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Review: UAD2

Submitted On May 24, 2013 by Contributor:



Build Quality

Ease of Use


Overall Value

Total Score

87/ 100

Review Details

Price: $300-$5500


Best sounding plugins on the market today! No CPU load.


Plugins are EXPENSIVE!!!!
My Review

Universal Audio first released the UAD platform over 10 years ago.  There have been a few other players in the field of DSP processors but none have come close to the quality (and quantity) of the UAD plugin platform.  The newest version of the UAD platform (the UAD2) leaps over its predecessor in power exponentially.  Available in single, dual, quad and now 8 cores and found as both PCIe cards and Firewire boxes UAD has a solution for just about every computer setup scenario! 

The cards (and boxes which kind of just have the cards in them) have a single job: run plugins!  “So, what?” you say, “my computer has plenty of CPU and RAM to run what I need”.  Ok, maybe you’re right, but the thing your computer CAN’T do is run the UAD plugins, without the hardware, and if you think a plugin is a plugin is a plugin, you’re SORELY mistaken.  The UAD plugins are top of the mark.  The emulations are unarguably the best, most accurate plugins ever made.  Who better to emu an 1176 than the company that MAKES the 1176!?  If you think your waves plugs do a good job, you haven’t heard anything!  Recently UAD has moved off of just great emulation plugins, and has brought in some really cool modeling plugins (a trio of guitar/bass plugs, and the newest (as of the time of this review) Ocean Way Studio room modeling plugin).   Their emulations of products from industry giants such as Neve, SSL, dBx, Lexicon, EMT, Roland, Fairchild, Emperical Labs, Studer etc etc, will leave you wondering what toys your were playing with previously.  The perfection in these emulations will instantly bring your mixes to not a new level, but a whole new dimension (theres a pun about their Roland Dimension D emulation in there somewhere!).  Prices to get into the UAD universe start at an easy $299 for a solo card (which has way more power than the old UAD1 card) and skys the limit after that. 

The down side.  The plugins themselves are sometimes quite expensive.  (some more than the price of the card itself).  But when you weigh the price of being able to run multiple Lexicon reverbs, vs purchasing MULTIPLE lexicon reverbs, the price immediately justifies itself (in most cases).  Some plugins are one trick ponies, that while they only do one thing, they do it really really well, but the price is just a little out of the range of practicality.  Overall though, as expensive as some of the plugs are, the sound is just above and beyond what most people think plugins are capable of.  When you throw on one of the 1176 emulations on and can’t tell the difference between that and the hardware that is sitting right in front of you, you have a real winner!!!

Videos and sound demos are available on the UA site (  All plugins come with a fully functional  14 day trial that you can start when ever you’d like if you’re considering buying certain plugs, which is a great way to get to use the plugin and see if it’s right for you before spending your cash on it!

Recommend to a friend

About The Contributor


Full service boutique studio in Nassau County, Long Island, New York. In addition to recording media services, the studio also builds a great deal of custom studio equipment.

One Review


    "Though some people say “the UAD-2 cards are glorified dongles” and “I wish UAD plugins were native,” etc etc, as a musician / composer who uses a TON of virtual instruments and samples, having such high quality plugins on a DSP chip is a GODSEND!! The way I look at it, the UAD card acts like a studio full of high quality “virtual rack gear,” allowing me to mix through the best plugins in the business without taxing my computers CPU. Considering the high quality of UA’s latest emulations, it really is almost indistinguishable from the analog gear its modeling, but with the added benefits of 100% recall, automation, and numerous plugin counts. Of course the trade off is latency, as it takes time to send the audio out of your DAW into the UAD card to be processed and back, but in my old work flow I would simply record my VI’s in “low latency mode” (which automatically bypasses any latency plugins like UAD powered plugins) and when I was done turn recording off low latency mode and hear the glory of the UAD plugins while my native CPU focused on playing back all my numerous sample instruments and VIs. Now, with the UAD Apollo (see my review here: ) I can track through UAD plugins at near-zero latency! So do not discount the DSP. Though native CPU’s obviously have more power, the UAD-2 DSP really does save significant CPU when running multiple high quality plugins, allowing your DAW to focus on more important things and generally run much happier.

    While I agree with Meistudio that the plugins are expensive, especially when you consider you had to invest in the UAD card separately in order to run the plugins at all, I find Universal Audio’s sales tactics to be ingenious. When they release a new plugin its available at full price, which lately has been between $299-$349 a plugin – quite expensive! But UA have huge sales all the time, in particular their summer and winter sales in which plugins are offered for between 30%-70% off!! So the professional users who need the latest plugins now have the opportunity to buy them at full price (to which UA sees the most revenue) while those of us in my shoes who can afford to wait can get them at a discount. Of course the plugins that are discounted the most are their older plugins, but if you wait for the right deal you can grab that great plugin at a great price. Whats also interesting is when they have special offers that allow you to get UAD cards for free! For example, when I bought my LA-610 I got a UAD-2 Duo card for free – quite a nice bonus! They also sometimes offer free UAD plugins when you purchase UAD cards and/or the Apollo. For example, I got a voucher for over $900 good towards any UAD plugins in the store when I purchased my Apollo Quad interface! Not to shabby!! So if you’re smart and willing to wait for a deal, good deals can be had from Universal Audio.

    My biggest complaint about UAD plugins is that unlike a company like PSP audioware who take inspiration from older analog gear but modernize it with additional user friendly features and options, UA’s take on plugins is to emulate analog gear 100% “warts and all.” Of course this is GREAT when you want that specific sound of a specific piece of gear, and UA in my option offer the BEST at emulations BY FAR – however simple things like gain control, wet/dry mix knobs, Mid/side processing options are non existent in the plugins unless the hardware had the same capabilities. There are exceptions when they offer extended controls, for example the Fatso SR plugin who’s added controls I use all the time, but for the most part UA do not add additional features that would make some of these old analog piece much easier to use. However, this is a VERY small nitpick, as in the end its all about the sound, and to my ears nothing sounds better than UAD plugins.

    Overall I couldn’t be happier with the UAD system. UA makes high quality professional plugins at a professional price (for plugins), though they offer enough sales and promotions to allow others to join the party. Ultimately when comparing the quality/price ratio of these emulations vs the actual hardware units, the UAD plugins win HANDS DOWN!"

    "Best analog plugin emulations in the business

    Run on DSP chip meaning no CPU load


    "Plugins can be expensive (though UA offers numerous sales and promo for those who wait)

    UA model analog gear "warts an all" which sometimes leaves out important control features found in modern plugins"


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