Many of the UAD-2 plug-ins have become go-to tools for mixing and mastering by adopting modern DSP technology while remaining familiar as they're based on classic or sometimes esoteric studio recording outboard equipment. However, Universal Audio have been increasingly providing many plug-ins geared towards guitarists.
In addition to the increasing line-up of guitar oriented plug-ins, Universal Audio's appeal to guitarists will come from the fact that they can record and play with the plug-ins in real-time through their range of Apollo audio interfaces.
These are not exclusively for 6 string players as many of these devices that Universal Audio have modelled have been used for years on many other tracks to add vibe and character, but here is a roundup of what is currently available should you wish to turn your amp off and go off into the box...
Marshall Plexi Super Lead
Probably the most talked about new UAD-2 plug-in for guitar is the Marshall Plexi Super Lead. Created by Softube this plug-in is based on the 1959 100-watt Marshall amp and features multi-microphone options. Although branded as a 1959 it is advertised with the famous ‘EL-34 power tubes (the original 1959 amp actually had 4 KT66 tubes and it wasn’t until 1967 that Marshall introduced the four EL34 valves) so this is an emulated 1967-era designed amp with a 1960BHW speaker cabinet.
It has all the controls expected from the familiar Marshall front panel amp head but with a few tricks up its sleeve. Firstly you can change the input routing just like you can on a Marshall should you wish to alter the 4 inputs into the Channel 1 and Channel 2. Linking the inputs by a jumper cable is also possible, again like on the real amp.
Secondly, a quick click on the Channel Strip button shows a hidden area where you can see what mics have been used to record the Cabinet in each setting. There are 3 general choices between Dynamic, FET and Valve and within those categories, there are 3 mics, each with a Fader and Pan control allowing adjustment and balance between them. The mic placements and choices were chosen by a man who knows his Marshall tones, Tony Platt, and recorded at Kore Studios...so you know they're going to sound great!
The microphones are labelled as such, and all have very familiar names :
Dynamic Mics : Mic1 - 57, Mic2 - 609, Room Mic - 87
FET Mics : Mic1 - 705, Mic2 - 87, Room Mic - 4038
Valve Mics : Mic1 - 67 Stereo Left, Mic2 67 Stereo Right, Room Mic - C12
There is also a Main EQ Output, which is separate to the EQ settings on the front panel of the Plexi Super Lead and is used more as a global tone shaper after the 3 mic choices.
Friedman BE100 and DS40
Friedman amps are a modern take on classic designs by David Friedman which Brainworx have modelled the BE100 and the DS40 for the UAD-2 Platform. These are based on 1960 and 1970 type rock amps (not unlike Marshall) but also provide a Rear Panel view of the amps where you can get more creative with FX and Mic recording chains.
Brainworx have gone to great lengths to provide ‘Recording Chains’ with the Friedman plug-in, featuring many different mics and EQ’s and then adding delay, chorus, flanger effects accordingly.
The DS40 is a design focusing on their Dirty Shirley Amp that is a Marshall-style valve head, with a classic fat rock vibe based upon a modded JTM45 and high gain tone. Single channel, with dynamic and tone controlled by just going old-school with the volume control on your guitar, the rear panel of the DS40 also has the same ‘Recording Chain’ ideas as the BE100.
The Marshall Plexi Super Lead may be the sound of rock, the Friedman may be the SOUNDS of rock. Both are worth checking out...
ENGL have been creating some of the most sought after designs for modern Rock and Metal with their E646 VS but also have a less overdriven model the E765 featuring EL-34 valves through a 100-watt head unit. More rock than Metal whereas the E 646 VS is proper high gain. Once again developed by Brainworx, the Engl Amps provide anything from clean to 'over the top distortion'.
Chandler GAV19T Amp
The Chandler GAV19T amp is inspired by British designs such as Marshall and VOX, with extra Bias control to change the sound of hotter or colder valves. and how this reacts into the preamp. Baxandall type EQ for overall tonal shaping.
Finally, there is AMP ROOM, which has been out for a little while on the UAD-2 platform, but is still incredibly useful for either re-amping a signal, or perhaps changing the environment that a source was recorded in. Providing rooms for Bass, Vintage Amps and Metal Amps, re- processing a signal through one of these rooms has never been easier, and may add some characteristics that you wouldn't normally think about.
Pedals and FX
Boss CE-1, Roland Dimension D and Roland RE-201*
Boss created the original chorus pedal that was desired by many past and present guitarists called the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble back in 1976. Whilst releasing many versions in smaller stomp box format (I own a CE-2 Japanese original and would never part with it) the original still can’t be beaten. Universal Audio were actually commissioned by Roland to make this emulation featuring their unique Chorus and Vibrato modes.
Whilst Chorus had a bit of a bad rap in the 1980s, as it seemed every session guitarist had to use it, there is something very organic and 'storytelling' with the Boss CE-1, and you really can't imagine early Police or Pink Floyd albums without it.
Alongside the CE-1 there is the Roland Dimension D, a rack mounted version suited slightly more for studio applications and then the amazing Roland RE-201 Tape Space Echo. All three plug-ins are available either individually or now as a Roland Classic FX Bundle.
Not just content with the classic Roland gear, Universal Audio have also modelled the EP-34 which is based upon two Echoplex Tape Delay units, the EP-3 and the EP-4. With a record head slider that allows you to adjust in real-time, the effects from lush analog delay to self-oscillation are easily possible.
The MXR Flanger arrived in the 1970’s with the aim to replace the Tape based flanging effects that were currently popular. Succeeding in becoming a classic in its own right, Universal Audio have gone for the best bucket-brigade design by MXR, with the plug-in providing depth and short doubling effects alongside the traditional flanging which made it so famous. Van Halen anyone ?
Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer
The 70's gave birth to many a guitar tone, but one guitar pedal to stand the test of time is the original TS 808 Tube Screamer from Ibanez. Don't let the Kermit green colour scheme put you off, this is one distortion pedal that works really well on blues!...From semi-driven tones as well as more extreme settings...Into a Marshall Plexi = awesome.
The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff distortion is another classic Universal Audio have taken on, this time by choosing a very limited early edition triangle version. Rare to find, this gives the fuzz you can't help but recognise.
Based on the Pro Cat RAT distortion (oh I remember this one well) the Raw Distortion kicks the 1970's design into the UAD-2 format. Love this for proper driving 'chug' riffs.
All three plug-ins have been developed by Universal Audio and feature the Unison Technology which when used with an Apollo audio interface recreates the gain structure of the actual units, adding another level of realism that wasn't possible with plug-ins before.
There are many software Guitar options out there, but Universal Audio and their partners have chosen wisely and pretty much nailed every design they've released for the UAD format. If the guitar is your thing, or perhaps you want to grit up some non-guitar tracks, Universal Audio have the solution and more.
* Since this article was written, UAD now provide UAD branded versions of these pedals called Classic FX
" The new plug-ins in the Classic FX bundle are sonically identical to the previously branded equivalents. They all sport improved graphics, updated Pro Tools page tables, and some great new presets that really help get you going quickly. Presets and settings created with the originally branded plug-ins are compatible with the Classic FX plug-ins, but not vice-versa "