These presets for UAD plugins 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 (except where noted). Keep it reasonably close to that for the presets to give you the optimum (and expected) performance.
Requires UAD v. 11
UAD Ampex ATR-102
With the exception of the “Classic” and “Final_Master” preset (see below), these produce as close to a linear frequency response as possible while still maintaining the low cut and high cut common to tape. Although tape doesn’t work this way, I find it much better to have the other attributes of tape coloring the sound without worrying about uncontrolled “EQ” changes.
The wow and flutter in the presets is set to be 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 them up 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. (The meters on the plugin are calibrated to -12dbfs, just as an FYI.) Your input should not be continuously in the red in the meters. It definitely WILL distort if the input signal is too hot. (And if you want that, then go for it!)
- Mix_Buss_1, Mix_Buss_2, Mix_Buss_3
Mix_Buss_1 is 30ips tape speed, Mix_Buss_2 is 15, and Mix_Buss_3 is 7.5. There is an increasing amount of noise and wow and flutter added as the tape speeds decrease, in order to mimic what actually happens to tape. The frequency response has been adjusted to remain flat and similar to one another, even though again this is not how tape works. The reason is to keep the input signal as close to possible across presets so they can be switched for comparisons. (As well as not changing your frequency balances.)
- slap_7.5, slap_15, slap_30
The basic settings for tape delay slapback echoes. The timing of the delay is set to a common amount for each tape speed, although on an actual tape machine this would vary depending on the distance between the heads. It is a good (and accurate) starting point which you can tweak. The same is true for the mix control. These are my normal settings for a track insert. Of course if you place this on an aux as a send, the mix controls should be set to 100% wet. Slower tape speed has more built-in wow and flutter, but again these are starting points for you to tweak if you wish.
- Classic, Final_Master
For the Classic preset, imagine a well-calibrated machine in 1978. It has the best 1″ tape but still the high-mids definitely dip down. There is some hiss and hum, and an audible head bump.
The Final_Master is setup to give you a smiley face EQ. (The high and low ends have a bump that brings them out, which looks like a smile on a frequency response graph.) This is an old trick to bring up the frequencies often attenuated in analog gear, or plugins that emulate them!
UAD Empirical Labs FATSO Sr
The FATSO is meant to emulate the general characteristics of tape. There is no hum or wobble or any of that kind of stuff, just the coloration of a “perfect” tape machine. Nevertheless, there are a lot of things to explore with this. These should get you going.
A really nice starting point for recording, with a built-in low end cut. Adjust the THRESHOLD for a small amount of compression. This can also add some analog vibe to virtual instruments and samples.
Do you want to slam a vocal without getting too much high end sparkle? Try this, and adjust the THRESHOLD however you need.
The Warmth control can really be your friend, and can act as a very basic de-esser on vocals, but here it keeps the high-end distortion down.
UAD Korg SDD-3000
If you don’t really know about the (real) SDD-3000 and are just familiar with the plugin, it is worth a search and read online! Simplicity that always seems to sound great. (Unless you push it too much – !)
- 7.5ips_delay, 15ips_delay, 30ips_delay
Basic slap back derived from tape speed settings. The modulation is subtle (equivalent to wow and flutter), as is the feedback. The filters mimic machines using those tape speeds. These are my setups for a channel insert, but you need to increase the Level Balance to full effect if you use this on an aux.
- F21, F34, F55, F89
Fun with Fibonacci. Look up “Fibonacci sequence” if you would like to know more about how the delay times are derived. There is nothing metaphysical, magical or anything else other than mathematical about these numbers. But they are convenient and they work really well together, both on separate tracks and in serial on a single track.
They are set up for track inserts. Something fun you can try is to have one of each setting on four separate aux channels, set to full effect. Then send a track to the four aux channels and adjust the send levels. It’s like a delay buffet! You can achieve some full (and interesting) sounds.
Something I find missing in many delay plugins is just a simple, basic preset. So here is one, with an initial setting sounding more like a chorus than a delay. It will sound like digital delay was meant to sound. When it was first introduced, that is.
YOU TOO can sound like this famous guitarist with his favorite effect. Adjust the feedback to fit the density of the track. Try it out. Maybe you will become famous too!
UAD Studer A800
Adjust the input for greater saturation/compression but remember these will distort! The presets are calibrated for -18 dbfs, but the meters on the A800 are calibrated to -12dbfs.
- 7_hi_bias, 7_mid_bias, 7_lo_bias
- 15_hi_bias, 15_mid_bias, 15_lo_bias
- 30_hi_bias, 30_mid_bias, 30_lo_bias
Three different tape speeds, three different bias settings with matching tape types, and all of them adjusted to give you as balanced of a frequency response as possible.
Maybe it’s just me, but I like a tape vibe but without the crazy high or low end rolloffs that happen. My philosophy behind these is to eliminate that and keep the rest of the analog feel.
I use this as my standard tracking insert, both for virtual and real instruments. No noise, balanced response, low cut below about 35hz. Everything else is like a well maintained and calibrated A800.
The A800 wasn’t around in the 60s, but perhaps this is what it would have sounded like if it was.
UAD Thermionic Culture Vulture
Thermionic calls this a distortion/enhancer. It was meant to simulate the distortion in tube amps, and found its way into adding analog flavor to digital recordings. It is unpredictable sometimes, and noisy just like the equipment it mimics. Note that the plugin is an emulation of a simulation!
- lively_analog_1, lively_analog_2, breakup
Yes, lively. Add some life to any signal! They lift the high and the low end (see smiley face EQ above).
Breakup does just that. It breaks. It crackles and distorts. It sounds broken. And it can sound really nice on drums, percussion and bass. (And who knows what else you may discover.)
Always remember, the little Mix knob is definitely your friend with these.
UAD Vertigo VSM-3
A steep learning curve but once you spend the time the VSM-3 is indispensable. This is my favorite UAD plugin and it does way more than it appears to do without some real exploration. Although it’s described as “analog,” “colorful”, “distortion device”, “harmonic generator” it does all those expected “saturation” things but a lot more. It makes an interesting EQ that lets you add some harmonics along the way to smooth things out, as well as a great way to add that preamp/console/analog taste.
- analog_1, analog_2, analog_3
Nice, subtle analog flavor with just a slight dip out of the low mids. The THD Mix control on each channel is where you can adjust how extreme things sound (not the big THD Mixer knob).
- preamp_channel_1, preamp_channel_2
Preamp_channel_1 has a completely flat frequency response, channel_2 has small dips in the low and high end. They both add harmonics similar to channel (board) preamps.
- brighter_1, brighter_2, warmer_1, warmer_2, scoop
Some demonstrations on how you can use the VSM-3 as an EQ. Scoop takes out the mids. To learn all this for yourself set up a white noise generator on a channel, insert the VSM-3 and monitor it through a spectrum analyzer like Voxengo Span. You can then visually see the changes in the frequency response. Slope, Drive, Style all contribute in different ways and interact with one another. These presets will get you started!
Add some midrange and distortion on a reverb send. Put it before the reverb and really push the distortion for a “smeary” effect. Put it after to make the reverb sound a little farther back.