The Easter Bunny hid a little surprise in my inbox this year in the form of 4 new plugins to try on the UAD / Apollo platform! Universal Audio’s 9.5.1 update brought a Neve Preamp, Helios Preamp, A/DA Flanger and a Friedman Amp to the table. In a collection UA is lovingly calling “The Sound of the 70’s”, there’s a lot to unpack. Let’s check it out.
Neve : The Small Preamp With A Big Sound
The Neve Preamp is an emulation of the 1290 preamp - basically a 1073 but without an EQ plugin. This plug is, of course, Unison enabled - so you can run it directly on your Apollo Interface’s preamp slot and achieve the impedance and tone matching benefits that accompany Unison preamps. I did a quick test with a Shure SM7B on an acoustic guitar and voice over. I’ve also provided a ‘clean’ comparison track with no preamp emulation for reference.
Clean Guitar and Clean Vocal
Neve Guitar and Neve Vocal
There’s definitely a bit of tube warmth being calculated here, and you can hear a little of the harmonic richness that I often get by using some of the tape simulation plugins. Considering this Neve preamp plug is very lightweight in comparison, I think I’ll be reaching for it pretty often. It’s dead simple to use, and if you’re looking for a vintage board sound, it definitely gets the job done.
UA’s Helios EQ offering has always been a favorite of mine. I find the EQ to be quite musical, and the bands well placed. The Helios Preamp combined with EQ gives a definite burst of character when you enable it. This is definitely not a plugin I’d use lightly. I enjoyed it quite a bit, probably a little more on the vocal track than on the guitar. It gave a midrange bump by default that made speech noticeably more intelligible without having to boost the volume.
Clean Guitar and Clean Vocal
Helios Guitar and Helios Vocal
I think this plugin is going to be a little controversial amongst the UA crowd. It’s not a ‘transparent preamp’ (and really, why would you want it as an emulation if it was?). I’m confident this one is definitely going to find its way into my vocal chain, and I’m excited to try it out on my drum mics as well. The Helios Preamp and EQ collection is bold, beautiful, and I love it.
Another Brainworx collaboration, the A/DA flanger is a very welcome addition to the UA lineup. You don’t have to use this one just on guitars, it has a very wide sound but is easily tailored to synths, organ, drums and the like. Actually, I found a very slow subtle setting on my drum bus really modernized the sound of an otherwise fairly vanilla track.
Friedman Buxom Betty Amplifier
Finally, the Friedman Buxom Betty is the latest addition by Brainworx in the guitar arena to UA’s platform. I’ve appreciated each Friedman so far, although I don’t use a lot of the heavier drive stuff, I tend to track those live. The Buxom Betty is a fantastic emulation, and has some really fantastic shimmering and wide clean tones. The drive presets are bluesy and bold, and they all sound quite authentic.
This update is a great one. There really isn’t a ‘dud’ in the batch. I’m glad that UA is getting very specific and bold with some of their preamp choices, especially with the Helios. We’ve got so much to choose from at this point, so it’s nice that the newest offerings are unique and have their own sound. Any one of these plugins is a worthy buy.
Price: $149 - $199 depending on the plugin
Pros: Helios 69 is a standout for me - it’s bold and punchy. Neve pre is dead simple, flanger is nice, Buxom Betty sounds extremely authentic for ‘guitar in the box’.
Cons: None to speak of. UA has a great ‘try before you buy’ system, so give ‘em a try!