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Review of the UAD 4k Processors
Emulations from the famous SSL 4000 G+ Mixing console
by TweakHeadz Lab
You know you have found a processor you like when you want to remix and remaster all your songs. You know, I have a lot of plugin processors here and its probably next to impossible for a salesperson to hype anything and have me believe it. I've heard it all, "will turn an ordinary mix into a diamond studded work of audio jewelry!". Right. "Will enhance your bass using secret psychoacoustic principles hidden in the primordial brain. LOL.
No hype. You got it. Now lets talk about the 4k bundle from UAD. There are two plugins in the bundle. The UAD 4k Buss Compressor and the UAD 4k Channel strip. Both are emulations taken from the Solid State Logic 4000 console, which is said (get ready for hype) to be the famous console behind more platinum records than any other. That is a claim made by SSL, not UAD. The SSL 4000 is a console that goes back to the late 70's. The 4000 G, which the UAD plugins emulate came around year 2000 and was seen and the most advanced version of the 4000 series.
Here is a pic of the original SL4000G+
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
The 4000G+ came in 48, 56 and 64 channel frames and had options which included moving fader and snapshot "total recall" automation. Each channel module could be used simultaneously for tracking, as a bus, or for multi track monitoring, which allowed the mix engineer great flexibility. The components were of high quality, with 4 band parametric EQ and dynamics processing on every channel.
The UAD 4k Channel strip emulates the sonic detail. As you see below, the strips 4 band EQ and dynamics, which includes both a compressor and an expander/gate, as well as hi/low pass filters.
You can use the channel strip as an insert on any audio fader in your sequencer, including on software synths if the sequencer allows it. It is best used during the mix process as like many powerful UAD plugins, there is a hit on your system's CPU. You turn the knobs by placing your mouse over the control and clicking and dragging. If your sequencer allows for automation, you can automate nearly all of the parameters you see in the pic. If you have sequencer automation, you probably have the ability to tweak with a control surface as well.
The EQ on the UAD 4k Chanel Strip is so sweet I actually used it for mastering. I was so impressed by the Hi-Mid and Hi Frequency sweetening and new level of clarity I was able to achieve I just had to have it. It tweaks like an analog dream. The big "In" button you see allows for fast A/B comparison. I would not think twice about using it on any important track in a composition. Lead vocal, guitar, bass, drums.
The UAD buss compressor is what you use when you want to "glue" several tracks feeding a bus with a single, transparent, compressor. I tried many different settings from extreme to mild. One of the more effective uses i found was to raise the overall perceived volume without very little increase in actual volume. When strapped across the entire mix, it provided a nice alternative to limiting and worked well with a final brick wall limiter like the UAD Precision limiter that I use. While there are only 5 controls on the buss compressor, they are all you need to do the job. Because there are only 5 controls, its easy to get a good idea of the range of possibilities by going through presets, listening for gold, then tweaking it home.
I think the buss compressor is the perfect tool for keeping your vocal bus over the rest of the band in the mix without imparting a squashed sound many compressors will do. Also here is a tool to help tame a live drum mix from several mics. The fast acting attack and release controls will give you the ability to "shape" the overall drum sound from a nervous sound where the drums just jump out at you to a smooth subdued control where they just sit in the mix where you want them like an unmovable rock holding everything in place.
Probably the fun is all in the mind, or is it? When you play around with the UAD 4k and think of what it must have been like to have 64 channels of this eq and compression its some spooky magic. On my tests using the demo before I bought the plugs, I went back and forth over and over and convinced myself I was actually hearing improvement. Enhancement was not subtle overall, but dramatic. I was left with the idea wondering if i could make all my music sound better with a post production session just adding the UAD 4k! Perhaps it is a bit unconventional to use a channel strip plugin as a mastering processor, but hey, no one has to know and if I can get the audio result I want, there is no one in the world who can tell me I am wrong.
If you have the UAD1 or 2 system, download the demo and try it. Listen for yourself.
I use the SSL 4000 bundle on a single UAD2 Solo card (below). Note that the SSL plugins do not come with this card, you have to buy them from the UAD online shop. If you want to use a lot of channel strips in a production, you may need more than the Solo card. UAD also offers Dual and Quad cards, which double and quadruple the power of the Solo card. There are also "Flexi" paks. These include vouchers for buying plugins at the UAD store. These can be good deals. For example, if you get the Solo "Flexi" pak you get the solo card and $500 worth of plugins for $300 more than the solo card by itself. UAD also runs bundle deals and gives away free vouchers by email. I go the UAD bundle from the UAD store for $299, or $50 off the $349 usual price.
Universal Audio UAD2 Solo DSP Accelerator Card (Macintosh and Windows)
The UAD-2 SOLO DSP Accelerator
Card gives producers and engineers a simple, powerful entry point into
the award-winning UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform on Mac or PC. This
single-processor PCIe card provides access to the world's most authentic
analog hardware emulations and audio processing plug-ins -- including
licensed emulations from Neve, Roland, BOSS, Empirical Labs, EMT,
Fairchild, Harrison, Helios, Little Labs, Pultec, SPL, Teletronix and
Waves also has a SSL 4000 bundle which costs about the same as the UAD solo card and the 4000 bundle. Except with Waves, you don't need a host card. Instead waves uses iLok or an alternate disk based authorization system.
Waves SSL 4000 Collection Native
The SSL 4000 Collection
includes four meticulously modeled plug-ins based on the legendary SSL
4000 Series: the SSL E-Channel, the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, the
SSL G-Equalizer and the all-new G-Channel.
Give feedback on this article or discuss the UAD 4000