UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

VST, AU, etc. plug-in Virtual Effects discussion
Skyfall72
KVRist
61 posts since 14 Apr, 2019

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:05 pm

So ...
Sweetwater is running their 48 mo no interest and I'm thinking of replacing my Focusrite Clarrett/Duet 2 audio interface to the new Apollo X4 thunderbolt 3 and it comes with analog classic plus plugin bundle. It has four sharcs processor and I assume it would be enough to run a decent mix as I started investing on those plugins.
They are also going to release a new DAW -LUNA which only works exclusively with their system and it looks amazing so far.

This is going to be a pretty hefty investment and I'd like to ask all UAD system owners weather this is going to blow my mind or just a marginal upgrade from many third party plugins I already have (Oxford, Eventide, soundtoys, fab filter, Melda, etc....all full bundle) as I heard some people say they're not as great as you think or at least not all of their plugins,

Thanks in advance for your Honest input.
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mholloway
KVRian
1243 posts since 11 Jan, 2009 from Portland, OR, USA

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:20 pm

The people who have wholly bought into the system are almost always going to tell you it's worth it. They've invested thousands upon thousands of dollars into believing it's worth it. It's called Sunk Cost Fallacy. When parsing replies from these folks, you're going to have to take that into consideration.

Also consider that standard, native plugins have evolved enormously over the last 10 years not to mention how powerful computers are these days; as such, the 'need' for offloading the processing onto a giant dongle / specific audio interface is...dubious at best.

I'm sure many of the UAD plugins sound great and are very cool. I don't doubt it for a second. But if they are actually worth 200-300 bucks each on top of the requirement of the proprietary hardware..... I, for one, am nowhere near convinced. Tread with caution.
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zvenx
KVRAF
7376 posts since 16 Feb, 2005 from Kingston, Jamaica

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:37 pm

I have also spent thousands on hardware that I no longer use, should I not be therefore encouraging ppl to still buy and use these hardware?

I have two uad systems.. uad-2 quad cards, one on my pc in my main studio that I have had uad cards in use since it was mackie branded and one for my macbook pro which I bought in 2014.. why? Cause at the time no other software compressor could do for me what their 1176 and la-2a did, especially for audio which was crucial for my work.

Truthfully I haven't tried many of the native 1176's so I dont' know if the UAD one is still by far the best for me. Although I have tons of other plugins from UAD-2 it is indeed the 1176 and LA-2a I use most often. Almost all the others I use to use have been replaced by fuse-audio, softube, fab filter, dmg etc. So if I was starting out now I probably wouldn't go that route.
rsp
sound sculptist

Scotty
KVRAF
1997 posts since 23 Dec, 2002

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:39 pm

The interfaces do add value to the platform no question. If you need an interface and want to monitor through near zero latency plugins Apollo might be worth it.

If you are looking at just UAD-2 cards then no I don’t recommend them, I have been on the UA platform for years. There are many great native VST plugins now that are equal to or often superior to UA plugins. I own 5 UAD 2 cards and one interface split across 2 computers.

There are a few standout plugins that may justify the purchase dependent upon competing priorities but generally speaking the platform is not aging well. Much of the catalog is not optimized for high Rez monitors, there is no VST 3 support and the DSP is inefficient.

christian f.
KVRist
157 posts since 3 Feb, 2017

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:42 pm

The Apollo itself is a nice audio interface and for sure a step up from the focusrite.
The unison concept is very cool.

The plug ins are high quality but there are lot of plugins of equal quality in the native world as well and I would not buy an Apollo just to run their plugins.

I like the ability to run cpu intense stuff like lexicon reverbs and Manley plugs from the dsp though.

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MadDogE134
KVRist
333 posts since 26 Nov, 2007

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:18 pm

don't own any of them... but plugins are just code so technically it is up to the coding developer and not the hardware. it is just a matter of where the processing is being done. but... if you need the plugs to track with it is definitely worth it imo since the process is done on the outboard or dedicated hardware and not the operating system which native plugs rely on... hence latency as opposed to practically little to no latency. also being an outboard or dedicated unit it may in fact impart an 'analog' sound from the unit itself. but again... as for the plugins alone... they are no different.

but i tend to agree... those that have 'invested' in the exuberant priced gear... they are gonna tell you different lol like the coding is better... but fact is... 0's are 0's and 1's are 1's (computers only speak in binary) cheers

5Lives
KVRian
549 posts since 10 Nov, 2005 from New York City

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:36 pm

There are always sales - nobody who's smart buys UAD plugins at full price. Usually you can get them at $100 or less per plugin, even the pricey ones. That's pretty competitive. In terms of quality...well, there's a reason why majority of professional mixers use them still...

jochicago
KVRian
792 posts since 26 Feb, 2018

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:58 pm

What I'm getting is that you are thinking 3 things:
1. Great interface
2. Great plugins
3. Great DAW

This is my view, to help you work through these ideas:

1. At $1800 it better be mind-blowing good, and you better be able to justify any sound superiority over all the other contenders. The interface space is heavy with great contenders.

2. UAD is known for quality plugins but you have to acknowledge how much of that is aggressive marketing. There's never been a time when they acknowledged any of their plugins is just so-so, they always claim superiority real or imagined. However, they've been redoing many of their plugins and calling the newer version even more awesomer than the already super awesome first version. So how come the first version was perfect, "indistinguishable from hardware", if the new version is also far better than the first one? In reality, the first version was good for it's time but compromising because of CPU, and the newer version sounds better and uses a ton more CPU. This exact same situation happens across the board with other makers, as recent plugins are sounding better and better.

3. A DAW needs some time to come to maturity, and with LUNA they have acknowledged the thing is close to barebones at this stage. If you are betting on a great DAW, this is a long-term bet you are placing before LUNA has all the features to compete with other DAWs.

Having said all of that, you can't really go wrong with UAD. You are just forced to commit. If you invest $2500 into the interface and plugins, you are basically married to the thing, and you'll be happy with the results. The questions is, do you want to be married to UAD or use those $2500 to get on a different system and a variety of plugins?
Last edited by jochicago on Fri Feb 14, 2020 9:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

itsinvader
KVRer
23 posts since 12 Aug, 2012

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Fri Feb 14, 2020 4:57 am

I used to own a Duet 2, currently own a first gen Apollo Twin. Would never go back to the Duet. The Twin X is two converter upgrades from the first gen so I can just imagine it'd be quite the upgrade for you

Regarding the plug-ins, if you mean the Analog Classics Pro Bundle then it is most definitely worth it. I recently did a shoot out with every 1176 style plug-in I could think of and UAD came out on top (I did NOOOOOOOOOT want UAD to win, I have a Twin SOLO so DSP is very very very limited and I would much rather buy native plug-ins in general). My second favorite was the PA MC 77 so that became my go-to until I found out about UA's current sale (50% off for orders over $400) so I got the bundle. Pultec EQs on there are crazy good too. I also got the SSL comp and Distressor because of the sale. The SSL comp is the closest to a hardware SSL comp according to a good friend of mine who also uses Audeze LCD-X so I trust his opinion (and it's definitely the best SSL style bus comp I've tried ITB). I also did a Distressor plug-in shootout not long ago and UAD came out on top by far (also did noooot what UAD to win, specially since I already had FG-Stress).

I only have one single DSP chip, which lets me loads like 5 plug-ins tops, so I'm having to do the whole freeze/flatten workaround and being very careful with my bus processing but... it's worth it. Gonna be upgrading to a Twin X or getting more DSP sometime soon, which I didn't wanna have to do, but...... it's frigging worth it.

NOW THAT BEING SAID........ I am a full time professional producer and mixing engineer so getting that extra 10% is worth it to me. If this wasn't my job then I would just stick to the Slate and Plug-in Allience bundles.

Wether or not it's really worth it for you and what you do will ultimately be up to you but I figured I'd throw in my two cents!

PS. I've also never paid full price for UAD plug-ins, and so far I don't think I've gone over a grand which is about half of what full price would have been
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Scotty
KVRAF
1997 posts since 23 Dec, 2002

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:18 am

Other big disadvantages to the UAD-2

1. You cannot sell or transfer individual plugins. You must transfer a card and all of the licences that are attached to that card if you want to sell. This is a long term investment.

2. Plugins rarely get updated... they'll sell you a new version at a discount but UA figures that they got it right out of the box until the competition comes along and one ups them... then the old plugins get tagged as legacy and a new version is announced. They will update for compatibility with OS releases but don't expect a wet/dry knob to suddenly appear. If it isn't there when you buy it, it likely won't appear even if requested by many users.

3. In cases where we can do a direct comparison from a DSP based plugin to the equivalent plugin from the same company (yes they null they are exact) the native performance of the same plugin is far superior in terms of instance count. The sharc chips really are inefficient. To be specific a/b any number of the Brainworx plugins that can be purchased in native VST format and which are also available as UAD-2 plugins and you'll see how quickly the DSP gets used up.

4. If you like UA plugins for dynamics (and they are very good)... you won't get side band compression. No VST 3 means no side-band in many DAWs.

5. Whether you buy a plugin at full price, or in a bundle or on sale it will be more expensive than the native competition in most cases.

Other Pros

Still some of the best reverbs on the market.
Unison technolgy is impressive
The Avalon SP737 is indistinguishable from the hardware as is the 1176 and LA2A and the Moog Filters plugin is spot on. I have the hardware here.

If you want to monitor through great quality plugins with low latency and need an interface their Apollo interfaces could be the answer.

When would I buy...

1. In some cases if you are trying to postpone buying a new system... off loading the CPU drain to the UAD-2 DSP could be good value if you got your card and plugins second hand at a good price.

2. If there are specific emulations that you feel are best done on the UAD-2 platform you can trial the plugins for 14 days which will give you ample time to compare them to the competition.

3. If you have issues that you need to resolve I have found their support to be excellent. I have had some plugin "choice" options when buying a bundle made available when I called with a specific request. In short... they will work with you to make you happy within reason.

What to watch out for...

Their marketing is almost always impressive. You feel like one of the big boys/girls when you join the club and the comments and reviews in the forums give evidence for this. Don't get sucked into that kind of hype. The competition is fierce and there are in many cases alternatives out there that are as good or better in terms of sound and when it comes to the disadvantages I mention above - it could be a deal breaker.

Some of their plugins, namely the updated compressors, give a volume boost which can be deceiving when assessing the quality of the emulations.

If there is a plugin that has a native counterpoint from the same company ... get the native plugin version - it will likely be cheaper and will allow you to run many more instances relative to the DSP dependent instance counts you'll get on the cards.

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zvenx
KVRAF
7376 posts since 16 Feb, 2005 from Kingston, Jamaica

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:47 am

Excellent post Scotty.
One other big con for me and I have stopped buying UAD plugins (except mk2 upgrades). Their installer.
It installs everything. Like all their plugins, in all formats including Mono.
rsp
sound sculptist

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Robert Randolph
KVRAF
2233 posts since 25 May, 2003 from Saint Petersburg, Florida

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:01 am

For me, I can comfortably ignore the plugins for external use (in a DAW) and I find sufficient value from the interfaces.

The impedance matching on inputs, easy near-zero latency plugin application, external control, excellent audio quality, excellent driver performance, decent support, I/O options, stackabilty (hook up multiple devices that act as a single device) and the compatibility they generally support is worth it for me.

Taking such a featureful system and reducing it to a glorified dongle for some plugins is a fairly disingenuous way to frame the discussion. The UAD expansion cards definitely fall into this category (and I think they're a terrible value unless you are in the ecosystem via an interface). The Apollo interfaces themselves are an excellent value if a sufficient part of the featureset benefits you.

That said, some of the UAD versions of plugins are the best on the market that I've found. Some of them have much cheaper equals, and some of them are surpassed by much cheaper options. I currently own 62 UAD plugins and there's only two that I believe are superlative options on the system: SDD-3000 and the RMX16. I feel that I can replicate nearly everything else with other options to my satisfaction. (Note: I do think many of the UAD products are unparalleled in emulation accuracy, but I value the result, not the contextual accuracy.)

I use the UAD plugins heavily in the Console during tracking and I do use them somewhat lightly while mixing.

My UA system is 3 Apollo x8ps and 2 UAD satellites. I have an Apollo Twin in my editing suite.
Last edited by Robert Randolph on Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Robert Randolph
KVRAF
2233 posts since 25 May, 2003 from Saint Petersburg, Florida

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:02 am

And yeah... the installer sucks donkey balls. That is a pain point, but it only comes up a couple times a year (for updates).

I just wrote a script that removes the plugins I don't own that I run after the installer. :)
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Robert Randolph
KVRAF
2233 posts since 25 May, 2003 from Saint Petersburg, Florida

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:07 am

Oh, another annoying bit is that your "Systems" (number of devices that a plugin can be associated with) is limited to 6. That means that I can not currently purchase another device (which I'd like) or I'll have to remove a device from my system and have one device that can't run any of my products.

It's a bit silly, but high up in the category of 'first world problems'.
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burnt circuit
KVRist
92 posts since 15 Jan, 2020

Re: UAD apollo and plugins owners......is it worth it ? HOnestly

Post Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:48 am

You can achieved the same sonic equivalent with less money and without a hardware dongle.

You can achieve the same DSP processing power with many alternatives for half the price.

You can match any of their plugin's quality from many developers and for $29.

UAD is for people with money to waste and clients to impress.
It's not the quality of audio, it's the quality of production that matters.

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