The four new plug-ins that are included in the UAD 7.11 update.
The Manley Variable Mu
For this reviewer, the Manley Variable Mu had a lot to live up to. I am a big fan of the Manley Massive Passive EQ so I was eager to see how its dynamic counterpart was going to hold up. The Variable Mu is an extremely subtle beast. It’s highly configurable with a wet/dry function as well as a ‘headroom’ knob—almost like using serial compression in one plug-in. Sonically, I found it to be blissfully transparent. I’m a big fan of being able to tame some tracks that tend to have erratic volume jumps without squeezing the life out of them. The Variable Mu lets me get some pretty rough vocal tracks under control without squashing them to hell. Two thumbs up here!
Acoustic with Manley Variable Mu:
Vertigo Sound VSC-2
The Vertigo Sound VSC-2 is a VCA-style compressor. It's a fairly simple plug-in to use, it has great presets, and once again… it's subtle. I was kind of amazed that we got 2 fairly transparent compressors in this update at the same time. It’s making my purchasing decision a bit difficult! The VSC-2’s ‘soft’ mode automatically adjusts and increases the ratio for you as needed, and it is definitely not ‘heavy-handed’. I know I’m harping on the transparency in compression point, but really—as much as I love the 1176 and LA-2A, sometimes they can be a bit like a katana sword when you need a scalpel. The VSC-2 is definitely a scalpel. Even at its more aggressive settings, I didn’t get a ‘pumping’ feel out of my audio.
Acoustic Clean with Vertigo VSC-2:
Vertigo Sound VSM-3 Mix Satellite
The VSM-3 could very well be my favorite of the bunch. A mix saturator (harmonic distorter, harmonic enhancer, sonic enhancer, magic inducer… I’ll let you all fight it out and call it what you will) that actually puts some real control into your hands is a welcome addition to the UAD lineup. Folks can be very passionate about using (or avoiding) processors of this type, but the VSM-3 is the first one that I’ve used that truly gives you both control and monitoring capabilities of EXACTLY what is happening to your sound.
You can solo each band of harmonic excitement and distortion, blend your mix between the different bands, and do some M/S decoding all at the same time. It’s pretty awesome, and if you have ever used a harmonic enhancer before you’ll appreciate the ability to isolate exactly what bands are being modified and hear how it’s happening. It takes a little mystery out of the ‘secret sauce’ of sonic enhancers.
Acoustic with VSM-3:
The Massenburg EQ an exercise in simplicity and functionality. There are no presets, everything is up to you here. It’s a 5 band (or 3-band if you load up the 3-band version) EQ with extremely high precision, zero coloration, and zero distortion. It puts the control in your hands, allows you to use the IsoPeak function to identify trouble spots pretty quickly, and processes your audio at an extremely high resolution. Although there were no presets included, you can make your own and save them if you find yourself reaching for the MDWEQ5 a lot. I’ve included a quick cleanup of my acoustic guitar using the MDWEQ5.
Acoustic with MDWEQ5-B:
UAD 7.11 is definitely a win for powered plugin users. The 2 transparent compressors and the VSM-3 sonic enhancer stand out in particular as worthy of a look (or at least an enabling of your 14-day demo!).
Price: $299 per plugin.
Pros: 2 transparent new compressors and a sonic enhancer that isn’t ‘shrouded in mystery’ as to what it does.
Cons: No presets for the MDWEQ5-B, but this EQ is more about precise fixes to your specific sound so maybe it doesn’t really need any.