These presets come with helpful explanations and instructions. They can be used as starting points for your own mix, or as a way of learning more about each plugin. As always, feel free to experiment, the instructions are based on my own workflow and “ear”. I hope you enjoy and they help you make even better music!
Important tip: Penny presets are calibrated for an input signal level of -18dbfs RMS. Keep it reasonably close to that for the presets to give you the optimum (and expected) performance.
Important tip: These presets are for some of UA’s most processor intensive plugins. I personally like to use them when I record if possible, and then I don’t need to have a bunch of plugins active when I mix. Some of the settings are to add analogue vibe and coloration, and don’t need tweaks during mixing, so other than on the mix buss most of them work well for tracking.
UAD Empirical Labs Fatso Sr.
Presets: Penny_BUSS, Penny_CHANNEL
These two presets are using the Fatso to mimic a channel/bus on a console. The BUSS preset is for the mix buss, or any other busses. The CHANNEL preset is for individual channels. There are only slight differences in their initial settings—the channel input is slightly hotter than the buss, and the compression settings differ. (We are not going to be doing much compression, but after we walk through things go for it!)
Load the preset. As your signal passes through the Fatso adjust the TRANNY level up until the LF Sat light just starts to barely blink. This is going to add some harmonics to the low end. I like a light touch. If you push this you may notice a gain in the low mid-range. EL calls this “clarity”, but to me it just sounds like a slight increase in loudness.
Now turn the THRESHOLD up until the COMP is barely flashing the “1”. On the loudest part it may go solid, but try to keep “2” or any other lights from flashing. This is softening only the top peak levels.
Click the Warmth button until you start to get any response at all on the Warmth meter, then select the next lowest setting. (For instance, if the lights go on at 6, turn it back to 5.) A 6 or 7 setting on this can really lower your high end, so listen carefully. If you have a “harsh” signal, the Warmth setting is great for taming it, just choose a higher setting. This control will probably give you the most obvious audible changes. (Other than distortion if you turn the input up!)
Following this workflow, you should have a subtle saturation/compression and it works nicely as the first input in a channel or buss. At this point you may want to use the THRESHOLD control for more compression if that is your thing. I find a 2-3 db reduction on a buss works nicely, depending of course on the music. Don’t forget you can use the output knob to adjust the level up or down on your channel.
UAD Ampex ATR-102
Presets: Penny_BUSS, Penny_CHANNEL_a, (Penny_CHANNEL_z)
These presets produce a linear frequency response. Both have a gradual low cut (less than 1db) from 300Hz to 120Hz, and then a slight bass bump before a deeper low cut at about 50Hz. The CHANNEL preset has less of a cut and retains a larger amount of bass. The BUSS preset begins a high cut at 10kHz, while the CHANNEL preset cuts at about 14kHz.
Wow, that was tedious. But what all that means is that the CHANNEL preset captures more of the bass and high end, while the BUSS preset attenuates those a bit. On the mix buss, this lets the ART-102 sound more like the mixing deck (with the high and low curves) it is normally used as.
Hey, that’s right, isn’t the ATR-102 a two-channel deck for mix down? What are you doing with CHANNEL presets in here? There is one simple, but cool-for-your-sound reason. The ATR-102 has controls for wow, flutter and xtalk (unlike the Studer A-800, the usual UAD “tracking” plugin deck). I like to be able to vary those settings from channel to channel sometimes, which is why the CHANNEL presets have an ‘a’ and ‘z’ suffix.
How to do this: Open one of CHANNEL presets. The ‘a’ preset has my low levels for wow and flutter, the ‘z’ preset has the high settings. Just randomly change them up or down slightly. (And the xtalk too, if it is a stereo channel and you feel like it!) What you have are slight variations in the wow and flutter applied to each channel. Is this how a real tape deck works? No. But that is why I said I used it only sometimes. It adds one more taste of non-linearity if desired.
By the way, the wow and flutter in the presets is all calculated to be a bit lower than UAD’s measured machine. I just think it sounds better. The same with the hum and hiss (noise floor). It is easy enough to push up the hiss if you want more. You can also play with the BIAS or RECORD settings for a hotter sound, but the BIAS control will also begin to change the frequency response.
Remember, the initial settings are calibrated for an input signal level of -18dbfs RMS. Make sure your input signal stays close to, but not continuously in the red in the meters (set to input). It definitely WILL distort if the input signal is too hot.
You will get a slightly “nicer” sounding hiss, in my opinion, and if you want to mix with the traditional “British” sound, then here ya go. But don’t mix NAB and CCIR, or you will get noise and a bump at 50Hz and at 60Hz, and that would just be strange.
UAD Studer A-800
This preset strives for the most linear frequency response possible, while still maintaining the high and low roll off, and head bump of the A-800. I think the settings are less drastic than other linear settings I have seen, and since it is actually an eq algorithm at work in the software, theoretically less phasing. (Honestly, I can’t hear it either way.)
There is not much to do except keep an eye on the levels.
This preset has been designed to work with the Penny_BUSS preset for the ATR-102 placed on your mix buss. Both your high and low ends are taken care of, and there is a bit of saturation that tends to bring down the transients a little. But the the rest of the signal has a tighter frequency response throughout both plugins, and if you try them together with these presets I think you will really like the results.
This is what to use if you want to use the BUSS-CCIR preset on the ATR-102. Again, they match! Just a note, the input is slightly higher on this CCIR version of this preset, because you can drive the signal a little hotter into the high end. (Just in case anyone was wondering.)
UAD Thermionic Culture Vulture
Presets: Penny_CHANNEL_T, Penny_CHANNEL_P1
If you have this plugin, you know the Culture Vulture is one crazy distortion engine. These plugins take a more subtle approach, and I have tried to emulate the sound of vintage British mix consoles. There is a dip in the mid-range, and a steep roll off in the bass. The “P1” pushes the bass and low-mids up a bit for a warmer sound than the “T” preset. (Warmer=the hip word for less highs.)
The presets add different harmonics, so try each and see which works for you. The “T” sounds really nice on acoustic instruments, just make sure to keep that input level reasonable. And touch the DRIVE knob at your own peril!
If you do want to play with the settings, I highly recommend looking at the manual. Some of the controls on the Culture Vulture work exactly opposite of how you would think, and the meter has relatively nothing to do with your signal levels.
I use this mainly in front of a reverb or delay. (You may find some other uses!) Be aware that because of the nature of the T2 emulation, the level of the sound is reduced. But that makes it perfect for feeding audio into other effects. I set it up to start rolling off the highs at about 2kHz, so even though there is a little distortion going on it is not “fizzy.” What you basically have is a signal with a slight distortion (or more if you push the drive or bias) and the high end attenuated. I find this to be a perfect “pre-treatment” for sound going into a reverb or delay. You really get a vintage feel.
UAD Vertigo VSM-3
(Everyone should read the VSM-3 manual, even if you don’t have the plugin. This is an absolutely amazing effect.)
I use this for mixing, and I love it for “fake” summing. You can spend the next decade tweaking the controls, but what I have for your starting point is a clean, but analogue console sound. This preset creates a balanced frequency response, and no cut offs on the highs or bass. With the input filter set to low, the harmonics slowly diminish with higher frequencies, so you are not adding any harmonics to the high end. I think this keeps harshness (digital) from creeping in.
If you have a warehouse full of DSP power, you can try this as a summing mixer. Put it at the end of each channel, load the preset, and then tweak the THD Mixer control. You can lightly touch the individual Drive, Shape and THD mix controls for both the FET and the Zener. This will basically create channels with slightly different characteristics. (You know, like that Waves summing plugin.) I usually just vary the main THD mix on each channel, and it gets me to where I want.
Presets: Penny_Plate-A, Penny_Plate-B, Penny_Plate-C
UAD has modeled the frequency response of these three plates (I assume) accurately. I have adjusted the controls to have a more linear response. They all still have a roll off at about 100-200Hz and 8k-10kHz. Plate B has a slight gain in high frequencies, and Plate C has a gain in the low end. I think I have retained the “flavor” of the three plates while making them a better starting point for adding your own eq adjustments.
I use all three of these on vocals and acoustic instruments, but there is no reason they can’t fit other places as well. If you push up the mix, they go over the top pretty quickly, just like any plate reverb! (Go ahead, try it and see.)
Penny_Plate_B is the most subtle, and provides a fairly smooth reverb with little sense of echo and a short(ish) decay time. A slight gain in the high end adds just a touch of brightness to your source.
Penny_Plate_A has a longer decay time, and the reverb swells slightly and feels like an echo from across the room. As well as acoustic sources, this works on electric guitar if you want it to sound within a space but not necessarily through a speaker.
Penny_Plate_C gives you a short decay time, but a very full sound. It won’t fill up a lot of room in your mix, but it will make your source sound bigger. Because it boosts the low end slightly, it needs some space in the mix down there. I have used this with a vocal and solo piano, and it creates a really warm “room” that feels upfront.
tip: Adjust the predelay! You can hear the effect quite clearly on Penny_Plate_A, as it appears to move the “swell” of the reverb. On Penny_Plate_C you can adjust it up for a very subtle slap-back echo. (And subtle is what it’s all about.)
UAD Lexicon 480L
Presets: Penny_Reverb1, Penny_Reverb2, Penny_Reverb3
Important tip: Make sure the Wet Solo setting is where you want it, on or off. It retains it’s setting between presets and that can sometimes be confusing. If you have this as an effects insert on a channel and the Mix control doesn’t seem to work, it’s probably the Wet Solo button in engaged.
Penny_Reverb1 is my take on a chamber, but with the “metallic” ringing reduced and a very smooth transition into the reverb tail. The reverb time is a fairly short one second, and you can play with that for a more pronounced reverb.
Penny_Reverb2 creates a short chorusing effect, which works great on background vocals and even sounds good on toms or a snare. Try adjusting the slope or diffusion and it can create a fuzzier and less focussed effect. If you push the mix, you are going to have some noticeable bounce between the channels and the sound is going to fill the stereo space.
Penny_Reverb3 is one of my favorite vocal settings. It is very subtle, in fact it sounds like no reverb at all, unless you bypass the plugin and notice the difference. This is due to the short reverb time and “quiet” echoes. With a small amount of the effect in the mix, I think it does a nice job of filling out a vocal. In fact, you can take the output and run it through another reverb and get some very natural sounding spaces. Also, try it on acoustic guitar and add the effect until it is barely audible. It feels closeup without being totally dry.
UAD Ocean Way Studios
Presets: Penny_Reverb1, Penny_Reverb2, Penny_Reverb3, Penny_Reverb4
Two things I wanted to accomplish using the Ocean Way space: Find as natural of a studio sounding space as I could, and try to keep the frequency balance unchanged as much as possible. All of the reverb presets are meant to be able to work with each other, so a vocal using Reverb1 and a vocal using Reverb2, for instance, will complement each other and not sound like crazy different spaces.
They all work for vocals, although Penny_Reverb3 is my go-to acoustic guitar effect. You can try experimenting with the mic distances, but I find it more satisfying to tweak the microphone levels in the mix, rather than their location. As aways, the PREDELAY control can be helpful is moving your audio forward or back.
Bonus: Penny_Remic-A, Penny_Remic-B
Both of these are designed to add a little space to your recording. Be careful on vocals, they tend to sound a little phasey to me but sometimes you want that to cut through a mix. It sounds like the start of distortion, so keep the high end down and it can give you an overdriven mic sound. On acoustic guitar both of them add some real nice presence, try them and see what works!
Important tip: Make sure the Wet Solo setting is where you want it, on or off!
UAD Korg SDD-3000
A simple but subtle doubling effect, as in—you can barely tell it’s there! Push up the DELAY TIME if you want it more pronounced, or turn up the FEEDBACK and it will start to sound like s spring reverb unit.
As is the nature of the SDD-3000, the midrange dips a bit. But perhaps it’s been so popular because it dips from 1kHz to 2kHz, where so much sound builds up. This creates a bit of space for other channels, but also tends to move the effect back in the mix.
This “old boy” plugin still creates my favorite vocal space. It is set to stay in the middle without much stereo spread, which is the way I like to mix, and everything about it is subtle. The frequency response is flat all the way across, all it does is put in that touch of reverb without coloring the sound. I like it on most anything, but a dry vocal moves into a natural and (I think) beautiful space.
I hope these inspire you to make some cool music!