What Makes UAD Plug-Ins Different?

What Makes UAD Plug-Ins Different?

There are tens of thousands of audio and music plug-ins available. So what exactly makes UAD plug-ins different from the rest — and why should you care? It's a question well worth asking, given the time and expense of upgrading to a dedicated audio processing platform like UAD.

Our Commitment to Analog

Universal Audio was founded in 1958 by audio pioneer Bill Putnam Sr., and refounded by his sons Bill Putnam Jr. and James Putnam in 1999, with the express intent of building and modeling classic analog audio equipment. At UA, we love the rich, three-dimensional sound of analog gear — a sound that has defined the greatest recordings of the past 60 years.

Whether it's a rare Pultec tube equalizer, a Moog filter, an Ampex tape machine, or a Neve mic preamp, we seek to give UAD plug-ins all the warmth, texture, and sonic complexity of the most sought-after analog hardware in history.

But it's not just about the sound. Universal Audio's commitment to analog extends to its real time immediacy. With our DSP-powered plug-ins and UA audio interfaces like Arrow and Apollo, you can record your music in real time (at near-zero latency) through the full range of UAD plug-ins — using the same classic analog sounds and fast creative workflow of Grammy-winning engineers and producers past and present.

Rather than capturing static sonic "snapshots," UA software engineers painstakingly "rebuild" classic analog gear in the digital world.

Our Team

The rebirth of Universal Audio in 1999 was kicked off when Putnam Jr. solicited the help of his friend and Stanford University classmate, Dr. David Berners, who now serves as UA's Chief Scientist, after his brief stint at NASA. Putnam Jr. wanted to recreate classic LA-2A and 1176 compressors in the digital domain, and give them every idiosyncrasy of the real thing. From there, a team was born. Today, our UAD software engineering group includes some of the world’s leading DSP authorities — including PhD-level scientists from Stanford, MIT, and Cambridge — who undertake thorough physical modeling of classic audio hardware to develop UAD plug‑ins.

Our Process

The majority of our most popular UAD plug-ins are based on a technique known as physical modeling. This means that, rather than capturing static sonic "snapshots," UA software engineers painstakingly “rebuild” classic analog gear in the digital world, component by component. It’s a much more difficult and time-consuming process than using more common digital modeling techniques — as each individual circuit is analyzed and modeled in order to capture the unique personality of the hardware.

This end-to-end circuit emulation ensures that UAD plug-ins not only sound like the original vintage unit, they behave like the original, at even the most extreme settings, warts and all. One quick test of the authenticity of UAD plug-ins is to take an old analog hardware unit, and place the knobs at settings that would never be musically useful; then do the same to the UAD software version. This is where the UAD plug-ins reveal their authenticity, and most other plug-ins fall short.

By going straight to the source and using original manufacturer’s schematics and “golden” units, UAD plug-ins are virtually indistinguishable from the target hardware they're based on.

Our DSP-Powered Platform

In order to replicate every sonic detail of a complex, musical-sounding circuit, UAD plug-ins require dedicated processing power — much more than a typical computer can handle when its busy running a DAW, scanning for new email, and managing power. For this reason, UAD hardware features dedicated DSP processing, in the form of Analog Devices SHARC processors. This is the only way in which to reliably emulate, say, the complex nonlinear behaviors of a Neve 1073 Equalizer, with a predictable number of instances, no matter what the rest of your system is doing.

So, to run UAD plug-ins, you'll need a UA Audio Interface like Apollo or Arrow, a UAD-2 Satellite, or UAD PCIe DSP Accelerator — giving you instant access to our vast UAD library, which includes over 100 officially-licensed plug-ins from the biggest brands in recording.

Our Partners

Whether it's Neve, Lexicon, Pultec, Empirical Labs, Fender, Moog, Manley, API, or SSL, Universal Audio works closely with the original manufacturers to ensure the highest level of sonic accuracy; not a single UAD plug-in is released until everyone is satisfied with the results. And by going straight to the source, using original manufacturer’s schematics and “golden” units, UAD plug-ins are virtually indistinguishable from the target hardware they're based on. We invite side-by-side listening tests of hardware vs. software wherever possible. In fact, we base our reputation on it.

Our Famous Users

Every day, top producers and engineers craft hits across multiple music genres, television and film with UAD plug-ins. From the Black Keys to Beyoncé, Post Malone to Jack White and Kendrick Lamar, UAD plug-ins are essential tools for professional music makers and top sound designers worldwide. It's the "authentic sound of analog."

Learn about UA Audio Interfaces | Learn about UAD DSP Accelerators