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I’ve used and/or reviewed almost every permutation of the UAD platform over the years, and let me say that I find the UA-developed plug-ins to be some of the finest sounding digital tools on the market. I’ve had access to the entire roster for a while now and am impressed with the range and quality available — these are some really helpful tools. The fact that the UAD system also provides outboard DSP power, thus freeing up your computer’s own CPU, makes for an even better situation. The UAD-2 Satellite is the most recent addition to the UAD-2 line (Tape Op #67, 73, 76), and it fills a need for portability for freelance engineers who wish to bring their UA plug-ins with them or for anyone running their DAW on a computer without PCIe slots (such as laptops and iMacs). The external enclosure is the size of a thin hard drive, is powered by its own wall wart, and features FireWire 800 (2) and 400 (1) I/O ports. The QUAD unit I reviewed had four DSP processors onboard, though they also sell a less costly DUO version. Note that at this time, the UAD-2 Satellite only works on Intel-based Mac computers running OS X 10.6.4 or higher, but it does work with VST, RTAS, or Audio Units plug-ins with sample rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz.
I need to note that my computer, a certain version of the MacBook Pro (a 3,1), is one of the few recent Mac laptops not supported to run the UAD-2 Satellite. I know UA tested a lot of computers and interfaces to check compatibility issues and deemed this one unsupportable. I do a lot of editing, rough mixes and such on this computer in Pro Tools, and it travels with me all over as my main “office” computer as well. In my home studio, I had no option but to go ahead and try the UAD-2 Satellite — the results here would likely be improved by using a supported computer. UA informed me that on many older laptops, they “found that the FireWire chipsets didn’t actually run consistently at FireWire 800 [speeds].” With the UAD-2 Satellite, just like a hard drive or external I/O, running via FireWire 400 (or at 400 speeds) will significantly reduce the throughput and therefore the number of plug-ins one can use.
I began working on some in-the-box mixes with tracks pulled from recent sessions. I had already mixed the songs on a console, but for personal reference I wanted to see how well Pro Tools 9 (Tape Op #81) handled delay compensation, and I also wanted to test the Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors (see review this issue) under working conditions. Every time I decided I needed a compressor, EQ, or effect, I would use only UAD plug-ins. On the first session, which was running at 24-bit, 96 kHz with 44 tracks, I had 20 plug-ins running, including EMT 140 plates, many 1176s, SSL limiters, Pultecs, and Fairchilds. The UAD-2 Satellite ran smoothly, and I was able to open up to 21 various plug-ins before maxing out the QUAD’s DSP availability — only 62% of the DSP was in use, but the FireWire bus was being hogged by the high sample-rate and track-count I was pulling from my external hard drive (the UAD meter showed the FireWire bus running at 81%). On the second session, at 24-bit, 44.1 kHz, I was able to run 39 various plug-ins before exceeding the DSP limit (it was at 98%). The FireWire bus carrying 16 channels of audio and the UAD-2 I/O was running at 71% in this case. You can see how channel count, FireWire type, and sample rates all affect the amount of plug-ins one can run. I would certainly recommend keeping the UAD-2 Satellite on an 800 bus for the increased track-count.
I’d previously been traveling around with a UAD-2 SOLO/laptop (Tape Op #73), which works via the ExpressCard slot on the laptop. I love the portability of this little guy, but it certainly won’t handle near the amount of plug-ins that the UAD-2 Satellite will. And just think, I can hook this up to most any Mac Pro Tools system, even an iMac or Mac Mini. A quick software download and off we go. This could be really helpful when working in studios other than my own.
The basic UAD-2 Satellite includes a bundle with LA-2A, 1176 (LN and SE), Pultec EQP-1A, and RealVerb Pro — and $50 towards more purchases. This is a great starting point, but it’ll be hard not to want more plug-ins. As I’ve said, I’ve been a very happy user of UAD plug-ins for a while now, and the UAD-2 Satellite is one small, powerful and useful device. Now I just need to get a new laptop!
(QUAD $1,499 street, DUO $899; www.uaudio.com) –LC
I’ve raved before about John Keane’s book, The Musician’s Guide to Pro Tools. (See Tape Op #65 for an interview and book review.) John’s an experienced engineer and long-time studio owner out of Athens, Georgia; he’s used Pro Tools in the studio for almost 20 years; and the several editions of his book have already helped me understand and get more out of Pro Tools. Now John has assembled a video tutorial series to help users of Pro Tools. During this course, one is expected to watch the video while performing the actual tasks in open sessions — a great way to reinforce the learning process. The series is divided into three sections: Making a Home Demo, Editing and Mixing in Pro Tools, and Working in Grid Mode. You can purchase these sections individually or all at once (at a discount).
The tutorials start with basic knowledge, like formatting hard drives and setting up sessions, but quickly I was learning basic stuff I skipped years ago — simple but helpful things like zoom settings or “region healing.” Even in the seemingly simplest tutorial about something that I thought I had down pat, John would show me something I never learned or a new shortcut. I would recommend that even the most seasoned PT vets should start at the top and be careful of skipping sections!
Keyboard shortcuts, understanding a bit of what’s happening behind the scenes, and efficient workflow are some of the recurring themes here — good stuff for any of us to concentrate on. I know my Pro Tools habits are bad, and viewing these tutorials has already helped me overcome a few problem areas. There were certainly a number of features I had never taking advantage of, and seeing this on video while trying it myself helped drill it in.
Obviously, as the sections roll on, there is more in-depth knowledge — and I have to be honest that I haven’t delved into Grid Mode yet as I don’t work that way (so far). But already I feel I’ve learned a lot and plan to review these tutorials again to make sure I’ve retained the knowledge.
If you are curious, 14 of these instructional videos are free to view on John’s website. See if it’s right for you. My bet is you’ll be learning shortcuts, understanding certain tools better, and speeding up your workflow right away. The cost is very reasonable and the knowledge is practical and useful. (Section downloads $14.95 each, full download or DVD $39.95; www.onlineprotools.com) –LC