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UAD-2 Satellite DSP Accelerator Review: Vintage Sounds Paired With Modern Functionality

If music throughout the 2000’s and 2010’s – and that’s pop, rock, and EDM specifically – had any specific characteristic, it’s this strange affinity for the old. It’s almost as if those late ‘90s disco compilations, somewhat tongue-in-cheek and somewhat attempting to disco-ize the Eurodance craze of the time, become a style less ironic and more definitive.

Yet, on the recording end of things, gear from the preferred time period simply doesn’t integrate with the modern DAW. So, in response, producers and engineers settle for close-but-not-quite plug-ins that might sound on the surface like a Roland drum machine but gloss over it with perfection unavailable at the time.

That is, until you get to the UAD-2 Satellite DSP Accelerator, which Universal Audio claims offers a close to authentic as you can get sound with digital plug-ins. Does it?

For some background on usage, this high-quality analog hardware emulation device just requires a FireWire connection with any Macbook, iMac, or Windows 7 PC. The UAD-2 Satellite offers two processing levels: DUO, which features two Analog Devices SHARC processors, or QUAD, which features four of the same devices. The UAD-2 Satellite, as well, is able to work alongside the UAD-2 PCIe DSP Accelerator cards and Apollo interface, giving the user full mixing power.

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What’s a particularly notable asset from the start is the portable design. Any engineer or producer has access to a library of 90 possible plug-ins wherever there is a FireWire port, and thus can resume a session practically anywhere.

When it comes to integrating with a DAW, the UAD-2 Satellite is compatible with Logic, ProTools, Cubase, and similar programs, and beyond just simply operating well and providing a huge library of plug-ins that are literally right at the user’s fingertips, it lessens the load placed on the internal processor. Instead, this aspect of your DAW can be used for other mixing tasks.

As well, your DAW’s freeze feature works with UAD-2 Satellite. All you need to do it hit the freeze button for faster than real-time processing with your audio channel.

In considering what you can do with the UAD-2 Satellite, the device runs at a 512 sample buffer naturally, but through dynamic buffering, the audio interface can be lowered while the UAD-2 Satellite operates at a higher setting. This feature proves to be particularly helpful for low-latency tracking workflows.

uad2_satellite_mbp_hqOn a functional level, many have wondered if the UAD-2 Satellite is a replacement for, equal to, or better than the Accelerator cards built for PCIe slots on desktop computers. Both have their pros and cons. For the UAD-2 Satellite, the power supply connects to the DSP unit that connects to a computer, and FireWire tends to be more convenient. The Accelerator card, however, offers greater bandwidth. No matter the one selected, both give access to plug-ins that work with all UAD devices. If you’ve been looking for something more portable, the UAD-2 Satellite may end up being the better product.

But beyond the functionality, the plug-ins make the UAD-2 Satellite a must-have item for any producer. In fact, considering the obsession with everything vintage-sounding, every producer ought to have one on hand.

There are essentially two big points going for the UAD-2 Satellite’s plug-ins. One is quality. Unlike many “vintage” products out there, the UAD-2 Satellite doesn’t just emulate; Universal Audio took the physical design and temperament of analog devices into account, and claims it built a system for the digital world of production. And, unless you’re Daft Punk, that’s where every EDM producer is, both for forward-thinking and purely practical reasons.

Added to this, Universal Audio’s intention works. The plug-ins, rather than sound too perfect, a complaint of many older producers, bridge the practicality of digital technology with the warmth, depth, and detail that make analog worth returning to in spite of its technical obsolescence.

As a second point, UAD-2 Satellite provides full access to a wide range of titles from Studer, Ampex, Lexicon, Neve, Manley, Roland, and SSL, among others, for classic analog equipment, including compressors, equalizers, reverb processors, and tape machines. Three packages (Core, Custom, and QUAD Ultimate 2) give you a choice of a combination of the Analog Classics and UA-developed plug-ins.

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Specifically, the Analogs Classics includes the Legacy versions of the LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176 LN & SE Limiting Amplifiers, Pultec EQP-1A Program Equalizer, RealVerb Pro Room Modeler, and CS-1 ChannelStrip.

With quality outboard processing, a portable design that integrates with modern DAWs, and a huge range of quality plug-ins that effectively mimic vintage sounds, the UAD-2 Satellite is a package no producer or engineer should pass up in this day and age.

By | 2016-12-02T14:46:28+00:00 October 30, 2013|Reviews, Software, Studio Gear|0 Comments