inserting the UAD plug-ins.
And here are the drums with the UAD plug-ins.
Sweetening up the Vocals
The RE-201 Space Echo Plug-In was used as an insert on the lead vocal track for a quick slap-back delay. We set the Mode Selector to number five; the metallic sound of the spring really compliments the midrange character of Scott McMicken's voice. This definitely was not intended as a subtle reverb, and the plug-in delivered exactly what we would have wanted out of a vintage Roland RE-201 Space Echo.
It's amazing that you can use UAD plug-ins at extreme settings and they hold up just like the hardware. This is where most plug-ins fail, and why I always reach for UAD plug-ins first. I followed the Roland RE-201 Space Echo with the 1176 AE from the 1176 Classic Limiter Collection using a 2:1 ratio to keep the Space Echo effects locked to the vocals in the mix and also to drag out the reverb tail a bit longer. To give Scott's vocal the sharp presence he was looking for, we also had a vintage Pultec MEQ-3 inserted on the analog out with a large boost at 3 kHz.
Here is the raw vocal track without the UAD plug-ins.
And here is the vocal track with the RE-201 and 1176 Classic.
Adding Space to the Electric Guitar
The guitar was tracked live and plugged straight into an amp with no pedals. We were looking to add some atmosphere to the live guitar part and the RE-201 Space Echo was perfect for that ’70's tone we had in mind. Plus, the energy is completely different with the dry amp sound. The huge space added by the Roland RE-20 Space Echo really helps the guitar propel the song forward. Like the vocal tracks, we used number five on the Mode Selector control. Really, the entire mix is covered in this plug-in. It has such a great vibe that we decided to put it on almost everything!
The guitar before running through the UAD plug-ins.
The guitar track after inserting the RE-201 Space Echo plug-in.
We mixed at Larry Gold's The Studio in Philadelphia on an SSL E Series console using a combination of their vintage outboard gear and my UAD Powered Plug-Ins. I think it says a lot about the accuracy of the UAD emulations that they can sit way out front on a track, side-by-side with the vintage hardware, and deliver the same vibe. In some cases I bypassed the real hardware unit and inserted the UAD version when a track was going to require lots of automation — or if the vintage hardware version was acting up! I truly feel that the functionality and recall of the UAD version will often outweigh any minor sonic differences.