AF’s Weblog

February 16, 2009

Review: Universal Audio UAD-2

Filed under: Hardware — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:39 am
WMD: Weapon of Mass DSPs
Universal Audio UAD-2: The Test

Universal Audio continues its arms race against other DSP card manufacturers, like TC Electronic (PowerCore) and SSL (Duende), by releasing the UAD-2, which comes in three models that dwarf the original in power. We tested the most powerful of all: the UAD-2 Quad.

UAD-2

In the world of computing, multicore processors and multithreading are booming industries. Manufacturers have realized that the future of our dear microprocessors will no longer be in increasing frequency, but in multiplying cores and/or processors. Universal Audio has understood the lesson and offers its DSP card in three models: the first, known as Solo, has, like its predecessor, one processor, the second, Duo, features 2, and the third, Quad, has no less than 4 processors! Knowing that the new processor is, according to the manufacturer, 2.5 times faster than the UAD-1, the Quad is therefore 10 times (2.5 x 4 processors) faster than its predecessor! The first UAD suddenly looks old. If you add to this the ability to chain together up to 4 UAD-2 cards in the same system (40 times the power of the original UAD), you start to grasp the enormous power potential of these cards.

Out of the box

As you take the card out of the box, you see the first new feature: the UAD now uses a 1x PCI Express bus, faster than the old PCI. You should definitely check to see if your motherboard has an available bus. Note that the card is also compatible with PCI Express 16x, which is normally reserved for video cards. It was on the latter that the card was tested by yours truly, the only available 1x PCIe bus was already being used by an RME Multiface …

Once the card is inserted into an appropriate slot, you have to startup Windows and run the .exe found on the supplied CD or downloadable from their site. It’s probably better to download the latest version which includes new plug-ins (like the UAD Equalizer Harrison 32C and the UAD phase aligner Little Labs IBP) and the latest version of the driver which is more stable and RTAS compatible. Once you’ve installed everything, you have to create an account on Universal Audio’s website, download a small file to authorize plug-ins and drag it onto the UAD-2’s configuration window. It’s simple, fast and efficient. Now you can start using the card!

Let’s take a closer look at the control panel …

Conclusion

While not surprising, Universal Audio has updated its range of DSP cards with brio by largely increasing their power plus retaining backwards compatibility and an already pretty strong plug-in selection . The UAD is still “the solution” for those who want to integrate a set of quality plug-ins without hampering their computer’s performance. The quality of the plug-ins from Universal Audio’s catalog is well established and one is sure to find things they like. Lastly, the price remains relatively reasonable in view of their quality.

The gain in power compared to the UAD-1
Compatibility with existing UAD plug-ins
Interesting new plug-ins
Possibility of chaining multiple cards
Low latency mode: LiveTrack
Interesting bundles

Not a lot of new plug-ins
CPU usage in low latency

To read, the full detailed article see:  Universal Audio UAD-2

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