Universal Audio WebZine
Volume 2, Number 9, October/November (AES) 2004
[UA Universe] [Ask the Doctors] [Digital Discourse] [Analog Obsession]
[Support Report] [The Channel] [Digi-Talk] [Analog Dialog] [Featured Promotion]
[Graphic-Rich WebZine]
[Back Issues] [UA Home]

UA Universe: It keeps Expanding...and Expanding...and Expanding...

Employee Feature: The DSP Doctor is In!

Dr. David Berners among some of his many books and periodicals
I once saw a quote on a forum that went something like this: "Man, the guy who made the algorithms for the 1176 and LA-2A must feel like a stud." I'd have to say most UAD-1 users would echo that sentiment. Dr. David Berners powerful brain is not only behind both 1176 and LA-2A plug-ins, but also the majority of algorithms that make up the UAD-1 Plug-In suite. Cambridge, Fairchild, both Pultecs and one of UA's latest plug-ins, the Precision Limiter also came to fruition from Dave's algorithm designs. Dave is not only one of the most talented and intelligent men I've ever met, but one of the humblest; Dave is always willing to take time to find interest in his co-workers, and is always happy to chat, philosophize, or answer any level of technical question.

Besides working as our primary algorithm developer, Dave is a member and contributing writer of AES and will be giving presentations at the upcoming AES 2004 convention in San Francisco (see related article below). He's also a regular writer for UA's Webzine column, 'Ask the Doctors'. Many UA employees will tell you however, that his best prose is found in the post-game reports of UA's soccer team, of which he is a member (see related article below).

Dave's working career began in an industry from which colloquialisms are penned: Indeed it does take a rocket scientist to design the most stunningly accurate hardware emulations and original DSP tools for the DAW. Read on...

What were you doing before you joined Universal Audio?
"Well, I was born on a cloudy day in April...just kidding! After I finished school with my MS in Electrical Engineering at Caltech. I started working for NASA on the Cassini space probe at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Glendale. The work was fun, and there were a lot of people who were great to work with. Still, I knew that what I really wanted to do was engineering for music. I moved up near Stanford because there was a lab there (CCRMA) where people were working on music-oriented stuff. I entered the program and also got a job nearby at the Lawrence Laboratories in Berkeley where I worked on nuclear fusion power research. We were designing an accelerator to test ideas for heavy ion fusion power research. That was pretty cool. Then, I stayed at Stanford as a part-time employee for about 6 years, doing audio consulting on the side. The job at UA was my first full-time job after graduating from Stanford."

How did you get involved with Universal Audio?
"I found out about UA because Bill Putnam Jr. and I were students together at CCRMA. Bill told me that he was looking to hire someone to do a good job with software emulations. It sounded interesting, so I took the job. The hardware versions of the 1176 and LA-2A were just being finalized, so I helped out with that, and also worked on the Kind of Loud Pro Tools plug-ins. Working on the hardware was really key for the later development of the 1176 and LA-2A plug-ins, and it gave me a legitimate reason to spend a lot of hours studying the designs of the 1176 and the LA-2A. "

Why do you prefer audio engineering to rocket science?
"I guess there are two big reasons. The NASA stuff I did at the Lawrence Lab was really satisfying and it was hard to quit, but what it really came down to was that working on audio gives me gut-level satisfaction, whereas the other stuff is much more academic. I remember when I was five years old describing to my dad what I wanted to do when I grew up, and him telling me that the job that I just described was called engineering. I was already playing music by then, So, I guess I'd say that music has always been a really fundamental part of who I am, and it's not something I could ever give up. "

What do you do when you're not making algorithms?
"I teach a class at Stanford that covers algorithms for compression, EQ, and reverb, as well as other signal processing stuff. There haven't been many classes taught on those topics, so that material really needs to be formalized as an academic subject. I also like to get a lot of exercise, play music, and fix/build things with my hands. (Dave is the regular bass player in Pearl Alley, a local blues band that also features UA's Dave Crane. -Ed.)

You've been keeping a motorcycle helmet on your desk. Is it safe to assume you found a new hobby?
"Oh, yeah. I'm in the process of getting my motorcycle license. I also just tried surfing."

Which of the algorithms you've designed was the most challenging?
"The 1176 was the most challenging algorithmically. It was difficult to digitally emulate the 20 microsecond attack time, but I'd say the LA-2A was the most challenging model as it was complicated to figure out how the electro-luminescent circuit worked under a variety of conditions."

Do you have a favorite algorithm?
"Wow, that's like picking a favorite child! I guess I'd have to say the Fairchild because we had less documentation than we did with the LA-2A and 1176 and we obviously couldn't pull apart somebody's $30,000 unit to see how it worked, but we were still able to build an extremely accurate model. It was also really neat to work with the guys at Ocean Way Recording who were so generous with their time, and their 'golden' Fairchild. The evaluations they did comparing our model to their unit were a big part of how we were able to create such an accurate model."

You've received a lot of praise from users, both famous and not-so-famous. Is there a particular testimonial that stands out in your mind?
"A number of very experienced professional engineers and producers, like Elliot Mazer, Brian Tankersley, Frank Fillipetti, Elliot Scheiner and John Fields have said some wonderful things about how much the emulations sound like the original hardware they used for years, and obviously, that's very gratifying, but we've also heard from tons of up and coming artists, engineers and producers who say that our plug-ins have dramatically improved the quality of their mixes, getting them a more professional sound than they've ever been able to achieve before, and that's really, really neat also."

So, what are you working on now?
"Ohhh, that's a secret, but I think our users are really going to love it!"

-Will Shanks, interview by Clare O'Brien


Universal Audio to Show New Preamplifiers at AES
Universal Audio will undoubtedly make a splash at AES 2004 in San Francisco with its new line of preamplifiers aimed at the multichannel user. The Precision 8110 and 4110 carry eight and four channels respectively, and utilize all new design elements from the experts at Universal Audio.
4110 Precision Class A preamplifier
8110 Precision Class A preamplifier

The 8110 and 4110 Precision Microphone Preamplifier is for the audio engineer in need of the absolute best in sonic quality regardless of cost. The 8110 and 4110 emphasize lightning fast transients, wide dynamic range and frequency response. The innovative design provides multiple channels of premium Class A, all discrete amplification utilizing strict design rules to achieve an ultra clean, transparent, high-headroom mic pre. The Precision mic pre also provides a staggering array of tones ranging from "laboratory-clean" to the warm saturated sounds UA's vintage mic pres have become famous for. A 3-way "Shape" switch adds maximum sonic versatility. Position one is perfect for a modern preamp sound, no coloration added. Position two borrows from vintage circuits and adds transformer saturation, enhancing harmonic content. Position three maintains transformer saturation and adds soft limiting, particularly useful on transient rich and dynamic sounds. Every channel of the 8110 or 4110 features dedicated Gain and Level controls, input and output metering, switches for low cut, phase, pad and phantom power. See more details about this exciting new product in this month's "Analog Obsession".


LA-610 Is Out The Door!

The LA-610 is UA quality everyone can afford

The LA-610 began shipping on September 23rd. The production staff ran a contest that challenged them to a guess of how many preorders the LA-610 would have by the official ship date. Jeremy Lathrop won the $100 prize with a guess that would be the envy of any Vegas odds-maker. Nice!

The LA-610 combines a channel of our 610 Mic Pre with an LA-2A style T4 Optical Compressor for $1749. Don't let the low price scare you, the LA-610 cuts no corners on quality. It's still hand-built right here in Santa Cruz California, and offers the legendary sound quality that's made UA famous. Don't forget call your dealer and tell him to place an order ASAP!


Plate 140 Plug-In for UAD-1 Previewed at AES
After many rumors and much heated debate on the UAD-1 forums, UA can announce that the next plug-in for UAD-1 will be the Plate 140 Reverb Emulation.

The Plate 140 project has been in development since early 2004 in collaboration with The Plant Studios in Sausalito which has 4 beautifully maintained EMT 140s made by the original German manufacturer ElektroMessTechnik (EMT). UA measured the Plate's damper and filter settings using our own proprietary signal analysis methods to develop a model that emulates three of the unique plates. We also combined elements of different plate controls in the final software user interface, which presents 3 completely independent plate sounds.

While staying true to the simplicity of the original plate concept, UA added a few extra parameters including up to 250ms of Pre-Delay, a Width control, wet/dry mix and basic shelving EQ which allows the plug to be conveniently used in an FX send/bus scenario or on an insert.

The Plate 140 and v3.7 software will be available soon in Q4 2004. The Plate 140 will retail for $149 and be available thru the web store at my.uaudio.com.

For more information on plate technology and its evolution, check out the May 2004 "Analog Obsession" article on this topic. For more information on the Plate 140 plug-in, check out this months "Software Update".


LA-2A Inducted into the TECnology Hall of Fame
On the heels of Universal Audio's new release of the LA-610, which combines our 610 mic pre with the LA-2A's compression circuit, Universal Audio gained contact with the family of the original LA-2A designer, Jim Lawrence. Gretchen Lawrence, Lawrence's widow, and his son-in-law Glen Macready shed new light on the history of Teletronix. At about the same time, Universal Audio was tapped on the shoulder by the Mix Foundation, informing us that the Teletronix LA-2A is included among twenty-four other inductees as historical/technical achievements under the new category of TECnology Hall of Fame. These inductees range from Thomas Edison's 1877 Cylinder Phonograph, to the introduction of Digidesign's Pro Tools in 1991- Viva synchronicity!


Mix Foundation TECnology Awards
The Mix Foundation will be hosting a public reception and awards ceremony for all twenty-five of the TECnology Hall of Fame inductees. The reception is scheduled for Friday, October 29th at 5:00 PM in the Moscone Center. The ceremony will be MC'd by none other than George Massenberg. Be there!


Universal Audio AES Presentation Schedule
Universal Audio designers are participating in four presentations at AES San Francisco, presenters include Drs. David P. Berners and Jonathan S. Abel, algorithm designers for Universal Audio's entire plug-in line. Both Doctors graduated at Stanford University, and completed the CCRMA audio program, where they met Bill Putnam Jr. Also presenting is UREI alumni designer Dennis Fink, who was lead engineer behind the LA-610. Mr. Fink is also the mind behind many of UREI's legendary products, including development of the UREI Time Aligned monitors and UREI power amplifiers.

Dynamic Range Compression
Drs. David P. Berners and Jonathan S. Abel
Saturday October 30, 11:30 am

Reverberation Acoustics, Analysis and Synthesis
Drs. Jonathan S. Abel and David P. Berners
Saturday October 30, 2:00 pm

Architectures and Hardware
Dennis Fink
Saturday October 30, 4:30 pm

Algorithms and Software
Dennis Fink
Sunday October 31, 11:30 am


AES San Francisco and Student Design Competition

UA will be exhibiting all our new products : 8110 & 4110 Class A Precision Microphone Preamplifiers, LA-610, Plate 140 and UA TDM plugs for the PC at booth #314, Moscone Convention Center. If you're visiting, stop by and talk to one of our product specialists about what's new !!

We'll also be holding a drawing for UAD-1's. Stop by the booth for more details ...

AES is hosting the second annual Student Design Competition, which allows students the opportunity to show their designs in audio hardware and software projects. The year's judges are are John La Grou, Rupert Neve, and Bob Moog while John Monforte is the chair. The top three finalists as decided by the judges will receive prizes-among them, the Universal Audio UAD-1 Project Pak.

According to John Monforte, organizer of this year's competition, "This is an excellent opportunity for students to have their work reviewed and evaluated by professionals, and for manufacturers to meet with up-and-coming design talent".

The competition complements other student activities, which include recording competitions and paper presentations that are part of the upcoming convention's activities specifically directed towards students.

These awards are handed out at the second Student Delegate Assembly
meeting October 31st at 9:30am-11:30am. Judging is on October 29th from


TEC Awards Music and Sound Auction
The TEC Awards Music & Sound Auction is already underway, and will run through November 2. Presented by the Mix Foundation for Excellence in Audio and H.E.A.R.(r) (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers) the auction proceeds will benefit the hearing health programs of H.E.A.R., a nonprofit dedicated to informing musicians and the public about the prevention of hearing impairment in the music environment, as well as the Sound Partners(tm) campaign of the House Ear Institute of Los Angeles, a hearing conservation program co-founded by the Mix Foundation in 1997.

The specific auction items are listed at this link on eBay. Items include pro audio and music equipment (recording devices, microphones, loudspeakers, mixing consoles, amplifiers, etc.) as well as guitars, other instruments, and music memorabilia. Among the great gear are two UAD-1 project paks.


Universal Audio Launches Soccer Team: The 1176ers!
Sometimes working at UA is a sedentary existence. Analog builder Arafel Hernandez decided to get us off our collective seats, and go for the green! Little did we know that our amateur team would be pitted against guys that live for soccer down at Soccer Central in Watsonville, California. Our first game last week, the 1176ers put up a good fight with strong defense from goalie Tom Freeman, points were made on UA's behalf by Forwards Dave Berners and Juan Gonzalez.

1st row:
Sierra "The Bandit" Dunton
James "Master Shake" Ciglar
Tom "Spoony Luv" Freeman
Dave "Cheesehead" Berners
David "Stekka" Stepka
Matt "Smokey" Bryson

2nd row:
SeJin Oh
Will "Yammer" Shanks
Erica "Spunky McD" McDaniel
Juan "UAD-Juan" Gonzalez
Arfel Hernandez

Not shown:
Mike "MBlaze" Barnes
Dave "2/47 Jamz" Crane


An LA-610 By Any Other Name...
UA's Director of Marketing is Mike Barnes, a British chap who had recollections of another LA-610 once flown in Britain. This other LA-610 was a World War II fighter.
The British LA-610 also has a warm tone


Precision Limiter User Quotes

It seems the UAD-1 community is discovering how good final limiting can sound with the Precision Limiter available now through UA's Webstore. The Universal Audio Precision Limiter is a single-band, look-ahead brick-wall limiter made primarily for use with program material. Here's new quotes from the field directly from new users:

From the Webstore
"-Excellent transparency - Excellent metering. Well done as usual. MASSIVE Mastering has a new digital limiter. And surprise - It's SOFTWARE!"
-John Scrip

"This plug is brilliant. It is transparent and gives enormous amounts of loudness and clarity to masters. This thing has become my secret weapon for all productions."
-Mat Fletcher

Cubase Forum
"Bought it 2 days ago. The results are amazing. I've used it on program material as well as subgroups. Beats all other brickwall limiters I know. $199 is a bargain for that powerful tool."
-Darth Fader

"The greatest plug ever made (to my ears) has been the Cambridge... but the PL may just be the new #1!"

UAD-1 Forum
"I'm definitely going to buy this one. I've used L2 long enough to have the characteristics of it memorized, and Precision Limiter absolutely destroys it. I've been using Wave Arts's Final Plug lately, and A/B'd the two, and Precision Limiter beats that too. None of that surprises me though, as every UA plug I've used/heard is amazing."

"...BTW, the PL is awesome. I'm planning on buying it here in the near future. They're right, it's colorless. This is a very high-end product. Great job UA!!!"


Questions or comments on this article?