At long last, Universal Audio’s UAD-1e DSP platform brings Universal’s retro-styled mixing and mastering plug-ins to the increasingly popular PCI-Express (PCIe) bus. Why is that cool? Well, for starters, it lets you run effects like perfect emulations of the retro Roland effects shown here.

Now, some readers here have been skeptical of the performance improvements of PCIe (though, compatibility-wise, many computers make it a necessity). But Universal says the new cards deliver a quantifiable improvement over PCI and PCI-X. Joe Bryan, VP of technology, says PCIe provides lower system overhead, more reliable low-latency operation, and more tracks (up to 254 per card). That’s consistent with what we’ve heard from other vendors like Digidesign. (Of course, the advantage of Universal is, unlike the Pro Tools platform, you can add Universal’s plug-ins to any Mac or Windows DAW you like.)

Bryan also mentions the ExpressCard bus included on recent PC laptops and Apple’s MacBook Pro, which I hope means Universal is considering a mobile-ready product.

The Universal cards themselves are impressive as always. They start at just US$500 for the DSP card, plus $100 off your choice of plug-ins (Express), or $1000 for the card and $750 off plug-ins (Expert). Existing users can crossgrade from the PCI UAD-1 at a discount, and you can mix-and-match PCI and PCIe versions of the card if you want. As for the geeky parts behind the scenes: think a single, unpartitioned vector processor for more complex DSP processing (other cards use multiple DSP chips), and high-res, floating point processing with high-speed memory. The market for these products certainly isn’t huge, but every Universal user I’ve met was really in love with the platform. If you’re one of those people, like Gareth Jones, for instance, do say hi and let us know how your UAD-1 is treating you.

UAD-1e and PCIe Demo Videos
Express Pak, Expert Pak UAD-1e’s
Via Digital Music Mag

  • I've been using the UAD1 UltraPak at work, and I must say all the hype is legit. These plugins are simply stunning. I'm particularly fond of the Cambridge EQ, the Fairchild Compressor, and the Precision Limiter. I use it for almost all of my sound design tasks in both Sound Forge and in Cubase. Glad to see that UAD is keeping up with the technology!

  • gse

    I love my UAD-1, but it's very disappointing to see Universal Audio release new cards — many years after the original card — with no more power. Especially PCIe (these machines rarely have more than 3 PCI slots).

    Couple that with their new Neve EQ plugin, which takes 25% of a card's CPU per instance, and … it makes no sense. I was going to buy another card or two, but I may spend my money on some new high-dollar native plugs (URS, etc).

  • You mean that the UAD-1 doesn't offer more processing power? (Looking for a UAD-2, perhaps?) Of course, it is possible to combine cards at $500 a pop, which is cheaper than some other systems. But I see your point. Keep in mind that the added PCIe bandwidth appears to have an effective boost in processing power over the previous card. Before I go on, though, Universal could probably comment on this more than I could.

    I do expect most of us would combine native plugs with stuff like the UAD-1, so it really comes down to personal needs and how many goodies the DSP hardware developers (UA, TC, and others) can dangle in front of us on their platforms.

  • ptb

    I too was disappointed with the poor performance of the UAD1e in my CORE 2 duo system. Seems CPU power is more efficient for running plug ins now?

    I returned mine back to the store after a lot of pushing to get my money back. Wanted to run at 96Khz, but could only load in three instances. Uses a poor cpu loading of 95%. If you can't fit the last plugin you may be running with 30% wasted. When it becomes 10x more powerful for the same price then maybe I'll consider it.

    £750 to run three plugins?

    I'm looking at more humble native plugins, like Audio damage reverence for the plate reverb. At $39 it's a steal compared with the UAD1e pricing.

  • Any news on performance of the uad-1e? I'm looking into them now for high-quality improvement of my sound. Or maybe rumours on new cards for Messe 08?