Universal Audio just made their interfaces into a live vocoder, more

Why would you want near-zero latency on an effect? Well, maybe you want to run something like a vocoder – and that means the latest addition to Universal Audio’s offerings is a big deal.

Universal Audio continues churning out software updates with new analog emulations and other add-ons to buy; 2018 has been a huge year for them. But those effects often don’t come cheap, and they are tied to UA’s own hardware. So one of the selling points of working that way has been that UA offers near-zero latencies, letting you track through those effects. That is, plug-ins are great – until you need real-time performance, since they can add loads of latency.

This is meaningless, of course, if you’re just applying effects to recordings after the fact. But a vocoder is an entirely different story, so I suspect that the new vocoder included in this month’s UA update will matter to a lot of people.

Interesting, UA are so locked in the studio paradigm that they say you’ll want to “track” through the vocoder – record while monitoring. But I imagine this vocoder may find its way onstage. Lots of vocalists perform with laptops for greater flexibility, and the UA vocoder has real-time MIDI and keyboard control.

The new Vocoder comes from Softube, those Swedish masters of emulation, who have made themselves a big name both as a provider to UA and as an independent vendor (including with their own native platform, though it doesn’t provide the same real-time possibilities).

The result is a vocoder that looks promising in the studio and onstage. I need to test this, so disclaimer – this isn’t a review. But here’s what they’re promising.

Any vocoder is a combination of synth and vocal input, by default. Here, you get an emulation of an analog polysynth, and then a number of unique tools specific to this offering.

  • 12-voice polyphonic “carrier” synth (that’s the synth you’ll combine with your vocals)
  • Analog synth emulation
  • Four waveform types, pitch modulation, pulse width modulation (and octave and attack/decay controls)
  • Variable bands – 4-, 8-, 12-, 16-, and 20-band modes – for simpler retro “robotic” effects to richer, modern digital vocoder styles
  • Resynthesis parameters – emphasis, spectral tilt (which adjusts how you shift between frequencies), shape, and parallel bend controls
  • MIDI control of notes and chords (also available from their built-in keyboard onscreen if you don’t have a MIDI source handy)
  • Synced freeze function – so you can capture a snippet of sound, and then use different clock divisions synced to a DAW or MIDI source

“Freeze” a snippet of sound, then manipulate that freeze in sync with your DAW or a MIDI source, with various clock division options.

Spectral controls give you more contemporary sounds, retro robot sounds, or anything in between.

And yeah, you can use this on vocals if you’re a terrible singer. You can use it if you’re a great singer. You can use it on things that aren’t vocals (hello, drums). And so on. Here are some nice tips from their even nicer studio:

This wasn’t the only addition to UA’s latest software. See also an AMS Neve console built especially for emulating the desk preferred by big budget Hollywood productions. That gives you the whole console strip you’d find at, say, Skywalker Sound – with Compressor, Limiter, Expander, Gate, and Dynamic EQ, plus four-band parametric EQ. Will it make you sound more Hollywood? No idea. Will it give you a psychological boost to try? Probably.


AMS Neve DFC Channel Strip.

And also in this release, they’re unveiling the first-ever authorized emulation of the legendary Lexicon 480L. If you don’t know that 80s-era reverb by its model number, you might know it from its beige case and faders – it’s one of the more recognizable effects in history. Being authorized in this case matters, because they were able to derive the results directly from the original’s firmware. (Oh yeah – digital means a “model” can be very accurate indeed.) And again, you can use this live. First thing I would do would be to map some faders to those parameters.

Lexicon 480L – the original hardware.


9.7 additionally includes an emulation of the Suhr SE100 tube amp, plus from Brainworx the bx_masterdesk Classic chain.

But I do think the vocoder will be the one that gets people’s attention, because everyone —

Oh, no, I’m going to be interrupted by Robert Henke again.



(PS, if it’s an Auto-Tune effect you’re after, they also have a real-time edition of Antares’ Auto-Tune.)

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A simple, classic channel strip, Mr. Putnam’s mic collection, and more

Universal Audio have dropped another of their semi-annual releases of high-end digital sound toys. And this one is revealing of how studio production is becoming more accessible. Plus, you get to steal Bill Putnam’s mic collection. Well, virtually.

A handful of players in this space always stand out – the likes of Universal Audio, WAVES, Eventide, Softube, Soundtoys, and more recently Slate Digital are all competing to give you clever digital emulations of studio gear. These tools command premium prices, at least compared to the stuff bundled with your DAW, but they also deliver results that can match massively expensive studio access or used equipment. UA’s value proposition has always been tying its stuff to hardware. And on audio interfaces in particular, that has advantages, like real-time tracking (no latency!) and gain behaviors that act more like the real thing.

The thing is, while these things aren’t terribly cheap, they’re also not outside the budget of a lot of producers. So developers now find themselves appealing to both seasoned producers and engineers – even those with a fair number of hours on the original equipment, or maybe a Grammy or two in the closet – alongside musicians who have decided to pretend they know what the knobs do. (Trust me, I’ve been in that latter category – I feel you.)

This could go horribly wrong. You could get a giant knob that says “make more loud.” But oddly enough, if you maintain a commitment to sound and ease of use can make both groups happier. The absolute beginner still wants stuff that sounds like their favorite records. And the person who produced those favorite records is the least likely to have time to deal with unfriendly user interfaces. (We’re all getting older. Yeah, those producers even often use presets – of course, because they know what the presets actually do and how to adjust them to taste.)

So, all of that is to say, I have to notice the Century Tube Channel Strip looks a lot simpler than a lot of high-end channel strips.

Century Channel Strip – hardware-style controls and behavior, simple UI, classic sound, and works in real-time with UA’s audio interfaces.

One singular channel strip

It’s actually ridiculously simple. But funny enough, that simplicity comes from UA’s experience with modeling decades of vintage gear, which in the days of analog circuits and higher per-component prices (to say nothing of real knobs instead of computer screens), tended to economize.

So it just looks like one channel strip with a vintage-style tube microphone preamp, equalizationfor sound shaping, and dynamics control (a compressor/limiter). It’s skeuomorphic – sorry Jony Ives – but with the general effect that things are easier to see and relatable in a general sense to hardware you may have used before.

One plug-in just does the bulk of what you need, in one interface. This contrasts with Arturia’s (completely excellent, by the way) “Preamps You’ll Actually Use,” which have sprawling UIs – here, the model is still vintage gear, but the controls are far simpler.

UA wants to do more than say you can use this with their real-time tracking. They want to tell you why:

You’ll use real-time tracking so you’re more likely to get the sound you want on the first take, as you play/sing, and then keep that take without second-guessing it.

At EUR/USD 149, this looks like an instant hit for UA owners, and with the Apollo Arrow a lower-cost, more portable hardware entry, I think the combination could be grand.

Vintage mics, in the box

The other nice news in this update is the Bill Putnam microphone collection. That’s Bill Putnam, Sr., the legendary engineer without whose contributions modern recording is hard to imagine. And yes, apart from being the guy who founded UA, Mr. Putnam worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.

So, here’s the cool part: now you can track through models of his actual mics, including the Telefunken Ela M 251E, AKG C12A, Neumann U47, RCA 44, and others, with all the controls over proximity and pattern, before or after the fact.

Again, UA have a case for making you spend more on their software and combined hardware, because the payoff is that you can get near-zero latencies and hear the effects as you work. Computers could pull that off, but until they do so reliably, you’ve got this.

The magic of this working is all the work of the Townsend Labs Sphere L22 microphone. Short, non-engineering explanation – that mic picks up everything, so that then software can model the unique frequency and spatial response of a particular mic.

Just get ready: the list price of the L22 is US$1,799. Hey, you want a bunch of classic mics, you’re going to have to pay for one good mic.

That UI means you can choose the behavior of the mics, virtually. Just don’t smoke, kids. Bill Putnam, Sr. (pictured at right) smoked, and he’s not alive any more.


And the rest

Also out in this release is a Suhr PT100 amplifier. That’s notable not only for the Suhr moniker, but also plug-in effects capabilities included – syncable lo-fi delay, noise gate, tight and smooth filters and power soak, plus a preamp. And yes, there’s a bypass switch – thank you. I’m… mostly eager to try this one on drums. I’ll get back to you on that! US$149.


Suhr amp emulation, also from Brainworx.

Plus, from Brainworx, there’s the rather nice all-in-one analog-style mastering chain bx_masterdesk, at $299. Also notable for Arrow users, the DSP usage on this will work on just one DSP chip. Brainworx makes some great stuff; there’s a ton of competition for mastering, but this still looks like a solid option.


All of this is part of UAD Software 9.6 – download directly:

UAD Powered Plug-ins


UAD for everybody: Arrow sound box is Thunderbolt, PC or Mac, $499

The post A simple, classic channel strip, Mr. Putnam’s mic collection, and more appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Get inspired by how Che Pope tracks live – and manages time

Digital production isn’t just about electronic music – it’s about producing the likes of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, too. Here’s Che Pope on his “GSD: Get Sh*t Done” method.

And yes, that’s worth highlighting I thought not just because this live-tracked music recording of the ensemble is fun to watch, but because I like his rigorous approach to separating time and concerns.

Che Pope you may now as Che Vicious or Che Guevara. He’s worked with… well, so many people, from Lauryn Hill and The Fugees (taking me back) to later on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath to Kanye to Hans Zimmer.

So listen to the man. Actually, just as with Susan Rogers, figure the kind of personality who can work with all those very idiosyncratic personalities is able to keep some distance and objectivity. Sometimes our rockstar heroes may not be able to put things into words, but the producers who worked with them often can.

To highlight the time management part – not that I, uh, ever get challenged with trying to be half a dozen people at once – here’s what he recently told Universal Audio:

I did this thing a few years back I call “Taking Back Your Schedule,” where I made some firm decisions about, y’know, this is my phone call and email time. This is when I’m reachable. And this is when I go into creative mode without any interruptions, unless they’re urgent.

In general, mornings up to about 2pm are for business calls and emails and all that; 3pm on is for creating music. Look, if you’re going to do both — and in many ways you especially need to do both these days — you need to craft a system that works for you. Doing so will make a significant impact on your ability to be productive in your creative and business life.

Actually, I think it’s easy to look at that and think, okay, that’s just for successful producers who already have this balance thing worked out and other people working with them.

I’d say it’s probably even more important if you are under more pressure and in the DIY everything situation. Then you need time that isn’t connected to social media management or tax accounting – even if it’s just a half hour at the end of the day, if that half hour is sacred.

Che Pope was talking to Universal Audio, meanwhile, because they shot this beautiful live session. This makes me want to put aside some time this week to practice keys – and you thought the keyboard couldn’t be “expressive”:

Whatever the instruments, this really demonstrates how much can happen with live tracking. And the beauty of digital is, you can now model an entire studio worth of gear and take it with you on a compact laptop rig. That means here with the UA Apollo, they can track live as if the equipment were in the room – being a UA 610-B tube preamp, and here a Studer multitrack tape with Fairchild limiters.

At the same time, the cleanness of digital recording and the control that offers can still provide a fresh, modern sound. It’s interesting to see people get the modernity in comments – but then the Studer was meant to sound transparent; we’re just used to listening to poor copies on tape and poorly maintained vinyl, played on poor-calibrated/low quality playback equipment, and thinking of that as “vintage.” (Don’t get me wrong – I love horrible equipment, too! But you get the point.)

Maybe there’s some connection to the idea of time management and decision making. Here, you really capture a set of live performances without too much manipulation – and in the ambience of the room. That’s something you could experiment with in any idiom or genre; it still scales the music performance to human time. (Some similar thoughts on ensembles soon – and a parallel early approach to production – from Carl Craig.)

And keeping things at human scale is something we can all do.

More details on the process and thoughts:
Inside the mind of Che Pope / Apollo Artist Sessions [Universal Audio]

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Universal Audio launches promos on Apollo Twin & Apollo Rack

Universal Audio Apollo Twin promoUniversal Audio has announced that a purchase of its Apollo Twin audio interface comes with free UAD Plug-Ins from Neve, Lexicon, and Fairchild, for a limited time only. Now through December 31st, producers and musicians who purchase and register a new Apollo Twin audio interface (USB or Thunderbolt) will be able to add the classic […]

Universal Audio launches Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor plugin with UAD 9.4 update

UAD Software 9.4Universal Audio has launched UAD Software v9.4, the latest update for its for Apollo audio interfaces and UAD accelerators. The update sees the release of the Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor plugin, an expert end-to-end circuit emulation of the iconic compressor that has been used on thousands of hit records, providing all the features and coveted […]

UAD Software v9.2 includes Antares Auto-Tune Realtime, SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor Collection, Pure Plate Reverb, Fuchs Train II Amplifier & Eden WT800 Bass Amplifier

Universal Audio UAD Software v9.2Universal Audio has announced the release of UAD Software v9.2, offering 5 new UAD-2 Plug-Ins from Universal Audio and its Direct Development

UAD ソフトウェア 9.1 リリース、新プラグイン追加、Windows 10の機能向上、Mac Sierra完全対応

スクリーンショット 2017-03-15 10.54.56


Universal AudioがUADソフトウェアのバージョン9.1をリリースしました。大型アップデートということで新しいプラグインが5種類も追加されました。Windows 10環境ではThunderboltによって3台までのマルチユニット接続が可能になりました。また何かと問題が多かったMac Sierraとの互換性も完全修正された模様です。

  • SSL® 4000 E チャンネルストリップ・コレクション $299
  • Moog® Multimode フィルター・コレクション $249
  • OTO® BISCUIT 8-bit エフェクト $249
  • Fuchs® Overdrive Supreme 50 アンプ $149
  • Brainworx® bx_subsynth サブハーモニック・シンセ $149


個人的に一番楽しみなのはSoftube社開発によるOTO BISCUIT 8-bit エフェクトですかね。本家ハードウェアはEDMをはじめとするエレクトロニック音楽業界で今なおカルト的人気を誇るキャラの濃い〜エフェクターです。



MoogとUADによる新開発のシーケンサー付きのフィルタープラグイン。Moog Multimode filter legacyからのアップデート価格は$99





One of the best premium audio interfaces now claims to be better

How much time do producers spend just handling one or two inputs and stereo output (plus monitoring)? My guess is — a lot. Once you’re out of the studio, that amount goes up. But generally speaking, premium interfaces have tended to assume you need more I/O – even though a lot of electronic production now occurs in the box.

So part of the reason the Universal Audio Apollo Twin has been important is that it changes the value equation. It doesn’t do a whole lot of I/O – this is really about recording one thing at a time, listening, and monitoring. But by focusing on that, UA lavished all the expense on that I/O and adding DSP power for its modeled plug-in line. And per jack this is a no-expense-spared proposition.

I thought it was a significant entry when it came out for this reason, and that suspicion has been born out by two things – one, I personally can’t live without it in my own productions and my colleagues, and more importantly, I see a heck of a lot of these things popping up.



Let’s be honest: UA most certainly hope this thing is a gateway drug to get you hooked on their plug-in line. And those plug-ins, while terrific, don’t come cheap – they’re at least in line with a handful of other high-end software makers. But I might even go as far as recommending the model with the low-end DSP, because I think the driver and hardware quality of this box is unparalleled.

Or, that is to say, it was already unparalleled, and UA now promise it’s gotten better. The MkII is a “ground up” hardware redesign that promises greater audio quality, much-needed monitoring additions, and the option of getting QUAD processing if you need the DSP horsepower.

UA already addressed one of my biggest complaints – one that had us occasionally shouting expletives at Universal Audio. There’s now a unified driver model, so that you can swap different UA interfaces. That was essential to me and a colleague of mine, as we wanted to use a multi-port interface in the studio and the Twin on the go. That’s sorted, so now swapping is easy.

Being operating system agnostic is also totally possible – whereas Windows users were initially left out entirely, and then Windows and Mac required different drivers and interfaces, now you can swap hardware and OS as you please. That’s also I think a big deal, as some of us have (cough) decided to take the plunge and add a PC to our arsenal.

The MkII looks basically like the earlier model, apart from a Space Gray-styled darker color. The big change are in the innards:

Better audio quality. Universal Audio says the A/D and D/A converters have been “completely” redesigned for better audio performance and dynamic range.

More monitoring, talkback. These offerings were a little basic on the first generation. Now, you get mute, DIM, mono, and ALT speaker switching. That’s clearly useful for studio and recording applications, but I think it has probably a too-often ignored utility in live situations.

Now there’s a quad option. If you don’t care much about DSP or just need an occasional UA plug-in, there’s still the US$699 SOLO model. If you use DSP, though, you really want the $899 DUO. I’ve found that was more than enough for my needs most of the time, personally, but I have spent some time bouncing out tracks as a result. If you’re really into the UA ecosystem, there’s now also the QUAD model with extra DSP.

Mac, Windows. This is now true of the whole Apollo range (with the exception of the Windows-only Apollo Twin USB), but worth mentioning again – you don’t have to choose different hardware just to use both operating systems. You need Thunderbolt, but that’s becoming standard on serious current-generation Windows machines.

QUAD version of the Apollo Twin - those things labeled SHARC are the chips doing the heavy DSP lifting.

QUAD version of the Apollo Twin – those things labeled SHARC are the chips doing the heavy DSP lifting.

Unless you really want the QUAD, I think this mostly sweetens the pot for would-be new adopters rather than makes a must-have upgrade for existing users. That also means you might keep an eye out for used first-gen units. (That said, though, you can chain units together with Thunderbolt.)

But as before, UA justify their use of DSP hardware with tight software/hardware integration and high performance. The includes their Unison technology, which coordinates the preamps and gain with software models, so that the modeled preamps, guitar amps, stompboxes and whatnot can behave like the original in terms of impedance, gain stage behavior, and sound. The big deal, though, is that you can use these software models with near-zero latency, giving you the feeling of having the actual hardware when you’re recording or playing live. And that for me is what justifies using DSP hardware and not just native plug-ins.

These also still come with a set of entry-level plug-ins in a bundle, including some nice Softube amps and distortion, an excellent tube preamp model, and then some still-pretty-darned-good “legacy” models from their back catalog.

Yeah, there are some other options in this price range, like the RME. But at the moment, I can’t quite top the UA, at least for macOS and Windows, if you want the best possible box with this I/O configuration.

The software bundle.

The software bundle.

The other good news this month for fans of the Universal Audio ecosystem is announcement of support from Softube on their Console 1 hardware. The Console 1’s price was also dropped to US$499, which is a lot more in the league of what we think of when we think control surface. And that really fills in a missing piece. It’s great to have this UAD software, but it’s slightly miserable to have to dig into software with the mouse just to turn a knob. It doesn’t matter how good the sound experience of the original hardware is if you can’t get control in your hands.

The Console 1 and Apollo Twin as a combination, though, make a pretty ideal studio and mobile setup. Not all the UAD stuff is covered – and this requires using Softube’s software host, not the UA Console. But most of the stuff you’d likely use is covered, and I suspect not having to go into the UA Console makes more sense for workflow, anyway.

Watch for more on these solutions – and we’ll see if I can defend my enthusiasm for them.

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