Universal Audio WebZine
Volume 2, Number 8, September 2004
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UA Universe: It's happening in Santa Cruz

Featured Employee: The Man Behind your 1176LN Reissue is David Stepka

David Stepka at the helm of his bitchin’ ’61 Tempest
Like the Brian Wilson song, it seems David Stepka just wasn't made for these times--but that makes him the perfect guy to hand assemble the 1176LN Classic Reissue. He wears vintage clothes, drives a vintage car, lives in a vintage house with vintage appliances, including an extensive collection of vintage toasters, blenders, radios and other pieces of the past. There's also the large preserve of vintage books, and his newly acquired turntable and new collection of 78 records. Fittingly, David is the guy that puts together the world's supply of the world's most popul ar vintage compressor, from every wire prep to barrier strip, David makes it happen all the way to final assembly; and that's quite an accomplishment, as the 1176LN Reissue shows no signs of slowing in terms of demand. In addition to the 1176, David also hand assembles the 2108, which seems to be increasing its steady cult following.

Coming from his previous work at Vischer Associates in Felton, Ca. The 1176 is space-age technology. Vischer specialized in the building and restoration of pipe organs, a vintage oriented endeavor, if there ever was one.
"We'd work on anything from two-hundred fifty year-old organs to new, "modern" ones, which use technology from the turn of the century. It's the same pipes, but the link from the key, to the valve, to the pipe is electrical, with a new-fangled series of pneumatic pouches and electromagnets rather than sticks and wires that pull on other sticks and wires."

A custom organ of which Stepka did all the internal mechanical assembly
Unfortunately, Vischer had to close its Felton shop in the wake of 9/11; a real shame for the employees, and for Vischer--considering the historically significant instruments Vischer helped to preserve. But soon after, and fortunately for us, David found his way down the hill to UA.

"I get the same reaction from people now as when I worked for Vischer. When someone says, 'So where do you work?' I tell them Universal Audio, where we build tube and transformer equipment. And they say, 'they still make that kind of stuff?' Whether its pipe organs or vacuum tube amplifiers, I get the same reaction."

David and his wife Annie are also longtime regulars in the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus--Annie sings Alto and David sings Bass. They recently performed Dvorjak's Stabat Matter with the Santa Cruz Symphony at the Santa Cruz Civic Center. They also play folk and bluegrass, and should be considered true Santa Cruzans.

"Universal Audio is a great place to work, I've been here since Spring 2002. I've been itching to take on some new challenges within the company." David's parting shot: "Talk about old-world craftsmanship, I'll give you old-world craftsmanship, I've got your old-world craftsmanship right here, buddy!"

-Will Shanks


LA-610 Classic Tube Channel Strip Ramps up for Launch

With weeks to go until AES 2004 in San Fransisco, we decided we'd give the folks what they want...a little sneak peak into what's in the works. Introducing the LA-610 Classic Tube Channel Strip!

The LA-610 combines a channel of our 610 Mic Pre with an LA-2A style T4 Optical Compressor and will begin shipping in early October 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.

How did we do it? How can we produce a unit with the same mic preamp as the 6176, combined with an LA-2A compressor--which retails for $3k--for $1,749? Here's the skinny. The 6176 Channel Strip can use the preamp and compressor separately in addition to using them together, make it essentially three products in one unit. The LA-610 does not have the ability to use the mic pre and compressor separately; it works only as a channel strip. In addition, the optical compressor is not a clone of an LA-2A in the way the compressor in the 6176 is a clone of an 1176LN. But it does incorporate the most crucial element of the LA-2A--its unique optical detector.
The electro-optical detector or "T4 cell", is the very heart and soul and identical gain control circuitry in the Teletronix LA-2A. The unique combination of electroluminescent panel and photo-resistors inside the T4 cell are the crucial circuit components that give both these compressors their signature sound.

The simple operation and program dependent nature of the LA-610 T4 compressor provides the same extremely musical control that has made the LA-2A such a well-loved classic for over 40 years. These changes allowed us to reduce the cost of the LA-610 without reducing the build or audio quality.
  • Legendary Bill Putnam 610 tube mic pre and EQ used on countless classic recordings
  • Authentic Teletronix LA-2A-style T4 opto-compressor
  • Complete vintage channel-strip at groundbreaking price within project studio reach
  • Mic Pre with Gain and Level controls, variable impedance switching, and Instrument DI for recording tone "color"
  • UA build quality and heritage, audiophile components, hand-assembled in the USA


Upcoming Events

Those in the LA area that are interested in film scoring might want to check out workshops at The Industry Store. The next presentation is scheduled for October 23rd 2004.



Artist • Engineer • Producer Gossip
Jerry Harrison settles in for his interview; E.T. Thorngren is obscured
Marketing Director Mike Barnes and PR Mistress Marsha Vdovin completed a video interview with Jerry Harrison for the upcoming Universal Audio DVD. Jerry and his engineer E.T. Thorngren
Media Maven Marsha Vdovin
talked about their recent 2-week tour of the south where they used the UA 2-610 to record various blues artists playing with Kenny Wayne Shepard. The results are outstanding, and the stories amazing. Jerry will also be a presenter at the TEC awards this year.

Legendary engineer Bruce Swedien's memoir, "Make Mine Music" is now available direct from Hal Leonard Publishing.

It includes his memories of working with Bill Putnam, which we hope to excerpt in a future Webzine article. In the meantime, Bruce, Peter Wade and Corey Rooney are recording a new album with Jennifer Lopez. We're hoping that Bruce gets done (hurry up J-Lo!) so he can join us for a book-signing event at AES 2004 in San Francisco!

John Alagia
Producer and Engineer John Alagia is now the proud owner of three 2-610's, two 2-1176's, and one LA2A. "Really, ever since I was a little kid, all I wanted to do was put records together," says the Louisville native.

John has done just that. Over the last 15 years he has produced music for artists such as the Dave Matthews Band, Emmylou Harris, David Gray, Ben Folds Five, O.A.R., Edwin McCain, Vertical Horizon, Jason Mraz, Unwritten Law and Grammy winner John Mayer. Collectively his work has sold millions of records.


Tech Talk

New Precision Limiter form Universal Audio
With the release of Powered Plug-ins Software version 3.6.0, we have added a new program limiter to our line of dynamic range control plug-ins: The Precision Limiter. This is the first limiter we have made which can be used to limit peaks absolutely to a pre-defined level, with guaranteed zero-overshoot behavior. True limiting is made possible by a look-ahead buffer. This buffer is coupled with an attack that fully converges in a finite amount of time, unlike the attack curves exhibited by our analog emulations. Technically, the limiter is a "brick-wall" type, in that the compression ratio is infinity-to-one. However, this limiter was designed to avoid clipping the signal or processing it in such a way as to produce excessive harmonic distortion or aliasing. The result is a limiter which can be used to prevent clipping, by reducing the gain just enough to avoid exceeding a user-determined limit. Most of the unwanted artifacts produced by other "brick-wall" type limiters are due to inappropriate release behavior, rather than the high compression ratio. Try the Precision Limiter and hear how clean a brick wall can sound.


News & Schmooze
The Mix Foundation for Excellence in Audio, presenters of the Technical Excellence and Creativity (TEC) Awards, has announced the first 25 inductees into their new TECnology Hall of Fame, an honor established this year for those products and innovations that have had an enduring impact on the development of audio technology. All of us here at Universal Audio are thrilled that the LA-2A will be one of the first 25 inductees. To be included in such august company ranging from Thomas Edison's cylinder phonograph to Digidesign's Pro Tools is indeed an honor! The awards will be formally presented on October 29th in San Francisco, during the 117th Audio Engineering Society Convention. Check out more about the TECnology Hall of Fame.


Word On The Street
The jury is in on Universal Audio's Precision Limiter. Here are just a few samples from the Chris Milne's "Unofficial" UAD-1 Forum. Thanks for the kind words, folks!

  • "I just bought the Precision Limiter. I am quite thrilled with it."
    Tony Ostinato

  • "Hey guys... the only thing out there that sounds even CLOSE to this as a mastering limiter is the Waves L2. If you don't know... the L2 has been industry standard brickwall limiter for mastering. It has been widely heralded.

    The new UAD-1 Mastering Plug-in blows it away! It's more transparent. You can limit without pumping... or with... whatever you want.

    You all may not use this type of plug in every day... but for that that master... they will quickly recognize the WORTH of this plug-in. $200 is a GREAT value!"

    Steve Lamm

  • I've just bought it after trialing it for a few hours along side Voxengo's Elephant 2 and Poco's Master X5. I like PL's transparency. It doesn't seem to colour the sound. It's possible to increase the level without a noticeable change in the dynamics of the song. I often don't like using brickwall limiters because they seem to subtly alter the way the song sounds in a negative manner.

    I used it on a variety of tracks and with few exceptions Precision Limiter worked best IMO. I also used it with Sony's Inflator and was able to increase the levels with little harshness or ear fatigue. I don't know whether there's ever any need to increase the volume to that extreme but even at extreme levels the Precision Limiter sounded better than the other two. I don't have any Waves stuff so I can't compare.

  • Well I also compared to Voxengo Elephant and immediately noticed the same thing. Low end's much better. I also felt like the overall sound was a touch clearer, but that could be a result of the bass being there too.
    The Metering is real nice, I like having accurate meters that are easy to read, so that's a nice plus. The way you can dial in just the right release and contour is also a bit easier to use than Elephant in my opinion.

    I think its worth the price for me, since I have 2 UAD's and plan on getting 2 more in a couple of months, I want UA to keep making such great tools. I got so many free plugs from UA in the past with their nice offers when I bought 2 UAD's that I don't have a problem with this price.

  • Hey if you guys are listening (looks like you are), I just wanted to say that I'm very impressed with your activities lately. You guys have a few new forum members present here (PR is always a good thing), released another awesome plug-in, and seem to have a new policy of surprising us with new updates rather than posting deadlines which are (understandably, of course) hard to meet. I think I can speak for most all UAD-1 users when I say that this is a much better approach, as nobody gets frustrated over missed releases. Keep up the good work!

  • After my first AB comparison session I am not disappointed, it really does sound better to me. The difference is not drastic, but audible. the Precision Limiter sounds rounder and does not introduce as much distortion as the L2. Stuff sounds less harsh and more "expensive" to my ears, rounder and therefore a hair clearer, less masking through fizziness - this is what I was looking for! Having RMS-metering is also a major benefit over the L2.

    $200 is an exceptional value....the L2 is only available in the mastering bundle....way more expensive.

  • Well done UA!!!!!!!!!!! You guys rock!!!!!


-Mike Barnes

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