Universal Audio: The best audio plug-ins for the Mac

I made some pretty bold statements when I first wrote about Universal Audio’s plug-ins for the Mac. I’ve had quite a few questions from that article, so I thought I’d try to answer them here.

In the original article I said, “While there are a lot of plug-in choices, I have found none better than Universal Audio (UA).”

A lot of you wrote and asked if I had tried this plug-in or that plug-in. I can assure you that over the years I have tried pretty much everything available. I not only stand by my statement, I will say that UA is simply the best set of audio plug-ins on the market.

Another bold statement. Let me explain why.

Every bit of music has a limit on the range it can occupy. Unfortunately, some of today’s music takes every last bit of that range and packs it completely full of sound. Some obviously like this, but personally I like my music to have room to breathe.

As an example: have you ever listened to a song that goes into a soft bridge section; the guitars get quiet; the drummer is tapping on a cymbal; the singer is talking; and then the band starts to get back into the swing of things and with an amazing bang they are rocking again.

Did you notice that sometimes in those sections, things don’t really quiet down? In some mixes those quiet parts are just as loud as the main section of the song. To me, it’s missing a major dynamic of the music.

I find that the UA plug-ins allow me to control that range of frequencies better than anything else. Sure, there are a lot of EQs and compressors out there that can do the job, but not like this.

UA has taken the time to model some of the world’s best vintage gear and make it accurate. I feel like the control I have is real, not control over some made up space that doesn’t even exist in the range of the song.

Sometimes it seems like the music I’m listening to is trying to break out of its range and that’s too bad. That range needs to be managed.

I also said in the original article that I liked the “warmth” the plug-ins provided. Some have asked exactly what I meant by that.

“Warmth” is a difficult thing to explain. Some music is loud and pounding — that’s not warmth. Some music is high-pitched and tinny sounding — that is not warmth. I guess the warmth is the fullness of the music without wanting to rip my ears off.

You can find that in classical music, metal, hard rock and every other genre.

My UAD-2 Quad costs $1,899, but it is one of the best investments I’ve made for my music. I have all of the plug-ins and I have different uses for them.

I love the sound of a Fairchild Compressor on an acoustic guitar. For me, it just brings out that natural sound that I like in an acoustic. I also use the Neve 1081, Neve 1073, LA-2A and the 1176 Compressor. They all give you something different.

Not only does UA model its software to be like the original, they still make some of the originals. All of the analog gear is handmade and from what I’ve heard, it sounds amazing.

I never thought I’d do this, but when time and money allow, I’ll be picking up some of their analog gear as well.

I spend a lot of time and energy on my music. I’m glad to deal with a company that does the same thing with its products.