Universal Audio WebZine
Volume 3, Number 10, December 2005
[UA Universe] [Ask the Doctors] [Artist Interview] [Analog Obsession]
[Support Report] [The Channel] [Plug-In Power] [Playback] [Featured Promotion]
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UA Universe
by Joseph Lemmer, Marsha Vdovin, & Terry Hardin

UA Universe

by Joseph Lemmer & Marsha Vdovin

Featured Employee: Founder and CEO Bill Putnam Jr.

Bill Putnam Jr.
What made you decide to start Universal Audio?
My Brother Jim and I had always talked about starting a company to build analog audio equipment. Jim was an active musician, and I was an amateur musician. We really like music and really liked recording. Jim was putting together a recording studio and really liked old gear. Jim is very much a die-hard analog kind of guy and still tracks to analog tape. We were really motivated and excited about that, coupled with my interest in electronics and technology and engineering and signal processing. So it just seemed like something that was eventually going to happen. We talked about it for a year or two and finally happened on the idea to restart under the name of the company my dad started back when: Universal Audio. It just seemed natural and, in retrospect, seemed so obvious, but we had been talking about what we wanted to do for quite a while before we settled on the obvious idea of restarting Universal Audio.

“I was more interested in the electronics than the people [my dad] was recording. I wanted to go to the factory, UREI, where the engineers were.”

Were you in school at the time?
Yes. I was at Stanford studying signal processing but also interested in business. I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start a business but not sure what I wanted to do. I knew that I didn't want to enter the venture capital-funded Silicon Valley rat race. I was more motivated to do what I wanted to do, something fun and cool and long-term. It all kind of came together at the same time. We took the leap. Although many of the initial conversations were about making analog gear, I very much wanted to take what I was learning in my PhD program at Stanford and bring that into the equation. I saw not just an opportunity but something that was really compelling personally to mix the two-get the benefits of analog and the benefits of digital, and create an homage to both.

When I interviewed Brad Plunkett, he remembered you visiting your dad at work a lot. Did you go to work with your dad often?
All the time. In fact, frankly, I was more interested in the electronics than the people he was recording. I wanted to go to the factory, UREI, where the engineers were, where I could talk to people like Brad Plunkett and Dennis Fink, and learn. I had a real insatiable appetite for learning math and electronics.

When I was about eight or nine, I got a job testing transistors and sorting them. I think I made 75 cents an hour; it might have been one dollar an hour, which at time seemed huge. I used to have lunch in the employee lunch room; my mom packed me a lunch. I guess this was in the summer. I'd go two or three days a week for about six hours a day. In the lunchroom there was a sign posted that said that minimum wage was $2.85 at the time, and I complained to Dad that I was being paid below minimum wage.

Do you have a memory of being starstruck or having an amazing musical experience with your Dad?
Not in the studio. One of the most amazing musical experiences that I remember was when I was very young, maybe six. My parents made me put on a suit and tie. I remember having dinner at a diner and then going to see Duke Ellington. My Dad was really close to him and talked about him all the time. We got to the show early and went backstage and I got to meet Duke and his band and then sat in the front row. I would say that I was more impressed with all the live music that my Dad took me to-lots of jazz, like Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington-than the recording sessions. It's more fun than going to the recording sessions, which were frankly grueling. I remember going to Bing Crosby as a little kid; it was boring. They'd start and stop. The live music my dad took me to left more of an impression from a musical standpoint and set the tone for my love of music.

Does your eight-year-old son, Liam, like to come to work with you?
He loves to come to Universal Audio and loves the people and says that he wants to work at Universal Audio someday. Maybe we'll hire him for a buck an hour, but I think he's already more savvy than I was and wouldn't go for that.

Do you have a favorite UA moment?
Oh, yeah! When there were seven of us working in my 16-by-16-foot garage. We endured some crazy things. On Dave Crane's first day at work, he and I had to install all of the electrical wiring outlets in my basement, which we were trying to turn into an office. It was amazing to have people who showed up for their first day of work and were willing to get their hands dirty and do what was needed. Rey Rivera [engineer] put the wood floor down with me.

I love where we are now and all the people, but I have a special nostalgia for those early days in the basement and garage.

Scott, Bill, Sue, and Jim accept the posthumous Grammy awarded to their father, Bill Putnam Sr. with Phil Ramone (center).

Upcoming Events. . .

Universal Audio is looking forward to seeing everyone at the 2006 NAMM show in Anaheim California, January 19-22.


Artist Gossip. . .

Frank Filipetti
Longtime UA customer Frank Filipetti has been very busy with his UA gear. He recorded music for a Beatles musical directed by Julie Taymor (The Lion King). Across the Universe, which previously went by the title All You Need Is Love will follow the love story of a British boy who comes to the Unites States and falls for an American girl during the 1960s. The movie-which is set against the onset of the conflict in Vietnam-will feature 18 songs by The Beatles but not be about the legendary group. He recorded Bono singing "I Am the Walrus." He also recorded Joe Cocker on "Come Together."

"We started Bono in Toronto while the band was playing there and finished in New York at my room during their Madison Square Garden concerts. We recorded Joe at my room in New York as well. For the New York vocals, I used my UAD 1176. I also used the UAD Fairchild plug-in for the drum tracks. And as always, I use the UAD Plate 140 plug-in for vocals. I am currently working on a Frank Zappa 5.1 surround mix incorporating the UAD 1176, Fairchild, LA-2A and Plate 140 plug-ins. The Plate 140 plug-in has become one of my standards now, along with my Lexicon 960, TC 6000 and AMS RMX16. So far the UAD plug-ins are the only software plug-ins I use."

Ted Perlman
Frank also used his two UAD-1 cards, on Spamalot-The Original Soundtrack, Ray Charles' Genius and Friends, Elton John The Red Piano (an NBC Special to air in December), and Korn's latest album, also to be released in December.

UA customer Ted Perlman used his two UAD-1 cards to record and process parts on four tracks from the just released Burt Bacharach CD At This Time (Columbia Records). The CD has gotten great reviews across the board, and features guests like Dr. Dre, Chris Botti, Printz Board from the Black Eyed Peas, Chris Botti and Elvis Costello.

Maureen Droney
UA would also like to congratulate audio industry heavy and UA friend Maureen Droney on her recent appointment as Executive Director of the Producers & Engineers Wing (P&E Wing) for the Recording Academy (Grammy Organization). Currently, 6,000 professionals comprise the Producers & Engineers Wing, which was established for producers, engineers, remixers, manufacturers, technologists, and other related creative and technical professionals in the recording community. Maureen is an experienced recording engineer and writer. She is the author of Mix Masters, a book of interviews with top engineers culled from her column of the same name in Mix magazine, and she has been a regular contributor to numerous audio and performing arts publications, including ten years as the Los Angeles editor for Mix.

Universal Audio also wishes to congratulate producer Jerry Harrison and engineer E.T. Thorngren, who have been nominated for five Surround Music awards for the Talking Heads' dual-disc box set. This set is a complete remix in 5.1 of the eight-album Talking Heads catalog. Jerry and E.T. used the UA LA-2A and 1176, a vintage LA-4, and the UAD-1 Powered Plug-Ins. The box set was mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound (look for a future interview with Ted) with the UAD-1. The Surround Music Awards will be presented on December 15 in Beverly Hills during the Surround Pro Expo.

E.T. Thorngren, Marsha Vdovin, & Jerry Harrison


Tech Talk. . .

AMD X2 systems with nForce 4
A compatibility issue has been identified with AMD X2 systems with nForce 4-based chipsets and the SuperMicro HD8CE. We are investigating these problems, but at this time these systems are not recommended for use with the UAD-1.

Please see the UAD-1 Motherboard Compatibility Issues page for more information and for the latest news.

VST replaces DX support in UAD-1 v4.1
Some time later this month UA will discontinue support for the DX plug-in platform concurrent with the release of UAD-1 V.4.1. Most DX applications, like Cakewalk Sonar and Sony Vegas, are already compatible with VST plug-ins, and as a result the industry as a whole is moving away from DX as a plug-in standard. See this month's Support Report for more information.


News & Schmooze. . .

Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker, the greatest jazz sax player of his generation has MDS disease and needs to find a donor. His immediate family members are not suitable donors. It may be you that could help save his life. Please read this letter from his wife, which explains what you can do to help.
Michael Brecker

Hurricane Katrina
Here are some important donation resources for musicians, post Hurricane Katrina:

New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC)
Make donations to:
Bank: Iberia Bank
Routing No.: 265270413
Account No.: 1707009057
Healthcare for Musicians
Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center Foundation, Inc.
103 Independence Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506
Jazz Foundation of America
Send donations to:
322 West 48th Street 6th floor
NYC 10036
Or donate online.
Make donations to: MusiCares Foundation
3402 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, Ca 90405
Or donate online.
International Association of Jazz Educators
Donate online.
New Orleans Public Radio station WWOZ's Website contains list of musicians that have been located and aids musicians with housing.
NOAH Leans is a new organization set up to aid with employment and relocation of displaced musicians in the New Orleans and Houston areas.


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