Universal Audio WebZine
Volume 2, Number 10, December 2004
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UA Universe
by Mike Barnes

Employee Feature: The King of Loud
by Will Shanks

Jonathan Abel, Ph.D. at the entrance to the castle
If the original Universal Audio with its connection to Bill Putnam and his legendary status has a long and rich history, then the "New UA" is shaping up to add fresh chapters and a few new leading characters to the continuation of this story.

For me, and I mean this with the utmost in respect and admiration, I see Dr. Jonathan Abel as UA's resident "Mad-Scientist" in the most classic sense. No, he does not wear the lab coat around the office (only for occasional photo shoots), but he's known to carry the other classic accoutrement--and has the traditional personality characteristics. Furthermore, he's the coolest mad-scientist I know. I really got to know Jonathan working with him closely on the voicing of UA's latest digital offering, the Plate 140, a highly realistic EMT plate emulation, which he created. Always full of enthusiasm and new ideas for the future of the company, Jonathan brings vast academic and creative experience as well as the tools for practical application.

Along with Bill Putnam, Jonathan founded Kind of Loud Technologies, the software-based sister company of of the new UA. Jonathan and Bill met at Stanford, through the often-referenced CCRMA program. After being introduced by Professor and thesis advisor Julius O. Smith III, the two found they shared a common desire to take their DSP chops to market. After kicking around a few ideas, it was settled on to bring a surround panner to Pro Tools; it was the first "round" panner featuring azimuth and width controls. Bill and Jonathan received a patent for their efforts, and released their first product, Smart Pan Pro.

Kind of Loud's second product was the first surround reverb, RealVerb 5.1, which was extremely well received by the burgeoning surround industry in 1999. The concept development and algorithm design for Realverb 5.1 along with all of Universal Audio's subsequent reverbs were all lead by Jonathan, including DreamVerb and the current Plate 140 plug-in. Kind of Loud developed other plug-ins for surround, the now discontinued Woofie and Tweetie speaker management tools, as well as Pro Tools surround encoders. Early on, Kind of Loud was rolled into the new Universal Audio and the motto "Analog Ears, Digital Minds" was born; another story for a future feature.

Jonathan received his B.S. from MIT and completed his M.S. and Ph.D. at Stanford, in Electrical Engineering. His work has been primarily research, including a stretch at NASA Ames Research Center, studying speaker and microphone array processing, room acoustics, and spatial hearing. Jonathan also had his own consulting business called "Abel Innovations" specializing in applications of signal and image processing, sensor array processing, and information theory.

Apart from his most recent work on UA's Plate 140, Jonathan has been measuring the acoustical properties of swimming pools. "The acoustical response of a (filled) swimming pool is actually much like a plate," says Jonathan. "Water propagates sound about five times faster than air, so that the energy and echo density build up quickly like in a plate. Also, there appears to be a low-frequency absorption mechanism--we're thinking it might be radiation through the water surface--which gives relatively short low-frequency decay times similar to short-decay-time damping plate settings."

After cataloging a few more local pools, Jonathan and a couple of UA and CCRMA colleagues are 'having a go' at cataloging a sort of local "Grand Canyon"--Santa Cruz's own Monterey Bay Canyon. "Back in the 1980s when I was doing a lot of sonar signal processing work, I was trying out some noise removal algorithms on some recordings made in the Monterey Bay Canyon--you know, marine mammals, surface ships, that kind of thing. Anyway, I was listening to the result, and all I could think of was the best sounding cathedral I've ever heard'."

Hey, can I go too?

In addition to his research and development work, Jonathan is involved in regular academic work. Both of UA's doctors are regular contributors to
AES and share classroom instruction at Stanford as part of the CCRMA program, lecturing for Music 424: Signal Processing Techniques for Digital
Audio Effects, an audio effects processing class "Drs. Dave and Jonathan" developed. Jonathan has publications and holds patents in a wide range of topics from audio and statistical signal processing to musical instrument synthesis.

Jonathan is also one half of the "Ask the Doctors" dynamic duo, and his pontification on the process of creating a Plate emulation can be read in a future column!


Upcoming Events ...
After a phenomenal November AES show on our home turf in San Francisco, UA will again be exhibiting at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, which runs January 20-23. Last year featured over 1,300 exhibitors and almost 75,000 visitors; suffice it to say, this year is expected to top the last and should be one of the largest trade events for musical equipment in the world. This is a great opportunity for UA customers and potential customers to drop by the booth, checkout the latest hardware and software from UA, and meet some of the UA team.

UA will once again be in Hall A, booth # 6909 in "Software Row" and will be launching several new products including exciting new plug-ins for UAD-1.

For more information on NAMM, click the following link:



Artist • Engineer • Producer Gossip ...

UA & Keyfax, both local Santa Cruz companies, will be co-sponsoring the Kuumbwa Jazz Club's 30th Anniversary Year major event at Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, which will feature Pat Metheny Group on March 2nd 2005. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster. Make sure you catch Pat's always-stellar group on 'The Way Up Tour', which starts February 18th in Toronto.


News & Schmooze ...

Lookout for the first published reviews of the LA-610 about to land in EQ and Mix Magazine as well as the first published reviews of the Plate 140 coming soon in Sound On Sound and Remix.

Bill Putnam (UA founder and CEO) and Erica McDaniel (Director of Sales) with 2004 TEC Award
As you may have noticed on UA's homepage, the 2-1176 Twin Vintage Limiting Amplifier brought home the honors from AES with a TEC Award, which follows UA's first TEC award for the 6176 last year.


Word On The Street ...

After all that hard work on the Precision Limiter and the Plate 140, we'll gladly take a few props ...

"I just tried the EMT plate. All I can say is... WOW.
Again, UA has delivered a plug-in that gives me exactly the sound I remembered when using the hardware.

The reverb tails and detail are great: In fact, this reverb is so good, if it was the only plug-in you used. It would be worth it to buy a UAD just for the Plate.

As a side note, I used to work at the Plant and have used the real items on numerous sessions. I know where $150, - of my hard earned cash will be going in 2 weeks. "
HENCHMAN, Chrismilne.com, UAD Forum

See the whole thread here ...

"UA have a new plate verb out which sounds wonderful. This new verb outshines convolutional plates IMO..."
SPECTRUM, powercore.noheaven.com, Powercore Forum


Questions or comments on this article?