Universal Audio WebZine
Volume 4, Number 3, April 2006
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UA Universe
by Joseph Lemmer & Marsha Vdovin

Featured Employee: Seath Ahrens, Director of Software Development

What is your job title?
I'm the Director of Software Development.

So what do you do?
I manage the engineers who produce the UAD-1 plug-ins. In a world where most people want to add the word "engineer" to every job title, I've always wanted to have my card say something like "Code Janitor."

What is your professional background?
After earning a dual Computer Engineering and Physics degrees at UCSC (a.k.a. my triple brain damage), I worked on Voxel-based imaging products for 3D datasets created by MRI systems: laser scanning microscopes as well as intervascular ultrasound. The latter was used to image the inside of the walls of the heart while it was beating. That required that we remove from 3D images the blood speckle that was a result of reflections from the blood moving through the heart as it was beating. I also did some sonar imaging to map the ocean's floor. Then I joined Larry Weinberg at Fractal Designs (which later became MetaCreations) and brought the world Poser, a 3D figure-modeling and animation program for CG characters. I worked on that for almost eight years, during which time I also cofounded Curious Labs.

I've always wanted to have my card say something like ‘Code Janitor

How did you come to Universal Audio?
Oh, that's an interesting story. I was auditioning bass players, and Will Shanks (Universal Audio's analog product manager) actually had come out to audition, and it turns out the studio he was operating, currently called Ear to the Ground, was a studio that I had recorded in back when Tim Beverly had the space. So it turned out that we had something in common. I found out that he worked at UA, and at the time I had left the graphics world and was trying to figure out what I wanted next. I asked him if I applied in the future if he would do me a favor and just put the résumé on the desk of the person who needed to see it, and he said sure. So maybe six or nine months later, I contacted him and said, "Hey, is your offer still good?" And he said, "Yeah, sure." So I gave him a résumé, and he put it on Joe Bryan's desk, and Joe said, "I gotta have this guy."

So you are a musician?
Yes, my main instrument is the guitar, and voice, and then some piano. I'm actively recording, and I perform on and off. I have staged that back a bit ever since I've had my kids. My heyday, as it were, was probably seven or eight years ago, as far as being out there a lot. My favorite shows were opening for Kansas, Brand X, and I.Q. My current project is the band 42.

Did you live in Santa Cruz before you started working at UA?
Yeah, I sure did. I went to school at UCSC, so I have pretty much been a resident since 1983.

What's your favorite part of your job?
I like creating tools.

Do you use the tools?
Oh, yeah. I have my own studio.

That must be satisfying.
Yeah. That is a great part of it, but so is knowing you're building something and you're working with a group of people who really want to make something of quality. I think that's one of the biggest things: Dave Berners and Jonathan Abel create incredible algorithms, and I feel really privileged to work with them, to work with the guys on the team that basically says, "OK, we're going to build this into a tool that people can use." When it's a plug-in that emulates an existing piece of hardware, it's not quite as challenging, because the hardware already figured out a lot of the stuff. But some of the plug-ins have been really challenging, because no one had ever really done them on the computer the way we wanted to. I like that part of it. I like the challenge and the creative process a lot. It's not music, but it has a lot of similarities to it, actually. Kind of the whole creative space. You don't know quite what the solution is, and you need to get creative about it and work with a group of people to come up with the result.

Has your graphics background been helpful in your current job?
My graphics background is useful for developing the software here because the graphics world tends to be on the cutting edge. It's nice to have gone down the graphics road and to be able now to apply what I've learned in the graphics world to my passion for audio and music.

Do you want to tell me about your family? You have how many kids?
My wife Lisa and I have two kids. I have my daughter Madison, who just turned six, and Gabriel, who's going to be two next month.


Upcoming Events. . .

AES Paris
The AES Pro Audio Expo & Convention returns to Paris, France, May 20-23. UA is planning some very exciting announcements for this show, but that's all we can say without getting fired. Booth 1828.

Universal Audio is once again a title sponsor of TapeOpCon. This year's conference, dubbed "Camp Tape Op," will take place in Tucson, Arizona, June 16-18. TapeOpCon is a unique conference with events like the "Build Your Own EQ" workshop and a Potluck Studio where top engineers and producers will demonstrate their miking techniques and signal path choices while recording instruments and musicians in real time.

As we go to press, Dave Crane, Erica McDaniel, and Matt Ward are finishing up another exciting Musikmesse. More on that next month!


Tech Talk. . .

Will UA ever release a PCIe version of the UAD-1 and if so when?
UA is committed to supporting the PCIe platform on Mac and PC and while you will definitely see PCIe products from UA in the future, we have no specific product announcements at this time.

UAD-1 Macintosh OS Support Change for UAD-1 version 4.3
With UAD-1 software version 4.3, Universal Audio supports OS X Panther version 10.3.9 and OS X Tiger version 10.4.x operating systems. Earlier versions of Panther will no longer be supported. The latest version of Panther, 10.3.9, offers performance superior to its predecessors'. Apple offers 10.3.9 as a free upgrade for existing Panther users. Simply select "Software Update" from the Apple pull-down menu in the Finder.

Also, as reported in the January WebZine, Universal Audio will no longer support Mac OS X Jaguar 10.2.x as of the release of UAD-1 software version 4.2

These moves will free up valuable engineering resources so they can focus on critical MacIntel support for UAD-1.


News & Schmooze. . .

M.I.P.A. Nomination for LA-3A
Universal Audio is honored to have the LA-3A nominated for a Musikmesse International Press Award (M.I.P.A) in the Recording Hardware category. Representatives from about 80 magazines from all over the world comprise the M.I.P.A. community, which votes for the best products of 2005-06 in more than 40 categories. This is the second M.I.P.A. nomination for UA. (The first was the UAD-1 card in the Recording Effects category.) The awards ceremony took place on March 30 at the Frankfurt Musikmesse.

SAE and Universal Audio Develop Worldwide Educational Partnership
SAE Institute has announced an educational partnership and trademark licensing agreement between AMS-Neve and Universal Audio. As part of this new alliance, Universal Audio will outfit SAE stations worldwide with UAD-1 cards and UA's full suite of plug-ins, including the forthcoming emulations of classic AMS-Neve signal processors. In addition, Universal Audio will provide SAE with TDM plug-ins for all their compatible audio workstations worldwide. Read the full press release.

UA Product Line Changes
If you read "The Channel" every month, you know that the hardest thing about being a UA dealer is keeping UA products in stock. We're building them as fast as we can! In order to help facilitate this, we're retiring some products. The M610 is replaced by the SOLO/610. The SOLO/610 is a more cost-effective design, with all the 610 heritage the audio industry has come to know and love. The UAD-1 Studio PAK is discontinued in favor of the UAD-1 Ultra PAK and UAD-1 Flexi PAK. A Flexi PAK user can acquire the same Powered Plug-Ins as a Studio PAK for around the same investment. Finally, the TDM Quad PAK is retired in favor of selling TDM plug-ins online only.

Warner Music Group acquires Ryko Corp for $67.5 million
On March 24, Warner Music Group reached a $67.5 million agreement to acquire independent recording company Ryko Corp., which distributes music by artists such as The Posies, Big Star and Frank Zappa.

New York-based Warner Music is paying cash for Ryko, which was owned by a group of investors led by JPMorgan Partners.
From the San Jose Mercury News and The Associated Press

Producer Chris Vrenna
Press • Artist • Engineer • Producer Gossip . . .

Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Tweaker) recently used the UA 4110 Four Channel Precision Mic Pre on a new project called "Scott & Aimee." It's a duet fronted by Scott Russo (singer from Unwritten Law) and Aimee Allen. "It's really awesome music," says Vrenna.

"The 4110 is a fantastic piece of gear. The three-way "Shape" switch really did provide me with distinct sonic choices. For someone like me with a home-built project studio, the 4110 is a must-have because I get several choices in a small space. Ignore all my silly gear clichés . . . like all Universal Audio gear, it's just awesome."

UA Good Friend and Bill Putnam Sr. protégée Bruce Swedien has been busy in Miami working on a Spanish-language album for superstar Jennifer Lopez

Swedien is using two 2192 Interfaces, two 1176 Limiters and two 2-610 Dual Channel Tube Microphone & Instrument Preamplifiers. "I can't live without my UA gear," said Swedien.

Jennifer Lopez with Engineer Bruce Swedien.


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